OPERA NEWS - Lucia di Lammermoor
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In Review > North America

Lucia di Lammermoor

Lyric Opera of Chicago

In review Lyric Lucia hdl 117
Shagimuratova and Beczala in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lucia
© Todd Rosenberg

LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR returned to Lyric Opera’s repertory on October 15, in a new-to-Chicago production that assembled the finest international cast possible today. It was a grand night for singing.

Albina Shagimuratova has established herself as an international Lucia of choice. The Russian soprano’s voice is big and shimmering and boasts exceptional dynamic control. Her ornamentation was stylish and tasteful throughout, including snatches of the “Melba” variations in the mad-scene cadenza that were also utilized by Joan Sutherland. Shagimuratova is not a dramatic powerhouse—those who require the dramatic insight and imagination of a Maria Callas will not find them here—though after a generation of smaller, edgier coloraturas it is thrilling to hear this music delivered by a voice of such opulence.

In Donizetti’s time, Lucia was widely considered a vehicle for the leading man, given that Donizetti tailored the role of Edgardo to show off the strengths of legendary French tenor Gilbert Duprez (1806–96). It is difficult to imagine that Duprez had anything over Lyric’s Edgardo, the excellent Piotr Beczala. Beczala delivered the most beautifully sung account of this role I ever heard at Lyric. His voice gleamed like a laser above the staff, and its timbre has an affecting Italianate sob. Beczala’s “Fra poco a me ricovero” won the loudest ovation of the evening. Baritone Quinn Kelsey wove plush vocal velvet as Enrico, consistently finding beauty in the bluster, and he did interesting things with the words. Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean scored a notable Lyric debut with his sympathetic, nobly vocalized Raimondo.

Matthew DiBattista was a bright-toned, appropriately nasty Normanno, Lindsay Metzger a mellifluous Alisa. Jonathan Johnson displayed a delightfully fresh young tenor voice as Arturo, here conceived as a white-clad aristocratic fop. Johnson was apparently directed to hold his arms aloft constantly, like an angel in flight—a tactic that did him no favors—but he sounded lovely.  

The well-traveled production by Graham Vick (remounted here by Elena Cicorella) is familiar to many. It’s a nontraditional take; there are no gray castle walls or winding staircases. It relates the tale straightforwardly, and in period. Set and costume designer Paul Brown’s eighteenth-century costumes, deftly complemented by the occasional swath of tartan, graced an environment of gloomy Scottish moors dotted with purple tufts of heather. Matters are revealed in a series of successive tableaux by mobile screens, painted to represent a turbulent sky and variously reconfigured to frame each scene. The show appears a bit more attractive on the available DVD of a 2003 showing in Genoa than it did in the Civic Opera House, and one might ideally desire more in the way of character interaction to propel things along, instead of constant reliance on the omnipresent shifting flats. Still, there was some real imagination at work here.

In his Lyric debut, Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola drove the music forward rather aggressively, but his invigorating account certainly wasn’t boring. Traditional cuts were observed, including that in the final bars of “Quando rapito”—unnecessarily, as we were given the full conclusion to “Spargi d’amaro pianto,” as well as the inconsequential Raimondo–Normanno interchange. The tower scene was performed intact. The chorus was terrific. Minor reservations aside, this was a world-class Lucia and a splendid evening for aficionados of bel canto. —Mark Thomas Ketterson

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