St James Theatre, Courtenay Place, Wellington

18/03/2023 - 25/03/2023

Production Details

Composer - Donizetti
Librettist - Salvadore Cammarano after Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Bride of Lammermoor (1819)
Director - Sara Brodie
Assistant Director - Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee
Conductor - Tobias Ringborg

Wellington Opera

Wellington Opera, in association with the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, presents this gothic romantic tragedy with a stellar all New Zealand cast. Witness the psychological drama, Lucia’s famous mad scene, and the ultimate Romeo and Juliet love story.

Lucia di Lammermoor
18 – 25 March 2023
St James Theatre, WellingtonBook tickets through

Saturday 18th March – 7.30pm
Tuesday 21st March – 6.30pm
Thursday 23rd March – 7.30pm
Saturday 25th March – 7.30pm

Set Design - Mark McEntyre
Costume design - Tony de Goldi

Emma Pearson – Lucia
Oliver Sewell – Edgardo
Phillip Rhodes – Enrico
Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono – Arturo
Samson Setu – Raimondo
Hannah Ashford-Beck – Alisa
Jordan Fonoti-Fuimaono – Normanno

Tobias Ringborg– Conductor
Sara Brodie – Director
Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee – Assistant Director
Mark McEntyre – Set Design
Tony De Goldi – Costume Design
Rowan McShane – Lighting Design
Michael Vinten – Chorus Director
Bridget Carpenter – Stage Manager
Theresa May Adams – Production Director

Opera , Theatre ,

3 hours including two intervals

The music and performances are so strong they outweigh the strange design choices

Review by Francesca Emms 20th Mar 2023

Lucia di Lammermoor is a tragic opera written by the masterful Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti in 1835. Set against the dramatic backdrop of 17th century Scotland, the opera chronicles the tumultuous life of Lucia Ashton (Emma Pearson), an ardent young woman torn between love and duty. Despite being in love with Edgardo (Oliver Sewell), Lucia is coerced by her brother Enrico (Phillip Rhodes) into a politically-motivated marriage to Arturo (Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono), an event that sets in motion a series of catastrophic events that culminates in tragedy.

Beyond its heart-rending story, Lucia di Lammermoor is renowned for its breathtaking musical score, which showcases Donizetti’s exceptional skill in crafting sublime melodies and conveying complex emotions.

The role of Lucia is one of the most demanding and rewarding soprano roles in the operatic repertoire. In the title role Emma Pearson is once again the jewel in Wellington Opera’s crown. Pearson has a beautiful voice and demonstrates remarkable vocal prowess and flawless technique. However, it is her portrayal of the character that truly stands out. She embodies the role of Lucia, leaving the audience deeply moved. Her portrayal is genuinely heart-wrenching and showcases her exceptional abilities as both a singer and an actor.

The most famous and demanding moment in the opera is the Mad Scene in Act III, where Lucia’s mental breakdown is conveyed through a range of vocal techniques, including stratospheric trills, florid runs and virtuosic ornamentation. Pearson’s performance here is stunning, moving effortlessly between moments of frenzied hysteria and tender vulnerability. She elicits a powerful emotional response from the audience, leaving them transfixed by her raw intensity, and moved by the tragic nature of Lucia’s plight. Mention must go to the flautist, who is so crucial in this scene: Orchestra Wellington’s Karen Batten plays wonderfully.

This production is musically excellent. Orchestra Wellington is in fine form and the balance between them and the performers onstage is excellent. Conductor Tobias Ringborg brings out the best in the singers and the orchestra, keeping the pace going while giving space for the singers.

In the other principal roles, Sewell and Rhodes are superb. Both have wonderful voices and bring emotional gravitas to their roles. Those in smaller roles all give solid performances.  The Wellington Opera Chorus, with Michael Vinten as Chorus Master, is very good. I particularly enjoy the heartiness of the men’s chorus in Act 1.

Visually, however, I’m confused. This production of Lucia is “set in the stark beauty of Aotearoa’s deep south” according to Wellington Opera’s publicity material. This doesn’t come across to me at all. The set, painted in stripy greens and blacks, might be trees or buildings. I expected to see elements that reflect the natural beauty and distinct features of Southland: hills, mountains, forests and pastures. But there is nothing there that says New Zealand to me other than the male chorus wearing oilskins.

I do like the muted colour palette (browns, blues, rust, and cream) of the costumes. I also like the lighting, which is very moody and suitably grim.

There are also a few other design choices that don’t quite work.

Because of where I am sitting I can’t see the top of the stairs which lead away to the right. This means I can’t see who is there until they start down the steps and I miss Lucia’s bloody entrance for the Mad Scene. I wish the design team had checked the sightlines. Rostra across the centre stage made for nice levels which are used well, but on one side the step up is just a little too high, making for some awkward movements. A table which is flown in and out seemed unnecessary, and malfunctions at a very inopportune time. I worry it will fall on a singer, mid-aria. Overall, the music and the performances are so strong they outweigh the strange design choices. In Lucia di Lammermoor, audiences have the chance to see world-class singers stepping into iconic operatic roles. Wellington Opera is to be commended for their vision and dedication to this art form, as well as creating professional performance opportunities for up-and-coming young singers and Wellington creatives.


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Stellar performances in tale of star-crossed lovers

Review by Max Rashbrooke 20th Mar 2023

“That sound sweeps down on my heart.” With this line from Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor, the romantic lead Edgardo encapsulates the shattering news the third act brings him – but also the impact this powerful performance by Wellington Opera had on its opening-night audience.

Lucia di Lammermoor is superficially a tale of star-crossed lovers, as the eponymous Lucia Ashton (Lucy, in Sir Walter’s Scott original novel of Highlands rivalry) longs for Edgardo Ravenswood, her family’s sworn enemy. More fundamentally, it is a study of the unbearable strain placed on women whose destiny is determined by the men around them. [More]


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