Lucia di Lammermoor
12/07/2007 - 21/07/2007
23/06/2007 - 30/06/2007
Opera in 3 acts by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvador Cammerano
Conductor: Andrea Licata
Director: Lindy Hume
Set/costume designer: Kate Hawley
Lighting designer: Phillip Dexter
Assistant director: Sara Brodie
This passionate story of star-crossed lovers is played out amid the wild landscapes of a Scotland split by blood-feuds.
The stunning star of 2005’s La Traviata, Elvira Fatykhova, returns to New Zealand’s stages as Lucia. Creating this new production is award-winning director Lindy Hume, whose work graces stages in Australia, Europe and North America. New Zealand’s Kate Hawley makes an exciting return from overseas as our designer.
This new production is a must for anyone who loves opera in all its full-blooded glory.
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Lucia . . . . . . . Elvira Fatykhova
Edgardo . . . . Yvan Momirov
Enrico . . . . . . Jason Howard
Raimondo . . . Jud Arthur
Arturo . . . . . . Benjamin Fifita Makisi
Alisa . . . . . . . .Carmel Carroll
Normanno . . . Derek Hill
Opera , Theatre ,
2 hrs 45 mins, incl. interval
Superb execution of music and production
Review by Pepe Becker 25th Jun 2007
Right from curtain up (revealing a surreal ‘set-noir’ backdrop, seemingly representing a sort of mind-map of Lucia’s frustration and impending doom) to its final dramatic closing (when the stage is showered with tears of rain / blood from above), this extraordinary production had me captivated.
I arrived at this opening night performance of NBR NZ Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor with a fairly high degree of expectation and intrigue. Having attended Peter Baillie’s informative and entertaining seminar on the opera last weekend (through VUW’s Continuing Education programme), and having read and heard many facts and opinions on this particular ‘new’ production in the past few days, I was poised for an internal discussion on the merits of ‘recontextualising’ (in terms of staging and design) versus sticking to the tried and true ‘traditional’ formula, but was pleasantly surprised to find that this ‘issue’ was not an issue at all.
Dramatically and musically, the story (based on Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which centres on the demise of a young woman manipulated by political scheming and family feuding into marrying a man she does not love) unfolds in a completely believable, organic way. The simple, dark, pseudo prison-like scenery and minimalistic onstage movement may have seemed to be at odds with Donizetti’s original opera setting (which first adorned the stages of Europe in full Romantic bloom in 1835), but in fact it is this modern dimension that really brings the true gist of the story to the fore, in a palpable, relevant way for today’s audience.
The all-female leaders of the creative team (director Lindy Hume, assistant director Sara Brodie and production designer Kate Hawley) are to be congratulated for their outstanding and ingenious direction. Venturing away from the traditional sort of production one expects for a Donizetti work proves to be a good move.
Indeed, my only real quibble about this opera concerns a matter of personal musical taste: the frequent overuse by Donizetti of major keys and almost frivolous-sounding scale passages doesn’t really do justice to the libretto, which in certain places, to my ears, calls for a more tormented, sombre, even dissonant musical treatment. Yes, there are diminished and minor chords here and there, but where are they when we need to hear them most?
Occasional compositional incongruities aside, the execution of the music is superb, by all the singers and players. The chorus (ably prepared by Michael Vinten for the Wellington performances) are totally engaged and engaging in their role as onlookers and commentators on the frightful events occurring in their midst. The Vector Wellington Orchestra, under the assured baton of maestro Andrea Licata, plays with sensitivity and aplomb, and all of the main roles are sung and acted with complete conviction.
But the real star of the evening is undoubtedly the magnificent Elvira Fatykhova, whose well-rounded yet clear tone is spine-tinglingly beautiful throughout. Not only is she technically brilliant, capable of beginning notes with a perfect pianissimo and then thrilling with an impassioned outburst of coloratura (especially stunning in duet with the flute – sensitively played by Karen Batten – during Lucia’s ecstatic ‘mad scene’), but she also truly ‘owns’ the role of Lucia, drawing complete audience sympathy for her wretched, yet defiant character.
Bulgarian tenor Yvan Momirov, in the role of Lucia’s secret lover Edgardo, seems less comfortable vocally, his higher notes sometimes ‘catching’ on the voice; and his pronunciation of some of the Italian words is occasionally odd (notably the word ‘ciel’, pronounced ‘tchell’ to English-speaking ears, sounds more like a Germanic ‘tsyell’ to me); but he is dramatically convincing in his heartfelt final aria. Of the other lead roles, Derek Hill and Benjamin Fifita Makisi acquit themselves well respectively as Normanno the huntsman and Arturo the ill-fated husband. Carmell Carroll is well cast in her supporting role as Lucia’s confidante Alisa, showing great empathy in both her acting and her voice; and Jason Howard (as the tyrannical brother Enrico) and Jud Arthur (as the earnest chaplain Raimondo) also give excellent performances.
My friend, who had never been to an opera before, says she would happily go to another one in the future. Her enthusiasm is mostly due to the outstanding singing of the Russian soprano Elvira Fatykhova, but she, like me, is also very taken with the production itself. So, even if Donizetti is not exactly your cup of tea, on those two counts at least I strongly recommend you try to get along to one of the remaining performances. I doubt you will be disappointed!
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Compelling, true and worth it
Review by John Smythe 25th Jun 2007
This brand new NBR New Zealand Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor, directed by Australian Lindy Hume, refreshes Donizetti’s 1835 work by revisiting the Walter Scott novel – The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) – and reconsidering the motivations and state of mind of Lucy Ashton / Lucia.
Not that – as Nicholas Reid notes in the programme – Scott’s passive doll-like heroine who is "in the last degree gentle, soft, timid and feminine", could be seen as a feminist role model, any more than his dry, ponderous prose could be seen as the source of Salvatore Cammarano’s purple-phrased libretto of heart-felt passions.
The story goes that having ousted the Ravenswoods from their castle, the Ashtons now face financial ruin. So when Enrico Ashton discovers his sister Lucia is in love with Edgardo Ravenswood, he feels he’s being mocked. Besides he needs her to marry the wealthy Arturo Bucklaw in order to restore the family fortunes. With a false letter he tricks Lucia into believing Edgardo has betrayed her by loving another. Thus she signs herself into wedlock with Arturo. But on their marriage bed (off stage), she stabs him to death.
The question Hume and her team address is (as I see it), does Lucia kill Arturo because, as a victim of Edgardo’s ‘betrayal’ (i.e. Enrico’s deceit) she has lost her mind, or is the murder a relatively rational act of self-preservation and fidelity to Edgardo, from which her delusional state of denial flows?
They opt for the latter, and Russian soprano Elvira Fatykhova brings great purity and truth to this interpretation. She plays the ‘mad scene’, for which the role is famed and by which each performance is measured, in a state of almost peaceful bliss, believing she is now wed to Edgardo. But she collapses with emotional exhaustion. And when Edgardo – played with great sincerity by Bulgarian tenor Yvan Momirov – learns of her death, he shoots himself in the belief they will be reunited in Heaven.
It is the absolute belief everyone – including the Chapman Tripp chorus – brings to the story that makes it work. There is not the slightest sense the opera is being presented as a vehicle for showcasing bravura coloratura, or any other operatic frill or skill. Which of course is why the opening night audience is so thrilled by the production and all the skills that combine to make it so impressive.
Kate Hawley’s stark grey and white set is dominated by a brick wall covered in disintegrating plaster, the barren, graffiti-daubed landscape alleviated only by clumps of tussock and a stream – used to great reflective effect by lighting designer Phillip Dexter. Racked rows of deer skulls and antlers evoke Ravenswood Castle.
Devoid of tartan, the costumes could also be at home in a production of Les Miserables, with opulence reserved only for Lucia’s wedding dress and beaded sporran, and flashes of colour only occurring during the peasant dancing at the wedding. There is no grand staircase for Lucia to descend after the bloody deed is done. She slides in around the wall, almost unnoticed until a smear of red on the white achieves the equivalent of a silent scream.
Thus the design concept works to overlay Donizetti’s bel canto score and Cammarano’s passionate words with the dour Scots tones of Walter Scott’s novel, intensifying the internal dramas by emphasising a sense of emotional suppression and oppression.
Welsh baritone Jason Howard brings a stern, no nonsense determination to Enrico, while Derek Hill’s chief huntsman Normanno, dressed like a member of the French underground complete with trim moustache, brings a nasty streak to his loyalty.
Wrestling with issues of faith, morality and conscience, Jud Arthur excels as the chaplain Raimondo. Benjamin Fifita Makisi completes the New Zealand line up with an impressively smug Arturo. And the Vector Wellington Orchestra, under the baton of Andrea Licata underscores the sense of unalloyed excellence.
That this production is not afraid of stillness suggests a strong shared vision throughout the company and a depth of commitment that doubtless comes from being part of a genuinely creative process. Having imported production concepts more often than not in the past few years, this opportunity for the NBR New Zealand Opera to develop a concept of its own clearly pays off. It is this sense of ownership, I believe, that makes this Lucia di Lammermoor so compelling, true and worth it.
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