Southam Hall at the NAC (Ottawa) vibrated with the arias of Donizetti last night as the firey Egardo (Marc Hervieux) and the silver toned Lucia (Lyubov Petrova) vowed eternal love and then melted into passionate embraces and heart wrenching despair. Blood, vengeance, madness and suicide all the stuff of shameless melodrama because absolutely enthralling in the story of these ill fated lovers, victim of a family feud in 17th Century Scotland.
The set of act II, “The Mariage contract” with its magnificent upper gallery, its long winding stairway, its dark passageways and long shadowy hallways, was the perfect place for the appearance of ghosts, troubled spirits and the madwoman of the chateau who slaughters her husband with a bloody knife and then comes slowly downstairs looking for her absent lover. This is the stuff that must have intrigued Sir Walter Scott, author of the novel that inspired the libretto. He certainly had a perfectly theatrical imagination because his text conjures up images of Macbeth, of Hamlet (Ophelia), of Romeo and Juliet, of Gisèle and of all the most tragically mad figures of theatre and literature that one could desire. Lucia is a bit of all that and with Donizetti,s melodic music the artistic and musical direction by Tyrone Paterson as well as the general direction by Tom Charlton,, success is guaranteed.
This production of Lucia di Lammermoor is magnificent. All is not perfect but the emotional power of that staging and singing captured the essence of it all
The opera theoretically takes place in Scotland around 1660 but the set, borrowed from the Utah opera looks like a combination of Scottish country side and slightly gothic Italianate neo romanticism with the moonlit ruins in the background. The chateau which appears in act two is made of reproductions of those big Scottish stone blocks that are recognizable in Montreal…so hints of Scotland are imbedded in the architecture. Needless to say, the set created the perfect setting for this horror story that unfolds around the forbidden love of Lucia and Edgardo, hated enemy of Lucia’s brother Enrico.
In her first solo, while she is waiting for her last clandestined meeting with Egardo in the ruined park near her mother’s tomb Lucia tells her companion Alisa the story of the woman who drowned in the fountain and whose ghosts visits her and terrifies her still. And when this last meeting with Edgardo finally does take place, the lovers sing a beautiful duet pledging their love and declaring themselves married and bound to be faithful to each other. Don’t forget warns Edgardo, you are mine! This vow of fidelity seals their future and their fate.
Enrico learns about this and quickly manipulates his sister so that he can force her to marry the rich and powerful Lord Arturo whose fortune Enrico needs to restore his own losses as well as his reputation and his honor in the community, having lost everything during recent political developments in Scotland. Families are feuding and the country is in great turmoil at that point and against this background, Lucia becomes a pawn in her bothers own plans. She finally agrees to marry Duke Arturo but the strain of it all and the fact she has to break her promise to her lover makes her lose her mind. That moment in Act II where the cruel and angry Enrico, sung by the rich Barytone Gregory Dahl forces the stunned Lucia who appears to be drugged, into signing the mariage contract was the first extraordinary dramatic encounter that allowed Mme Petrova to show us her extraordinary acting and singing skills.
The wedding is a moment of gaiety for the guests but of terror for Lucia. The chorus which remains fairly discreet in this work, moves about in tight formation in the halls of the chateau, like one single mass of humanity, shifting from one side of the set to the other, one corner of the a hall to another..or up along the stairway, creating a strange homogeneous configuration of human beings who are choreographed to remain distant from the main characters.
At several points in Acts I and II the soprano’s voice was drowned out by the orchestra and I do hope they will listen to singer and try to modulate the sound more effectively. However, there were the two final moments of greatness that lived up to all my expectations in Act III.
First there was the pale, bloodspattered Lucia who comes comes down that magnificent stairway holding her dagger. We again notice the beautiful costumes of the men and the women by Malabar. Lucia has just stabbed her new husband and as she reaches her guests, she begins her mad scene by trying to talk Edgardo, by reaching out to him and carressing this absent figment of her troubled mind. Soon after she collapses, It was a brilliant performance. She almost underplayed the emotion so it did not seem too melodramatic. Coloratura soprano Lyubov Petrova brought to her singing an intimate, and delicately nuanced ensemble of psychological moments. Her coloratura notes soared and then plunged into delicate whispering that remained perfectly audible.. Those shifts into different passionate attitudes transformed this aria into the very incarnation of a mind that was falling apart. This acting was pure Stanislavski, something I have never seen a singer able to manage.
Then, the opera ended with the soaring aria sung by Tenor Marc Hervieux as Edgardo. He distinguished his firey dramatic voice and presence from his very first moment on stage. Another strong actor. As he was dying and sobbing over Lucia’s tomb you could actually hear the breath leaving his body but the power of the music does not actually weaken even though he is emotionally a broken man. You can hear all that. It was another remarquable performance. Tenor Nils Brown as Arturo was perhaps the weak point in the cast but Lucia di Lamermoor is an excellent production and a MUST this season.
There is no longer any doubt, Opera Lyra is henceforth one of the opera companies in Canada to be taken very seriously.
Performances continue until April 2..
Lucia di Lammermoor
A production of Opera Lyra at the National Arts Centre
Musique de Donizetti
Libretto in Italian by Salvatore Cammarano
Based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott, The Bride of Lamermoor
Conductor and Artistic director Tyrone Paterson
General Director Tom Charlton
Chorus Master Lawrence Erwashko
Lighting design Stephen Ross
Surtitles provided by the Opéra de Montréal
Production created by the Florida Grande Opera
Scenery deisgned by Robert R. O ‘Hearn and made available by the Utah Symphony /Utah Opera
Costumes – Malabar Limited.
Performance time 162 minutes, One 20 minute intermission.
Plays until April 2, 2011
Lucia Lyubov Petrova
Edgardo Marc Hervieux
Enrico Gregory Dahl
Raimondo Robert Pomakov
Arturo Nils Brown
Alisa Wendy Hatal foley
Normanno Grahma Thomson