Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lucia di Lammermoor

Your blogging hedgehog likes the Opera.  I'm not a buff, not having had the opportunity to watch much over the years, but I go when I have the chance and I always  enjoy it. I listen to the live performances from the Met and watch on the TV on the rare occasions there is any. Recordings almost invariably lack something, and compilations of arias are like watching highlights of old cricket matches. Not the same thing. The Three Tenors are not for me. Opera is a spectacle, a show, and admiring the technical ability of Plácido Domingo as he sings a nice song out of context is a cold, abstract pleasure, lightyears away from watching him perform Siegmund at Covent Garden.

We don't even have a proper theatre here, so the cultural offerings are minimal. There is an old cinema which is often used as a theatre, a stage was added years ago, but it's small, the sound quality is poor and there is no orchestra pit. A reduced orchestra sits literally under the stage. There is an outdoor space which is good for performers with powerful voices or microphones, music and opera, say, though not theatre as such, and in any case it's rarely used. And a new theatre is allegedly being built, but I'll believe it when I see it.

This is just my reaction to a performance I experienced. It's 'what I did last night', not a review for the New York Times. And it's as I wrote it, not adapted for consumption by the reader.

Lucia di Lammermoor. The whole thing is coloured for tragedy, except the chorus which a couple of times thinks it has something to celebrate. The production was cheap but with some imagination. The directing was poor, lots of walking very slowly across the stage for no apparent reason, people standing in the wrong place and moving in the wrong ways. And some of the acting was terrible.

Dolores Lahuerta was Lucia and she was very good indeed. She seemed a bit shrill in the first act and I wondered how she would handle Il Dolce Suono, but, although she cheated a bit on the highest, most difficult part, (and I'm not going to blame her for not being Joan Sutherland) she gave a brilliant performance in which she took control of the stage, the cast and the entire theatre and sang lke a woman mad with love. It's not easy to do that. Not easy at all. It was wondeful to listen to and to watch. I didn't want it to end. For nearly 15 minutes (I think) she had the entire theatre scared to breathe in case it provoked her. Terrific stuff it was.

The brother Enrico had a poor voice and was a terrible actor, almost embarassed about being on the stage. Not a tyrannical figure at all. The lover Edgardo had a nice voice but was a wimpy type, not one to dedicate his life and death to a woman, and not someone a woman like Lucia would die for.

The first scene of act three between Enrico and Edgardo should be dripping with tension and menace. They are two brave and powerful men who hate each other and don't kill each other only because they each have an idea of honour that stops them short for different reasons. Instead they looked like a couple of nerds playing at being hard. The whole show failed because of that.

And Edgardo's final death scene, coming after Lucia's, is likely to be anti-climactic and struck me as too long, but with this chap playing the role it almost became ridiculous. A pity, really. Presumably Donizetti knew what he was doing and placed it here for a reason.

The orchestra, a local one,  was good, and I liked the conductor. The choir was also local, experienced and competent. The flautist, a young blonde woman, who was on the rostrum for the mad scene also did a good job. So a varied evening, cuarte's eggish, but when it's all you've got you learn to enjoy it.


James Higham said...

I'm just beginning this path and have included some youtubes so far. Interesting to read about this and shall explore.

CIngram said...

Try these if you haven't already. Joan Sutherland as Lucia, an early version, just audio, and a live performance, some years later, and in some ways, better, IMHO.

A lot of people assume opera is boring or they think they won't understand it. Until they see a good live performance, when the drama and the atmosphere is overwhelming and they realize the music is just a small part of it. You need the whole experince, I think, and then it can be magical, or at least entertaining, whcih is the point of it.

Some people still don't like it even then, of course.