This is an unforgettable and masterly production of Lucia di Lammermoor that once seen you are unlikely to forget. Director Simon Stone’s conception and soprano Nadine Sierra’s performance in the title role will leave you astounded and thrilled. It pushed the boundaries of directorial imagination and there are some legitimate complaints but it is opera at its best.
Stone has some original, brilliant and sometimes outrageous ideas about Lucia. He sets the opera in modern-day America’s Rust Belt or more accurately among America’s Low Lives where drugs, guns and crime are evident. Forget the Scottish castle of the bankrupt Lord Enrico Ashton and his feud with the aristocratic Sir Edgardo of Ravenswood. We are in a rundown neighbourhood where Enrico Ashton has a bunch of henchmen with baseball bats who can beat the daylights out of you.
The neighbourhood has some old, dilapidated cars, a pawnshop, a low-class house and for good measure a prominently visible cross. It may be a neighbourhood you don’t want to live in or even drive through.
Enrico (baritone Artur Rucinski) is a tattoo-covered thug who has fallen on bad financial times and he wants to force his beautiful, seventeen-year-old sister Lucia (Nadine Sierra) to marry the hapless but rich Arturo (tenor Eric Ferring). Alas, she is in love with Edgardo (Javier Camarena), her brother’s archenemy, a young man who owns a pickup truck.
That’s just the beginning. Let’s comment on the performance first and return to the production values later.
Soprano Sierra dominates the production with her exquisite vocal and acting performance. She has a sublime voice with a wide range and impeccable phrasing. She reaches her high notes with splendour and is emotionally stunning in all her vocal range. She is convincing as a a beautiful teenager, deeply in love and horribly abused by her thug of a brother in a social milieu where she has no choice. Rust Belt America can be just as bad as 17th century Scotland.
She succumbs to the brutish demands of her brother and becomes mentally unhinged. What follows is her long Mad Scene where she goes through a gamut of emotions after she murders her “husband” Arturo. She is drenched in blood and rivets us with her vocal splendour and emotional power.
Opposite the innocence and beauty of Lucia, we have Artur Rucinski as her brother Enrico. Rucinski has a robust and fine-tuned baritone voice that displays vocal agility and conveys menace and evil. A stupendous performance and the perfect foil for Sierra’s execution of her role.
Camerana as Edgardo gives a marvelous vocal performance and displays all the passion of a besotted lover and later as a betrayed husband. There is no room for heroism and posturing but he does his bit by jumping on top of his truck and letting go.
Bass Christian van Horn was a last-minute replacement for the indisposed Matthew Rose
And he did terrific work as the minister who tries to be decent and obedient to Enrico.
Stone with Set Designer Lizzie Clachan fit Walter Scott’s old Scottish saga into a 21st century glove with great adroitness and imaginative flair. There is ample use of video including showing us the drowning of the young girl that Lucia tells us in her first act aria “Regnava nel silenzio.” Stone is enamoured of the use of asplit screens with video and live action being shown.
Stone gives the opera his own subtitle, “Close-up of a cursed life” and he has Lucia followed by a man with a camera almost throughout. This is clearly over the top close up and I don’t think it adds anything to the production. The details that he includes could not possibly have been seen by the audience at Lincoln Center and it was difficult to keep up with them even on the big screen. But we do get a good view of the Bob Hope movie being shown on a big screen which I guess was a local drive-in.
Edgardo and and Lucía bid farewell to each other as he leaves for France to work for Scotland’s future. The subtitles tell us imply that he must leave because he is deployed. Stone then very cleverly places them saying goodbye in a motel and they make love at the end of the second act. Their “marriage” in the eyes of God is consummated. A brilliant stroke by Stone.
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus were directed by Riccardo Frizza in an impressive and unforgettable production.
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti was was shown Live in HD at select Cineplex theatres across Canada on May 21, 2022, and will be shown again on July 9, 11 and 13, 2022 For more information go to: www.cineplex.com/events