A Thunderous Performance of Lucia di Lammermoor

SwedenSweden  Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor. Opera på Skäret, Kopparberg. Marcello Mottadelli (conductor). 28.7.2012 (Premiere I)(GF)Cast:

Lucia: Yitian Luan
Edgardo: Kristian Benedikt
Enrico: Anton Eriksson
Raimondo: Levente Páll
Alisa: Ann Roach
Arturo: Anders Håkansson
Normanno: Kalle Leander
The Ghost: Maria Jonsson

Bergslagens Musikdramatiska kör, Opera på Skärets orkester 2012



Director: Sten Niclasson
Assistant director: Alexander Niclasson
Sets: Sven Östberg
Costumes and masks: Robin Karlsson
Lighting design: Kevin Wyn-Jones
Producer: Anna-Carin Niclasson
Pianist and rehearser: Stefan Lindgren


Photo © Andreas Hylthén
Photograph: Yitian Luan as Lucia and Ann Roach as Alisa

A few years ago, when I attended a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor at Savonlinna, a heavy thunderstorm came on in the midst of the Wolf’s Crag scene, making it even more dramatic than intended. This year at Opera på Skäret the Thunderer took part again but more distantly. I believe he didn’t intend to frighten the audience this time, only express his approval of the performance with some good-humoured rumbling. Sten Niclasson and his team have found a winning concept and after far too much running about, seemingly without purpose, in the first scene, things were tightened up and resulted in a taut and well integrated production. The stage at Skäret doesn’t have the technical equipment to change the sets during the performance and in this case there was a central, turnable metal construction, looking like a cage. The symbolism was obvious: all the characters are in one way or other prisoners, fenced in physically or mentally. When Arturo brings Lucia up the staircase to the bridal chamber she – and we – knows that she goes to a prison. The dramatic effect is overwhelming when she a while later staggers down the staircase, dagger in hand, the while gown drenched in blood and sings her mad scene. I have seen a number of excellent productions of this opera and the Skäret version is no doubt one of the very best. It is fully possible to achieve great theatre with technically rather modest means. Costumes, the sparse sets and the lighting tend to put the human aspects in the foreground and make the internal feelings and the conflicts reach over the pit in a way that bigger houses with bigger stages and orchestras often can’t manage.

That’s the theatrical side of the coin. If we turn the coin and look at the musical side things are still very good, even though there are a few blemishes. Marcello Mottadelli, who also conducted Carmen at Skäret last year, impressed again and considering the rather modest forces at his disposal – an orchestra of 34, a chorus of 28 – it is amazing what power he managed to extract from them. One contributing factor is of course the superb acoustics, but the orchestra played extremely well with well integrated tone and the chorus was even more of a surprise, singing as well as acting, and I don’t think so many of them are professionals. Two instrumentalists should be mentioned: the harpist with her long introduction and accompaniment to Lucia’s act I aria, Regnava nel silenzio, and flautist Maria Jonsson in the mad scene. For once she appeared on stage during the duet, dressed in white as a ghost, and she acted as well and before she left she bent down and stroked Lucia’s hair. Very moving.

There are few roles in the standard Italian opera repertoire that requires so much of the singer that Lucia does: seamless legato, brilliant coloratura and stamina like a Marathon runner. The fifteen-minute-long mad scene is an endurance test of gigantic proportions – and before that she has already been singing her first act aria, several duets and the sextet … The young Chinese soprano Yitian Luan had the stamina, the technique and the legato – and she is a good actor as well. I thought the first aria a bit lacking in nuances but during the rest of the evening she was excellent in every respect and her ethereal high pianissimo notes in the mad scene were magical. This was her first appearance in Northern Europe and this Lucia was an impressive calling-card. Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt sang Don José at Skäret last year and showed the same characteristics as Edgardo: strong, but not very Italianate voice, a certain lack of passion and rather stiff as an actor. But he is a reliable singer, steady tone and capable of some fine nuances, which he demonstrated in his long final scene. I saw Swedish baritone Anton Eriksson as Marcello in La bohème in Karlstad some years ago. Then was in the beginning of his career and I thought him promising. As Enrico he made an unsympathetic portrait of this upstart and his vivid acting in the Wolf’s Crag scene made the duet ignite. His singing was a little rough-hewn but fully acceptable.

But the best singing on the male side was delivered by the young Hungarian basso cantante Levente Pàll as Raimondo. He sported a beautiful, rounded tone and was an excellent actor as well. Dalle stanze, preceding the mad scene, was really impressive. This is a singer that has all the prerequisites for a luminous career. Having already sung in Spain, Austria and Germany this was his Swedish debut and I sincerely hope he will return. Kalle Leander was a good Normanno and Anders Håkansson made the cipher Arturo really unbearable. Ann Roach was an excellent Alisa. This is a singer I would like to hear in a larger role.

With some reservations this was a very satisfying performance well worth anyone’s money. The production is running until 19 August. There is a second trio of main characters to be heard and seen in premiere 2 and I will be back with a report from that event in due time.

Göran Forsling