Lucia di Lammermoor Makes a Triumphant Return to the Teatro Real

SpainSpain Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor: Teatro Real Chorus and Orchestra / Daniel Oren (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 25 & 26.6.2018. (JMI)

Teatro Real’s Lucia di Lammermoor © J. del Real

Cast:

Lucia – Lisette Oropesa/Venera Gimadieva
Edgardo – Javier Camarena/Ismael Jordi
Enrico – Artur Rucinski/Simone Piazzola
Raimondo – Roberto Tagliavini/Marco Mimica
Arturo – Yijie Shi
Alisa – Marina Pinchuk
Normanno – Alejandro del Cerro

Production:

Direction – David Alden
Sets – Charles Edwards
Costumes – Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting – Adam Silverman

Lucia di Lammermoor has been missing from the Teatro Real schedule since November 2001, a long absence for such a popular title. One had the impression at these performances that the public was keen to see this Donizetti masterpiece again – their reaction was much more enthusiastic than what might have been expected.

This is the David Alden production that premiered at the London Coliseum in February 2010: it has subsequently been seen in a number of other cities, from Göteborg and Toronto to Washington and Oslo. The action has been moved from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth, the time of the opera’s composition, and it all takes place indoors on a fairly dark stage. It does not open with Normanno and the servants in search of Edgardo, but rather at the Ashtons’ mansion where Enrico and Lucia are playing with dolls and toys like two childish adults. The arrival of Arturo clearly shows that this is a marriage of convenience since the Ashtons are quite inclined to satisfy the new husband and his people. The mad scene develops with Arturo’s corpse in the background, which Lucia approaches at the end; I am afraid someone threw too much red paint about since you cannot imagine that much blood coming from one body. Finally, the Ravenswood Cemetery scene could be anywhere, and the opera ends with Lucia’s corpse seated on a chair and (surprise, surprise) it remains perfectly upright.

The costumes are all in dark colours, and the lighting is effective. The direction of the actors and the crowds is outstanding, and Alden proves that he is a true master of theatre.

Conductor Daniel Oren seemed more restrained on the podium than on other occasions, but there was still intensity in his conducting and a good control of the stage. The version offered here was complete, and even included the interventions of Enrico, Normanno and Raimondo that close the mad scene, a true anticlimax. There were excellent performances from both orchestra and chorus.

The interpreter of Lucia in the first cast, soprano Lisette Oropesa, met with great success but, for my taste, the audience’s reaction was somewhat excessive. She is an excellent singer with an attractive, well-handled voice, and a superb actress capable of conveying emotion. Overall, she was outstanding as Lucia, but this character needs more than what a light soprano can offer. That was fashionable in the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century – until the arrival of María Callas, who showed that Lucia requires a more dramatic soprano. Since then we have had exceptional interpreters, among them Joan Sutherland, June Anderson and Diana Damrau; the latter was the indisputable Lucia until she abandoned the character. But Lisette Oropesa is a much lighter soprano, remarkable and even outstanding, but still a light soprano.

In the ‘mad scene’, where Lucia twice refers to the ghost, she has to show that her voice has power down below, and that is not the case with Oropesa. In addition, her very top notes are too metallic and reduced in size. In short, I thought she was excellent but not spectacular enough – in my opinion – to warrant the standing ovation the audience gave her.

The second cast featured Venera Gimadieva, who has appeared at the Teatro Real on previous occasions. She did well but wasn’t extraordinary – she too is a light or light-lyric soprano – and her performance did not match that of Lisette Oropesa, especially in terms of transmitting emotion to the public.

Javier Camarena was magnificent as Edgardo, singing with gusto and brilliance from start to finish. For my taste he was better suited to his role than his co-star was, although the public did not reward him in the same way. His final scene was outstanding, and he even dared to add a high D in his final aria. A great Edgardo!

The best singing in the second cast came from Ismael Jordi. He gave an outstanding performance, singing with great taste and expressiveness.

Artur Rucinski did nicely in the part of Enrico, with a well-suited voice and good interpretive skills, but Simone Piazzola’s performance was disappointing. His voice did not run easily, and his Enrico was no more than routine.

Bass Roberto Tagliavini was a satisfying Raimondo, as was Marco Mimica in the second cast. Yijie Shi was a real luxury in the part of Arturo: his voice is strong and appealing. Marina Pinchuk was correct as Alisa, as was Alejandro del Cerro in the role of Normanno.

José M. Irurzun

2 thoughts on “<i>Lucia di Lammermoor</i> Makes a Triumphant Return to the Teatro Real”

  1. Firstly, I know absolutely nothing about the technicalities of music – and care even less. I cannot sing or play a note of music – but love watching and listening to it. My tastes in music are fairly eclectic – I enjoy most things from heavy metal to grand opera.

    I know a bit about the operas of Verdi and Puccini – in fact, up until recently if an opera had not been written by one of those two it wasn’t opera at all. However, now I have a bit of time and leisure in which to listen to and appreciate more fully opera by other composers. It has been a revelation. How could I possibly have missed such delights as ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’, et al for so long.

    As I said I know nothing about the technical side of music – I wouldn’t know a high E flat from a very high G sharp in D minor with bells and pink and yellow spots on it. And it never ceases to amaze me when reading critics and bloggers waxing lyrical about high E flats in the ‘mad scene’ from Lucia – As I understand it Donizetti didn’t score it in E flat, he scored it in F major – whatever that may mean. I gather that singers over the years have changed this to make the E flat the norm instead. Some might consider that a bit insulting – what they are saying to Donizetti is, ‘You don’t really know what you are doing – we know better’.

    For me, opera is every bit as visual as it is auditory. I want to see the drama being acted out in a meaningful and evocative way as well as being beautifully sung – sadly in decades past the acting ability has not always matched the singing ability, but now, with the cameras getting up close and personal with the singers the acting is improving in leaps and bounds. As with most other things of this kind – beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. I have not seen many interpretations of ‘Lucia’ on video – so am no authority on the subject. However, I know what I like and like what I know.

    In the female voice range I have been a great admirer of Anna Netrebko and Elīna Garanča for some years now – but that is changing as I see more video clips and hear more cd tracks of other present day singers. In the male vocal ranges I currently have no particular ‘favourites’. In past decades there was, of course, the 3 tenors and before them di Stefano, del Monaco, Vickers, et al. Baritones – Gobbi and Warren. In the female voice ranges there was really only one – Callas.

    Going back to ‘Lucia’. I do have a blu-ray of the Met performance of the 2009 production at the Met with Anna Netrebko playing Lucia. She is a better actress than I thought she would be. The final scene – when Edgardo kills himself and Lucia comes to him as a ghost is probably the most beautiful ending to an opera I have ever seen. I am not an emotional person but I wasn’t expecting that and the tears flowed from my eyes uncontrollably. The purists, apparently, hated it because ghosts are not a standard feature of the opera!!!???

    As for the 2018 production at Teatro Real Madrid. The set did not really do it for me and some of the acting – in the minor roles, particularly – was a little too robotic and OTT for my tastes – I’m guessing that it was probably scripted that way though.

    The ‘mad scene’, however, was right up my street. I am thinking particularly of the ‘Ardon gli incensi’ section – with the bloody corpse of Arturo propped up lifeless against the back wall and Lucia sitting in front of him – embracing herself with his lifeless arms. That was pure theatrical genius.

    The audiences reaction to the sextet at the end of Act 2 and to Lisette Oropesa in the ‘mad scene’ was, again, just a lovely thing to see. I have never seen an encore performed at or during an opera – but have seen a few performances that I felt deserved to be encored.

    As such, I find it hard to understand those critics/bloggers who considered the audiences reaction to be ‘excessive’. I don’t know how many people the Teatro Real Madrid can seat but guess it will be numbered in the thousands. 1 to 10 critics/bloggers might be in a minority – but there were several thousands of people in the audience, that many people can’t, surely, all be wrong. So, the audience wins the argument.

    Roland Jeckalejs

    Reply
    • Thank you for taking the time to send in such a detailed comment. Please don’t worry about a lack of technical musical knowledge as that is something I ‘suffer’ from myself! Please continue to enjoy the operas you are seeing and hearing and please feel free to write in again. Jim

      Reply

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