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Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, Metropolitan Opera (2009) [DVD] [NTSC]
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Marco Armiliato conducts this Metropolitan Orchestra production of Donizetti's opera about two feuding families. When Lucia falls in love with a man disapproved of by her parents, tragedy seems a likely outcome when they insist that she marries a husband they have chosen instead. The stars include Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, Mariusz Kwiecien and Ildar Abdrazakov.
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What is extremely clever about this production is that the director has gone back to the original source - the Walter Scott novel "The Bride of Lammermoor" - and invested the production with psychological depth, really thinking about the story and the words of the opera, rather than just chucking it on the stage as a vehicle. This depth means that the whole story hangs together extremely well, and that there is a reason for why people do particular things. What people are singing to each other really makes sense for the first time ever.
I'm not going to spoil the plot but there is a real coup de theatre in the final scene - one which I believe has never been used in this opera before - and which is built up to throughout the entire production. So clever is is that one wonders why nobody has ever thought of it before. The rest of the staging is also very clever, as well as visually impressive - one particular scene, in which a sextette of singers builds to become a huge chorus (and which demands that people stand stock-still on the stage) is presented in a very clever way which "explains" why everyone is standing so still - they are being composed into a group photograph by a photographer, who has arrived at the castle to take wedding portraits. This being the late Victorian period, of course the technical demands of slow exposure photography mean that people MUST stand still for some time. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant staging!
My only carp about this DVD is that the solo bows by the principals at the very end are ommitted; I would really like to have heard the roar as Netrebko took her final solo bow. A wonderful, engaging production with a truly top notch cast.
Ironically, Zimmerman's failure to get the right kind of acting out of her performers results in an old- fashioned "stand and deliver" approach to the big set-pieces that she can't really have intended and that reduces the opera to nothing more than a concert in fancy dress. Not that this worries the self-indulgent Met audience, who yell and applaud at every possible opportunity - even in the middle of the "mad" scene - and clearly have no interest in opera as drama.
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