Top positive review
12 people found this helpful
Work of Art, Labour of Love
on 3 June 2013
Being not so much of a `less is more-opera' kind of guy, (actually I am a `less is bore-opera' kind of guy), I quite liked this lavish Lucia and was soon won over by the believable stage direction. The production, by Mary Zimmerman, was broadcasted in HD and has now been put on disc. Originally a theatre director, Zimmerman often turns to opera. She placed the action of the Scottish family feud in the second half of the 19th century, some 200 years on from the libretto's era. The opening scene with the hunters is given and lit not unlike a crime series, which works. The second scene, with Lucia's first appearance, has the ominous forest unchanged (by the way, bravo for Mariko Anraku on the harp!). The fountain structure sits in a dilapidated corner. It's all Wuthering Heights, with a `materialized' ghost, rather than one just sung about. This means a more faithful approach to Sir Walter Scott's novel, as Zimmerman explains in the short but informative extras on the disc. She makes an interesting remark about the ghost taking revenge on Edgardo through Lucia: A second ghost, at the opera's end, is Lucia's spirit. In an act of ambiguity she ensures Edgardo uses his knife on himself, making her an instrument of the family feud as well as claiming him for herself in the hereafter. The scene with Enrico, whose machinations of course lead to his sister's demise, is full of tension, possibly with a hint of the sexual (the incestuous touch is experiencing a success tour among current opera productions, e. g. in Manon Lescaut). The sextet with all the diverging emotions is played out while a photographer is trying to arrange a family portrait. It should have bothered me but it simply didn't; the photograph symbolizes progress which the family, clinging to its petty feud, cannot be part of. The huge staircase on which the Mad Scene was played out could have been backed by a more naturalistic decor, in line with the rest of the production.
Naturally, the MET wields casts consisting of the world's best singers, and Lucia's is no exception. Anna Netrebko plays her effete character well. She is already slightly unhinged during the Fountain Scene. When Enrico produces the forged letter about Edgardo's infidelity she snaps right away, and from then on her eyes lose any vitality they might have radiated before. Despite her admirable account of the difficult part, the Russian soprano appears to have lost some of the vocal agility from her days as Glinka's Ludmila. And here I cannot refrain from paying homage to Dame Joan Sutherland's Lucia, in my book still unchallenged. Do I sound older than my 48 years in regretting not having been present at her historical 1959 Covent Garden debut? The men surrounding Netrebko are no less than magnificent: The ardent Piotr Beczala (replacing Rolando Villazón at short notice as Edgardo) sung mellifluously, as did Ildar Abdrazakov, who tuned down his forceful bass to suit the careful Raimondo. Mariusz Kwiecien, as the make-things-happen Enrico, boasts a flexible baritone voice and uses it to colour the vehement lines of his Lord Ashton. The voices blend beautifully together too, conductor Marco Armiliato brings out all the subtleties of Donizetti's lovely score, and for once the camerawork leaves nothing to be desired, capturing all the emotions from the most ideal angle(s). On the Blu-ray disc: The sound is as one might expect from this product. The picture comes with some (very) sparse hazy shots, as if someone forgot to brush these up, but to me this feels negligible. Honestly, this is a work of art and a labour of love we should feel happy about - and that at a little over twelve quid.