A Lucia Made of Rust Belt Despair
|Bloody bride, photo @ Marty Sohl|
The first thing you need to know about Simon Stone's new production of Lucia di Lammermoor is that Stone absolutely respects the basic foundations of the opera. Yes, the action is moved from 17th century Scotland to a Rust Belt town in Midwestern America, but the basic story is unchanged.
|Set and video projections, Photo @ Jonathan Tichler|
The second thing you need to know is that even if you're a conservative when it comes to modern/updated productions, this Lucia di Lammermoor is absolutely worth seeing because of the strong musical values. Nadine Sierra (Lucia), Javier Camarena (Edgardo), and Artur Ruciński (Enrico) all give excellent vocal performances based in classical, bel-canto values. The production might be modern, but the singing is old-fashioned.
Lizzie Clachan's set is striking -- the revolving set shows a Rust Belt town is conveyed by a pawn shop, drive-in theater, drugstore, cheap motel, some dingy looking cars (Edgardo has a blue pickup truck), and a simple two-story house where Lucia and her brother Enrico live. Stone has a camera-man taking live footage of the action -- the video is then projected on a screen that is above the main stage. The videos were the major misfire of the production -- it seemed too derivative of Ivo van Hove and the video footage was bland and didn't add much to the storyline. In fact, they were surprisingly maudlin. We saw lots of closeups of Nadine Sierra and Javier Camarena kissing.
|Casa Ashton, photo @ Jonathan Tichler|
There's a few weird things that don't work. Why is the drive-in cinema showing the 1947 classic My Favorite Brunette? Why does the Lammermoor house have no stairwells, and thus Lucia has to go "downstairs" from her bedroom by climbing out a window? If Lucia and Edgardo are messaging on Facebook, how did the letters Edgardo sent get "intercepted" by Enrico? During "Regnava nel silencio," who is the "ghost" in the video projections and what's her connection to Lucia? But overall, more things work in this production than don't work.
|Camarena and Sierra, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Javier Camarena's Edgardo was sweet-voiced and sincere. Camarena's voice is a bit of an inverted triangle -- his upper register is free, ringing, and secure, while his middle register can occasionally sound a bit croony. But his legato, warm timbre, and sense of bel canto style were all on display. Camarena has good stamina -- his voice in the double aria of "Fra poco a me ricovero" and "Tu che a Dio" showed no signs of fatigue. His diction is superb. I could practically write down each pronounced syllable he sang. Sierra and Camarena had good stage chemistry. More importantly, their voices blended beautifully in the duet "Verrano a te" and the sextet.
|Artur Rucinski, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Matthew Rose (Raimondo) was disappointing -- his voice now sounds weak and hollow in the lower register.
Riccardo Frizza's conducting was very routinier -- fast, but a bit shapeless, especially in the Mad Scene.
During intermissions I heard some lively opinions and debates about the production. Some people really loved it, others hated it. No matter what, you should see this Lucia in HD and judge for yourself.