Friday, September 18, 2020

Them Lammermoors Just Ain't Right

Once again I sing the praises of Eurovision as a source for beautiful opera, ballet, and concert.  It's all free, but most of the videos are there for a period of a few months to a year.  The repertoire is varying, the productions ranging from traditional to Euro-trash.  You be the judge.

Photo:  Matthew Murphy
I knew of this production of Lucia from Madrid's Teatro Réal already because of dear Lisette Oropesa, who very kindly granted me an interview that resulted in this artist profile in 2018.  As I recall, one of my first questions was something like, "You know that thing where you sound totally free, comfortable, and beautiful regardless of tessitura or repertoire?  Um, how do you do that?" In earlier, more ignorant days, I considered Ms. Oropesa a lyric coloratura--a Susanna or Blondchen.  I wrote in glowing terms about her Werther Sophie at the Met.  Then I saw her Violetta in Philadelphia.  The memory still brings tears to the eyes.  She shared with me that while she was singing very light roles in a very large house, she was coaching on meatier roles that fit her voice and the smaller European venues that are fortunate to enjoy her talents nowadays.  If you read the profile, you'll see she graciously shared a metric ton of information and insight, and I must say she was extremely kind and friendly during our Skype interview.

I was looking forward to seeing this production, having read reviews and knowing it was a bit controversial.  Some critics wanted a bigger voice for the role, and some took issue with the production itself.  True. it is updated a bit, but I'm OK with that.  It has been said that Lucia is already a bit mad with grief over her recently departed mother before the story begins.  In this production we see suggestions she's not the only mad one in her family.  True, Enrico is desperate to marry Lucia off in a way that will benefit the family, but that was the period, and the family was suffering hard times.  (Women of a certain economic class were chattel, breeding machines, and in the literature of the period, marrying for love seems more a pipe dream than a reality.  Can you tell I'm a big Jane Austen fan?)  

Edgardo by Javier Camarena.  Were I really up on my game, I'd already have written extensively about my admiration for this fine singer. The Enrico of Artur Rucinski left nothing to be desired. Big moments like Enrico's Act I aria, Lucia's "Regnava nel silenzio", the famed sextet--all completely amazing in vocal power and in commitment by the singing actors. The extended applause following the sextet was quite moving, and nothing can describe my delight when they repeated it as an encore. God bless those Europeans! 

Mad scene:  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  Becky!!!!!  They used a real glass harp! And this is where Ms Oropesa's ability to easily and beautifully float a melody line were contrasted with her ability to capably sing more agitated vocal lines. Her performance of the scene as envisioned by director David Adler was beyond reproach. What I would have given to see the performance live in the house instead of online!  Ms Oropesa's maintenance of a crucified posture during the extended applause alone was well worth the ticket price! I don't know if it was a tear or a trickle of sweat (stages are very warm places!), but in the end, it didn't matter--we saw the illusion of a tear after all that applause and posture holding.

Other production elements: Many seemed to suggest Lucia's status as a young woman still until the tutelage of a governess. School rooms and windows. It's OK, and is better than some other productions I've seen.  The costumes--well executed and thorough, but suggestive more of a mid- to late-19th century setting, certainly more advanced than Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel publication date or Donizetti's 1835 opera composition date.  I just don't see the reasoning behind updating from a remote period in history to a less remote period in history.  (Unless you count the many productions where designers are allowed to run amok with their Jackie-O flair. I suppose that's OK, it being Jackie-O.)

But there were ways in which the lighting was absolutely inspired.  

Regarding conductor, orchestra, chorus--my tendency is not to notice them unless something is wrong.  I might write about excellent and sensitive phrasing and very well prepared ensembles (I've done opera chorus--it can be very difficult indeed), but usually if I don't notice a conductor or a pit orchestra it's because they doing a good job of supporting what is happening on stage. This is such a case.  While I must give conductor Daniel Oren his due for all the skillful wrangling that is involved in conducting a production, the fact that I never once thought about him should be taken as high praise.  (I have written before of conductors who disappointed, so don't take this as laziness on my part.)

My lasting impression.  Damn, what fine singing!  And this is a production worth seeing!  I suggest you follow the link above and find this and other Eurovision presentations, all free, and enjoy at your will.  (Tip:  Headphones and earbuds give you better sound than whatever speakers are internal to your computer.)

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