By Gaetano Donizetti
Conductor: Marco Amiliato
Director: Mary Zimmerman
Lucia: Diana Damrau
Elgardo: Piotr Beczala
Enrico: Vladimir Stoyanov
Saturday was my return to the Big Apple for the first matinee of my new Met subscription, and what better way to start my NY opera season than with Donizett's bel canto masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor? Loosely based on the historical Scottish novel The Bride of Lammermoor, this drama tragico has been hugely popular since its creation thanks to the wild, exotic setting, the unfurling passions it portrays and the incandescence of its music and arias. While the sextet in the second act no doubt deserves all the attention it gets, it is the legendary mad scene in the third act, an emotionally and technically demanding piece, and consequently a perennial showcase for coloratura sopranos, that has more than anything else contributed to make this opera a sure-fire success with audiences throughout the years and all around the world.
For this production, Mary Zimmerman did a wonderful job with the visual elements, but even inventive décors, tasteful lighting and luscious costumes do not an opera make. Lucia is first and foremost a singers' opera, and on Saturday the three leads were in top form. As the title role, the young German soprano Diana Damrau appeared as assured as her singing. She had the youth, the looks and the flexibility to adapt to this very challenging part and the audience showed its approval at every opportunity. The much-awaited mad scene was in turns eerie and frantic, quietly emphasizing the growing intensity of her fragility and distress as she aimlessly wandered the stage. Her voice effortlessly and accurately reached out and vividly expressed her increasingly disturbed state of mind to the horrified guests.
She was extremely well seconded by the young Polish tenor Piotr Beczala as her Edgardo, and they both had the audience in the palms of their hands from the get-go. His steady, passionate singing was pitch-perfect for the other half of the doomed couple, and he was a big hit as well. The Bulgarian baritone Vladimor Stoyanov was appropriately dark and forceful as Lucia’s overbearing brother, Enrico, and filled in the bad guy part with much conviction.
Although the New York sky was gray, this grand production brought plenty of sunshine to its very satisfied audience. The 3 hours and 45 minutes (including two intermissions totaling 75 minutes) went by like a dream, and I left the opera house the head full of soaring notes on a rainy, but suddenly glorious, Saturday afternoon.