Stuff from last year: Lucia at WNO
More from before the break...After the competent but pedestrian Tosca that opened the season, WNO's Lucia de Lammermoor, in a production by David Alden, was a most welcome second outing. I saw the B cast led by Lyubov Petrova on November 16.
Alden's placement of the opera in a sort of nightmare-Victorian-asylum-type space stands in stark contrast to a lazy Victorian "updating" like the LA Romeo discussed below. Where that production seemed mostly motivated by a desire to spare the audience the spectacle of drippy Renaissance costumes, Alden is deadly serious about stripping away the Lucia's kitsch to get at the social and sexual themes that drove the work's contemporary appeal. The biggest choice is a foregrounding of the Enrico-Lucia relationship--indeed, one might read Enrico and Lucia as the only "real" characters in this production, orphans abandoned long ago in an institution. Both are emotionally stunted, Enrico by his failures and Lucia by Enrico, who abuses and lusts after his sister, then suffers remorse for it. The other characters in the opera are almost figments of their psychoses, Edgardo becomes Lucia's storybook fantasy of a highland protector and a virile reminder to Enrico that he cannot have his sister; Arturo, presented as a literally golden dandy, is Enrico's perverse vision of the self-realized adulthood that eludes him.
All in all this is a rich and provocative production and a model of the kind of regie-lite (genuinely provocative, but not greedy for headlines) interpretation that a company like WNO would benefit from trying out at least once a season. One quibble I saw mentioned elsewhere was the final gesture of the production, Enrico snapping Edgardo's neck after his suicide. Between this and the gratuitous neck snapping doled out to Ulrica in last season's Ballo production, the WNO stage is starting to resemble the less credible kills in a Lethal Weapon movie. Enough already.
But this would hardly have been such a success without a strong, game cast. Charles Downey saw both casts and I suspect his assessment of Petrova as the dramatically richer, if slightly less musically consistent Lucia is correct. Her "Regnava nel silenzio" was not the most promising start, lacking a certain finesse in the phrasing. That was quickly forgotten however, by her committed work throughout the middle acts and a decidedly stunning Mad Scene. Brian Mulligan, as Enrico, was solid vocally but really shone in his willingness to inhabit all the neuroses and desperation demanded by the production. Someone whose name I can't find right now made for a robust and satisfying Edgardo, with good work up and down the rest of the roster. And Auguin back in the pit!