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Lucia di Lammermoor
Sunday, December 7, 2003
Il dolce suono / mi colpì di sua voce.
Ah! quella voce m'è qui nel cor discesa!
The sweet sound of (her) voice
Ah, that voice pierces to the depths of my heart…
Now, given a choice among hearing a lyric coloratura of luminous, pure, and celestial vocalism; seeing a superb theatrical actress at the peak of her powers nailing every nuance while tearing up the stage in a riveting performance; or observing a young woman of radiant beauty cavort about in a thin nightdress, one might have pause. Yet here the answer is, of course, "all of the above" as Anna Netrebko gives yet another jaw-dropping performance, this time as the mad Lucy of the Lammermoors. But I am ahead of myself…
We arrived a bit early at the Chandler Pavilion, giving us enough time to check out the new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall next door, as well as play with the four Irish Wolfhounds who would be performing supernumerary roles in the first scene of Lucia.
The hall itself is that gaudy moderne early-sixties too-many-chandeliers look; acoustics are adequate; the audience noisy. As the stage and backstage areas are small, long scene changes were necessitated, along with some horrid tapes of “Seagulls at the Seashore” honking at us during the breaks, where talking was not discouraged and moods were broken.
The scenery by and large was monochrome gray and lit by the same sight-impaired technician who gave us our recent Trovatore and Carlos. However, when there was a scene with good light, the contrast was stunning. In Enrico's study, as he was dressed in a rich red robe, silhouetted against the dramatic sky or sitting by a fireplace adorned with 36 large deer heads (akin to the “Skulls” exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences), the visuals were splendid. As was the moon-caught-in-the-branches-of-the-tree snowscape. Lots of rolling stage fog.
Costuming was a bit odd: Edgardo was in a tux, Arturo in a Gilbert-and-Sullivan-Tenor “do” and the chorus in various muted suits. Enrico and Lucia, by contrast, were in fine jewel tones throughout. It seems the director, Marthe Keller, a theatrical and film actress of some note, had never seen a chorus before. They were given to perform the most godawful ham-fisted unison hand gestures seen outside of a kindergarten pageant. This was surprising, as her direction of the principals and their interactions was, by and large, excellent.
Edgardo (José Bros) was a tenor of fine tone and musicality, although short enough to be dwarfed by most of the scenery, including an oversize chair which gave him an “Edith Ann” sort of look. Normanno (Javier Cortes) was thankfully inaudible given what we could hear, and had on a Sideshow Bob fright-wig. (At least, I hope it was a wig.) The bass, Raimondo (Vitaliz Kowaljow), was just another of those Russian splendors of stentorian tone. The chorus did not have the richness of blended tone I've grown used to at SFO; the orchestra (conducted by Jules Rudel) just fine.
Enrico, baritone Franco Vassallo was a beacon of enchanting musicality
and dramatic fire from the moment he walked onstage. Even though he was
the “bad guy,” he certainly took the afternoon's (male) vocal
honors. (In the duets, it reminded me of why I like Miss Netrebko in the
Russian repertoire so much: her tone blends so beautifully with the baritones
and basses which make up the heroes of Russian opera.) SFO: please take
note. He's young, he's good looking, he's Italian, and he sings like a
- Mark Burstein