|Adam Fieldson, John Viscardi, Sarah Beckham-Turner, Alden Gatt, Joseph Michael Brent and Antoine Hodge
Lucia di Lammermoor is a sensational opera. Onto Salvadore Cammarano's libretto, Gaetano Donizetti lavished endlessly glorious melodies. It is so precious to us that we doubly value a company that does it justice and would malign one that trivializes it in any way. We are delighted to report that New York Opera Exchange has gotten it right and if you are fortunate enough to snag one of the few remaining tickets for today's matinee, you will probably send us flowers or chocolate in gratitude for the tip.
The success of the opera rests heavily on the shoulders of the eponymous tragic heroine whose mad scene is one of the finest in all operadom. Last night, soprano Sarah Beckham-Turner tore into the demanding coloratura of the scena with wild abandon. She was completely convincing as a fragile creature completely unhinged by the machinations and manipulations of her politically desperate brother. Her gown spattered with blood and her hair undone, she immersed herself totally in the role. Every gesture and flight of fioritura was spot on. Who could ask for anything more! This young woman will surely go places in the opera world.
As said conniving brother, baritone John Viscardi was superb. His recent switch of fach from tenor to lyric baritone was a wise one. His voice sat comfortably in this range, enabling him to focus on a well-rounded interpretation of the role of Enrico, far better than the nasty sneering interpretation we are accustomed to hearing. He seemed like a fairly decent fellow who was pushed by circumstances into doing bad things. His remorse in witnessing his sister's downfall seemed authentic and allowed the audience to have some pity for his position.
As Lucia's ill-fated lover Edgardo, tenor Joseph Michael Brent sang well and exhibited all the requisite emotions except for one; we wanted to see some tenderness toward Lucia in their initial scene together to explain why she would have defied her family to pledge her love to him. He did much better in the scene in which he returns from France to find Lucia married to Arturo and bristled with anger.
Bass-baritone Antoine Hodge was the voice of normality in this power-crazed family, giving substance to the role of Raimondo, the family's spiritual counselor. Captain of the Guard Normanno was the character who set the tragedy in motion by spying on Lucia's encounters with Edgardo and then egging on the brother Enrico. Tenor Adam Fieldson overcame the natural sweetness of his instrument and lent sneering arrogance to the part.
The role of Arturo was finely sung by tenor Vincent Festa and mezzo-soprano Chelsea Laggan did well as Alisa, Lucia's companion who warns her to stay away from Edgardo of Ravenswood, enemy of her clan, the Lammermoors.
Conductor Alden Gatt deftly led the full orchestra through their paces. There was some fine work during the mad scene by flutist Felipe Tristan, and the wind chorales which opened several scenes were powerful. A keyboard sufficed for the harp.There were a few times when the size of the orchestra overpowered the singers, likely due to their placement on the same level as the audience.
The effective direction was by Christopher Diercksen; the pace was kept up and the story moved along briskly. There was no set to speak of but it wasn't missed. Taylor Mills' costuming was minimal. Street clothes seemed to be the order of the day with motley plaid sashes on some of the cast members. We would have liked to see all the men wearing the same plaid to indicate membership in the same clan, with Edgardo wearing a different plaid. This would have emphasized the substance of the tragedy--the destructiveness of rivalry with and hatred of "the other", a feature that still exists in many parts of the world.
We wish to counteract the claim that "opera is dying" with the observation that opera is alive and well in the hands of small companies like New York Opera Exchange which rely on talent rather than "big names". We similarly wish to counteract the claim that "opera is for old folks" with the observation that the packed house at The Church of the Covenant on 42nd St. comprised mostly 20-somethings.
We are already anticipating NY Opera Exchange's production of Carmen in May.
(c) meche kroop