We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, November 16, 2015


A ghost (Christine Duncan) haunts Lucia (Kristina Malinauskaite)

It's been over two years since we heard soprano Kristina Malinauskaite sing "Regnava nel silencio" at a Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble recital.  Yesterday we got to hear her perform the entire role, one for which she is well suited. Donizetti's masterpiece Lucia del Lammermoor is a gothic tale that resonates with us today since it shows the enormous personal cost of tribal rivalry and the subjugation of women.

Poor Lucia is robbed of the love of her life, Sir Edgardo of Ravenswood (Michael Celentano), by her selfish manipulative brother Enrico (Yun-Kwan Yu), who forces her to marry Lord Arturo Bucklaw (Lindell Carter) to save himself from political ruin. This cannot end well and of course it doesn't. Lucia goes mad, stabs Arturo, hallucinates, and dies. Edgardo stabs himself when he learns of her death. Enrico is filled with remorse and shame.

The opera received an honorable production by Vocal Productions NYC with some valuable contributions by students of the High School of Art and Design, the auditorium of which was host to the production, and a fine space it is!

The costumes, credited to Zhanka Melnechuk were appropriate to the 19th c. and suitable for a household in mourning for Lucia's late mother. Costumes for the wedding scene were lively and colorful.  Men wore sashes emblematic of their clan.  Set designer Kent Gasser kept things simple but effective for Act I with a fountain and a cemetery. Projected on a screen upstage were scenes reflective of the setting.

Captain of the Guards Normanno (David Roush) is trying to locate an intruder with whom Lucia has been meeting secretly at dawn. His ratting her out to Enrico sets the tragedy in motion.

Lucia's scene with her handmaid Alisia (Viktoriya Koreneva), as she waits for Edgardo, serves to show the audience just how fragile she is. Donizetti's music here is eerie and Associate Conductor Francisco Miranda's handling of the "harp" was superb. Ms. Malinauskaite shone in the cavatina--beautifully lyrical in the cantabile and increasingly frantic in the cabaletta. 

The scene was enhanced by the balletic presence of the ghost of a woman who died at the fountain (Christine Duncan). This spirit reappears in the scene when Lucia dies. We found it powerful although others may prefer to have the spirit exist only in Lucia's mind and not onstage. Alisia is worried for Lucia and tries to persuade her to abandon this hopeless love since the two families have a long-standing blood feud.

Of course the scene we were all waiting for was the mad scene and Ms. Malinauskaite did not disappoint. She built the scene slowly to the fioritura fireworks. The duet with the flute was haunting. One rarely hears a glass harmonica these days!

It was great to see a young woman conducting and Vera Volchansky was fun to watch as she used her body as well as her baton to pull together an orchestra that got off to a somewhat ragged start. We always enjoy the woodwind solos and the recalcitrant horns. The Maestra brought out the hoofbeats of Enrico's horse as he approaches Edgardo's castle where he challenges the latter to a duel.

Kevin Courtemanche served as Stage Director and kept things moving along. Not only was the ballet of the spirit an interesting addition but also the inclusion of a scene we had never seen before--a scene in which Chaplain Raimondo (Kofi Hayford) accuses Normanno of creating the tragedy.  Normanno fall at his feet in shame.

Trevor Trotto is credited with the lighting and this was most appreciated in the storm scene when Enrico comes to challenge Edgardo to a duel.

Chorus Master Bill Atkinson can be credited with the fine work of the small chorus. Valentin Peytchinov is Artistic Director of Vocal Productions NYC and we cannot help spilling his beans. Next May they will be presenting Verdi's Don Carlos!  After seeing their Contes d'Hoffman and their Lucia di Lammermoor, we are convinced they are not afraid of a challenge.

On a final positive note, the titles were exceptional and added a great deal.  They included identification of which character was singing what.  We need more of this!

It's a great mission to put on fully-staged operas with orchestra, giving young singers an opportunity to perform an entire role and giving audience members an opportunity to see good opera at a minimal price point.  Bravi tutti!

(c) meche kroop

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