Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 11, 2010

Lucia di Lammermoor

Commonwealth Opera
Academy of Music, Northampton, MA
by Terry Larsen

Receptive audiences gathered at the venerable Academy of Music to witness Commonwealth Opera's production of Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. Premiered in 1835 and now one of the most popular operas in the canon, Lucia di Lammermoor is a tale of the tragic, untimely deaths of two young lovers as a result of the ambitious machinations of their antagonistic families

Lucia, a role revived for 20th Century audiences by renowned sopranos Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, and on this occasion sung beautifully with supple tone and agility by Andrea Chenoweth, is forced by her ambitious brother Enrico to marry the politically well connected Arturo, capably sung by Giovanni Formisano, rather than her true love Edgardo, the scion of a rival family. Anton Belov's performance as Enrico was one of the highlights of the day. His confident stage presence and strong, balanced voice provided the motivation for plot and glue for the musical setting. Paul Soper as Raimondo, Lucia's tutor, the conflicted "insider" with feet in both camps, provided a tender and well crafted performance. Joseph Holmes and Gloviry Arroyo brought flesh to their roles in support of Enrico and Lucia. Unfortunately, Jin Ho Hwang seemed to struggle as Edgardo. He has a burly, robust sound, but his singing seemed strained in the high range, occasionally producing a puzzling, raspy quality. The members of the small chorus and the orchestra of about 30 players, led with clarity and vigor by Ian Watson, deserve kudos for their contributions.

The lyrical quality of music of the bel canto style provides a challenge to stage direction. The music is so melodically and harmonically pleasant, so tuneful, that the staging must deliver strong visual cues to deliver the pathos of the tortuous, cynical plot. The stage direction of this rendition of the play seemed somewhat static, particularly in the famous "mad scene" where the expectations of her family, which contradict her own desires, drive Lucia to insanity.

All in all, however, the company provided a passionate, heated 17th Century respite from a blustery spring day in the 20th Century.