[Met Performance] CID:189590
Lucia di Lammermoor {304} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/21/1961.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 21, 1961


LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR {304}

Lucia...................Joan Sutherland
Edgardo.................Richard Tucker
Enrico..................Lorenzo Testi
Raimondo................Bonaldo Giaiotti
Normanno................Robert Nagy
Alisa...................Thelma Votipka
Arturo..................Charles Anthony
Dance...................Louellen Sibley
Dance...................Richard Zelens

Conductor...............Silvio Varviso

Review of Leighton Kerner in the Village Voice

MUSIC: JOAN SUTHERLAND

With her fifth Metropolitan Opera "Lucia di Lammermoor" on December 21, Joan Sutherland fulfilled her final New York performance commitment for the season and left those who had heard her with nothing to do but gasp at the memory of what they had heard.

This bedazzlement in retrospect was not only accounted for by the "Lucias," but extended' also to a December 5 concert performance in Carnegie Hall of Bellini's "La Sonnambula," perhaps even farther back to last October 7, when a few hundred fortunates were able to get into the rather small Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum to hear the tall, redheaded Australian sing three arias from Handel's "Alcina," and, inevitably, all the way to last February, when she made her New York debut in Bellini's "Beatrice di Tenda" at Town Hall.

Vocal Rocketry

The concert performances of the two Bellini operas and of the Handel excerpts contributed to what became a familiar image of this "prima donna assoluta": Visually, an attitude of utmost composure, with head and shoulders often set at an angle to the rest of the body, perhaps to minimize her height; aurally, a gradual conflagration of trills within turns within roulades within scales, reaching, in the final moments and in the half-octave above high C, a combination of power, brilliance, and agility not approached within a mile by any singer known to this or the preceding generation. With regard to the aural image, the culmination came in the two arias of the final scene of "Sonnambula," with the long soft spun phrases of "Ah! non credea mirarti" (reminding more than one listener of Claudia Muzio) and with the astounding speed at which Miss Sutherland took the runs, 10-note skips, and other vocal rocketry in the "Ah! Non giunge" rondo.

In Donizetti's "Lucia;" on a theatre stage, the image underwent some changes here and there. As an actress Miss Sutherland has not the instinct of a Callas, but she does seem to have the intelligence to follow good stage direction - in this case, not that of the Met's Desire Defrere, who always has got stuck with the most dog-eared part of the repertory, but the direction of Franco Zeffirelli, who coached Miss Sutherland in the part at Covent Garden. Perhaps Mr. Zeffirelli was pressed for time, for once in a while the lady resorts to some pretty awkward walks around the furniture.

Mad Scene

In the "Mad Scene," however, comes a musico-dramatic display such as, perhaps, not even Donizetti dreamed of. In the first aria of the scene, "Alfin son tua," the dashing about and crouching in corners seems to be the incarnation of the Ophelia we have all wanted to see on a stage. The broken recitatives and snatches of melodic reminiscence take on sudden power. The notorious vocal cadenza with flute accompaniment, heretofore, the silliest musical passage ever penned, now becomes lightening flashes of hallucination. Lucia seems to chase the flute sounds in every direction with vocal imitations that take on an increasing bravura. She hears one flute roulade from the general direction of the opera house's Grand Tier, and back it flashes from her throat. The next is a salvo at the top balcony. The third she delivers with her back to the audience, and it bounces from the rear of the stage back into the auditorium with thrilling and uncanny clarity. Then, finally, her slow, ecstatic reprise of the First Act duet, with the flute sounds circling dizzily in the background. Going into the second aria, "Spargi d'amaro pianto," ending with a fortissimo top E-flat that hits the listener like an arrow, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the "Lucia " "Mad Scene" in what will be the Sutherland tradition.



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