[Met Performance] CID:310650
Lucia di Lammermoor {476} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/24/1992.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 24, 1992


Lucia...................June Anderson
Edgardo.................Richard Leech
Enrico..................Juan Pons
Raimondo................Paul Plishka
Normanno................John Horton Murray
Alisa...................Judith Christin
Arturo..................Paul Groves

Conductor...............Marcello Panni

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera (UK)

What I ask from a new production of an old chestnut is that it solve some problem that has diminished the work in its traditional productions. Frank Corsaro's quite awful "Don Giovanni" for the City Opera some years back seemed to me important because he staged the [first] scene to show the Commendatore ripping off Don Giovanni's mask - and then, of course, Giovanni would kill. Similarly, Francesca Zambello's new Metropolitan Opera production of "Lucia di Lammermoor" (I caught the company's 323rd performance of the piece, on November 24) has done one important thing right: it has cleared the stage for the poor lady's Mad Scene. By freeing the audience of its wonder that all those wedding guests could sit around dumbstruck for 20 minutes (in the previous production, some of them kept eating), Zambello has kept people's attention concentrated on the heroine. This means we do notice that there's no blood on her hands or dress as she appears fresh from killing Arturo (the blood gets dipped out in mid-aria from one of several coffins shrewdly implanted on the stage to signify death). But it also gives the artist more of a chance to convince us that reason's light was in this body once and is no more. June Anderson, simply by singing everything Donizetti wrote in this scene (including some bars usually cut), smack on pitch with very little strain, gave it a better shot than I would have expected from her - especially after two acts in which she definitely was not smack on pitch.

Up to then I was mostly unhappy with the production, which is set (by John Conklin) behind a scrim in a landscape apparently based on televised representations of Bosnia, grey mountainous terrain, with a lot of grey buildings tipped on their side and lots of suffering people. "Lucia" is not really an outdoors opera, and the set, like the real outdoors, has bad acoustics, the buildings being tipped over at angles that bounce the singers' voices up into the flies rather than out to the audience. Nor does it make much sense to populate the stage with the corps de ballet writhing out of the ground and back into it, while the chorus sings from the back of the orchestra pit. The justification for all this is the producer's vision of "Lucia" as 'a tale of psychological terror, of emotional blackmail, and of sexual politics set in the half-seen realm of the unconscious. Moreover, the story can also be seen as a poetic, celebratory escape as Lucia moves from passive pawn to active assassin and takes control of her life and fate. I may not be the best commentator on this stuff, feeling as I do that "Lucia" is not among the operas that become more interesting when taken seriously. Unlike "Anna Bolena," a far superior construction, its attractions depend for me entirely on its tunes.

At the Met, the tunes were best sung by Juan Pons, who makes more graceful phrases than the usual Enrico, and Richard Leech, who keeps his voice better covered these days, though there is no doubt it has coarsened since he began singing in larger houses. Anderson was problematic, quite spectacular at her best and quite sloppy elsewhere. My fundamental problem with her is that I don't think she has any personal musical imagination and, since the conductor Marcelo Panni deferred throughout to the singers, I found her mostly pretty dull. So was Paul Plishka as Raimondo, but that's in large part Donizetti's fault.

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