In July 1835 Donizetti was to have staged the first of the three new operas for which he had signed a contract with the management of the San Carlo theatre; but things, as so often happens ...
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In July 1835 Donizetti was to have staged the first of the three new operas for which he had signed a contract with the management of the San Carlo theatre; but things, as so often happens in the world of opera, did not work out as the composer had intended. The subject - Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor - had long since been chosen but the direction had not provided for having the libretto written so that it could be read and approved by the censor by the beginning of March, four months before the scheduled date of the première, as the contract stipulated. At the end of May, at the composer's urgent bidding, the writing of the libretto was entrusted to Salvatore Cammarano, destined to become one of the composer's favourite working partners: yet the date of the première, inevitably, had to be postponed. After many problems, Lucia di Lammermoor was at last staged on the evening of 26th September 1835. Its success went beyond even the most optimistic of expectations. The press too...
I have always been a fan of opera, and one of my earliest memories of it was hearing a recording of La Traviata with Joan Sutherland, Carlo Bergonzi and Robert Merrill, and thinking "wow, Sutherland's high notes are beyond amazing". After hearing more of her voice and seeing her presence on stage, I am now a fan of the now late Joan Sutherland, not just for her dazzling and powerful colouratura and her sense of fun on stage but also her gracious manners.
To see her in what I consider her signature role was a delight for me. Okay Sutherland mayn't be as good as she was in her prime, where she was phenomenal, however alongside her 1983 Lucia and her 1984 Anna Bolena this performance is one of her better performances of the 80s. She manages to be imposing and gracious on stage and is in pretty dazzling voice.
As a production, this Lucia is really quite delightful. The sets and costumes are all beautiful and lavish, even if some of the rather dark lighting hinders it occasionally, and when it comes to the staging the Sextet(beautifully sung, balanced and staged in an efficient and interesting way) and Mad Scene(very effective if not as vivid or as somewhat shocking as somebody like Zeffirelli envisioned, if memory serves Sutherland appears in a long white dress covered in blood).
I consider Lucia Di Lammermoor to be Donizetti's masterpiece, though I am fond of La Favorita and La Fille Du Regiment as well. The music is sublime, the Sextet and the Mad Scene are the two most famous parts of the opera and deservedly so, but I also like very much Enrico's Crude Funesta Smania...La Fietade In Suo Favore.
The orchestra playing throughout is involving and Richard Bonynge's conducting precise and musical. The support cast are solid. For me, Lucia doesn't really work if you don't have a good Lucia or Edgardo. Fortunately, we have a wonderful Lucia, who while past prime is still superb and an above average and emotive Edgardo in the name of Richard Gaegar. Malcolm Donnelly is a powerful Enrico, Clifford Grant does a very nice job as Raimondo and Sergei Baigliden is a good Artuto.
All in all, a great production and a delight to see Sutherland in her signature role. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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