Lucia di Lammermoor at Opera Philadelphia

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Opera Philadelphia is now presenting Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, at the Academy of Music until September 30. It is part of their Festival O 2018. This new production has much to recommend it.


The plot of Lucia di Lammermoor is set in Scotland during the ascent of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the throne. The plot is akin to that of Romeo and Juliet in that Lucia Ashton falls in love with her family’s bitter political rival, Edgardo Ravenswood. The Donizetti opera also ends unhappily for all concerned. There is a famous mad scene which provides the soprano playing the part of Lucia a bravura opportunity rare even in opera. There are numerous arias which showcase several male characters as well throughout the opera. The longevity and popularity of Lucia di Lammermoor is a testament to the work itself and to the brilliance of Gaetano Donizetti who wrote the work in 1835.


Corrada Rovaris conducted the orchestra with idiomatic passion and love. The musical action never faltered and was often thrilling. The soloists were of a high caliber. Brenda Rae was Lucia. The bel canto fioritura and expressiveness so central to the role seemed to be effortless in her hands. She triumphed in her Mad Scene. Troy Cook was her sinister, and rather psychologically unhinged, brother Enrico. Tenor Michael Spyres was Edgardo, political enemy of Enrico and beloved of Lucia. Mr. Spyres possesses a ringing tenor which has been in demand at some of the most prestigious international festivals. Andrew Owens was Lord Arturo, ill-fated husband to Lucia. Supporting characters were Adrian Kramer was Normanno and Hannah Ludwig was Alisa. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn was Raimondo, tutor to Lucia and religious advisor to the Ashtons. Mr. Van Horn displayed stentorian power and riveting stage presence to captivate the audience during his many vocal turns. His tall, forceful, and imposing presence garnered audience acclaim this evening second only to that given to Brenda Rae. Many might recall memories they have of Samuel Ramey. Little wonder, then, that Mr. Van Horn will be Mephistopheles in the Metropolitan Opera’s production this season of the Boito classic, Mephistophele.


Lucia di Lammermoor appears to have it all, a beautiful theatre conducive to opera, a fine conductor and excellent orchestra with top-notch singers creating a thrilling experience. Until we get to the production by the internationally esteemed Laurent Pelly, who chose a few odd and quirky changes to the established plot. Lucia di Lammermoor is now set in 1850, not during the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, even though it is mentioned by Enrico in the opera. This anachronism aside, we also have what appears to be a rivulet in the raked stage which is repeatedly referred to as a fountain.  Is it Mr. Pelly’s pun for a geyser? Is the opera taking place at Yellowstone or in Iceland where a water jet may appear? It is never explained. The wedding guests, who are repeatedly referred to as having a great and joyous time appear to be mourning instead the assassination of Lincoln. We can allow wry stylization in this matter, and the fact that the wedding appears to take place in the snow outside the castle. This brings us to comment upon the set design by Chantal Thomas. Rather than a Scottish castle, Lammermoor appears to belong to Klingsor, in Parsifal, not the Ashtons. The merriment which is broken by Lucia’s homicide and insanity appears to take place in a blood-red hall with Expressionistic presence. All of these aside, the most troubling decision was having Lucia appear to be mentally unbalanced from the very first glimpse we have of her. Her tics, spasms, and odd behavior are totally at odds with her surprising and sudden mental breakdown which leads to her homicide and insanity. Bold and innovative, you might say. Others might say self-indulgent hogwash. You will have to decide for yourself.


By all means get to the Academy of Music to catch one of the few remaining performances. This Lucia di Lammermoor is a thrilling, indelible experience you will remember for many years to come.


For further information regarding Lucia di Lammermoor and Festival O 2018, visit .


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