Singers shine in Lucia di Lammermoor: an opera review by Victor Grynberg

July 3, 2018 by Victor Grynberg
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Exquisite singing was the memorable takeout of the re-staging of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the Joan Sutherland Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.

Victor Grynberg

Australians of a certain age or interest in opera will know that this was the breakout role for Joan Sutherland at Covent Garden in 1959.

A star was born and a new standard set, with the famous Mad Scene being the yardstick.

English-born but a product of Australian training , Jessica Pratt has been the leading Lucia around the world for many years now. So it was a full house eager to see and hear her in her Sydney  debut. And what a debut it was. I don’t ever try to compare a singer with Dame Joan, whom I first heard in this role over 50 years ago. Rather it is appropriate to judge her as an individual singer and actor, and this performance was flawless. Confident , with superb control of her voice and body, and effortless reaching of all her notes, with no shrillness or harshness. The tragic, yet musically glorious Mad scene was of course the highlight.

Jessica Pratt and ensemble in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Sydney Opera House        Photo credit: Prudence Upton

Just sensational.

Almost to the same level was American tenor Michael Fabiano making a welcome return to OA. His Edgardo, her secret lover was tenor singing of the highest standard. In the new world of Opera he also looked like a hunter whom a heiress could fall in love with instantly.

In this  Scottish powerplay of wealth , jealousy and fortunes won and lost, these 2 singers were very well supported on the night. Richard Anderson, as the chaplain Raimondo was perfect in both his gentle singing and sympathetic acting. An extra round of applause for him at the end certainly showed the audience’s appreciation .

Thee was strong support on the night from Giorgio Caoduro as Lucia’s treacherous brother and John Longmuir and Benjamin Rasheed

The quality of the singers was very evident in the famous sextet Chie mi frena in tal mome. The number that had been the big hit before Dame Joan arrived.

Michael Fabiano and Jessica Pratt in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Sydney Opera House
Photo credit: Prudence Upton

Donizetti’s fame had rested mainly on his light operas before Lucia. The whole score is in fact magnificent. As the immediate predecessor to the greatest of them all, Giuseppe Verdi, his melodies and tones stand up to the very best. Just a pleasure to listen to.

Sir Walter Scott’s novel “The Bride of Lammermoor “ had been written just 16 years before (1819), no doubt full of castles and forests. Nothing of these in this opera.

I did have  some reservations about the effectiveness of the sparse cloud painted set where the viewer’s imagination is required but after a while the singing and drama took over.

Additionally this staging went back to the BEL CANTO era with too often the  singers  facing the audience rather than their adversaries.

Credit too to the Orchestra, sounding much better in the newly enlarged pit,  under the strong direction of Carlo Montanaro. Often overlooked, the chorus sang and moved with precision and it was good that nowadays Chorus master Anthony Hunt joined his team for the standing ovation at the end.

But it will always be Jessica Pratt , who is taking this role to the Met later this year, that one will remember and why this opera is a must see.

4 ½ stars

Sydney Opera House June 28

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