Pacific Opera Victoria
Dates and Venue February 12, 14, 18 & 20 at 8pm & February 22 at 2.30pm | Royal Theatre, Victoria
Lucia Tracy Dahl EnricoJames Westman Edgardo Ernesto Ramirez Raimondo Giles Tomkins
Conductor Timothy Vernon Director Glynis Leyshon Set and Costume Designer Christine Poddubiuk Lighting Designer Guy Simard Choreographer Jacques Lemay Chorus Master Giuseppe Pietraroia Stage manager Sarah Robb
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
To some degree, Glynis Leyshon’s Lucia di Lammermoor is the antithesis of grand opera. Christina Poddubiuk’s set is abstract, a backdrop of mottled Rorschach blot, faintly hinting at stags’ skulls, a shadowed tower shape, minimal furniture. Lucia, in the early scenes, wears a black mourning dress, plain and completely devoid of Gothic excess. Leyshon has updated the time from the romantic blood-stained 17th century to the all-too-real, equally bloody 1930’s, when political factions still dominated European life.
Against this bleak background, Tracy Dahl’s Lucia blasted as shockingly as the scarlet roses she carried against her white wedding dress in the final scenes. Dahl must be at the height of her powers. Her magisterial technical skill almost goes without saying. Her beautiful line, and varied, dazzling embellishments are at the service of conveying Lucia’s emotions, but it is the depth and range of control and the finely judged nuance that produced such an extraordinarily deep and affecting performance. That, combined with a sensitive musical intelligence, alive to every change in Donizetti’s dynamics and tempo, and acting skills to match. This Lucia was no fragile ingenue but a woman whose emotions were so strong they eventually destroyed her. Dahl built the tension bit by bit until the climactic mad scene was as inevitable as it was powerful. The breathtaking, wordless duet with the flute (Richard Volet) ceased with an ethereal ringing in the ears.
Offering strong support to Lucia was Michele Bogdanowicz as her companion Alisa. Her thoroughly warm and reliable singing and steady presence were exactly right.
Ernesto Ramirez was eloquent and expressive as Edgardo, Lucia’s would-be lover and Enrico’s enemy, from his first ardent duet with Lucia to his final passionate aria as he takes his own life.
Taking his cue from the enigmatic set, a darkly dramatic James Westman, his every note suffused with emotion, presented an ambivalent portrait of Lucia’s brother Enrico. Is he utterly determined in forcing his sister to marry against her will to save the family fortunes? Does he care genuinely care about her or pretending? Other characters showed the same ambiguity. Both Giles Tomkins as a kind but weak Chaplain, Raimondo, and Josh Lovell as Normanno, captain of the guard, delivered able performances. Tomkins has a generous and clear voice which he used to good effect in his rich and gentle arias. Josh Lovell’s beautiful tenor endowed the tough Normanno with honeyed charm. Even the chorus composed entirely of Enrico’s loyal tenants, servants and friends showed horror and grief at Enrico’s behaviour and ts Lucia’s collapse.
As Arturo, Lucia’s hapless husband, Owen McCausland was cold and pompous and decidedly unambiguous.
Costumes showed great attention to detail with the strong lines of ‘30’s fashion for the principals and a wide and varied range from black shirts and breeches for Enrico’s men, through kilts and country clothes for the locals to elegant evening dress complete with furs.
Speaking of detail, the Scottish country dance performed by several of the chorus was beautifully executed, whereas the surtitles contained several grammatical infelicities.
Finally, the orchestra under Timothy Vernon could hardly have played more beautifully or been more attuned to the singers and their emotional journey.
© 2015 Elizabeth Paterson