Sunday, July 14

Lucia di Lammermoor – Royal Opera House

Katie Mitchell’s controversial 2016 gothic dramatisation of Donizetti’s setting of Walter Scott’s novel returns to The Royal Opera for a second revival under Robin Tebbutt, but the real talking point is the exceptional performance of its leads.

Fallen on hard times, Enrico (Artur Ruciński) has arranged an advantageous marriage for his sister, Lucia (Nadine Sierra), but Normanno (Michael Gibson) reveals that she is in love with Enrico’s enemy, Edgardo (Ioan Hotea). As Lucia and Alisa (Rachael Lloyd) wait for Edgardo, Lucia reveals a recent dream which Alisa interprets as a portent of doom. When Edgardo arrives, he explains that he has to leave on a mission and he and Lucia exchange vows.

Normanno obtains forged evidence to suggest that Edgardo is involved with another woman and when Enrico shows it to Lucia, she is heartbroken and agrees to marry Arturo (Andrés Presno), but as she signs the marriage contract, Edgardo bursts in and outraged, he curses Lucia and tearing his ring from her finger, leaves her in despair.

Whilst Enrico challenges Edgardo to a duel at dawn, Raimondo (Insung Sim) interrupts the wedding party with unexpected news. What follows is the epitome of this tale of hopeless love.

Vicki Mortimer’s rich and complex designs are well reflected in Mitchell’s trademark split-screen staging, which here has been used to reflect offstage events unfolding in parallel with the action on-stage. Well, half of it. Unfortunately, this comes with little consideration for sightlines so unless you are seated front and centre, you will be left wondering what is happening on the other side of a wall or door. And for those who can see it all, these imagined sideline scenes too often have a knack of stealing the thunder of the main piece as we have already seen what has unfolded in advance of the libretto dramatically informing us.

The introduction of a choreographed ghost is worthy idea and particularly suited to the gothic theme, but to have two is at the least careless if not confusing. When combined with the split staging, which leaves little room for manoeuvre, especially when the Chorus are present, it is all a little too unnecessary and distracting.

The real measure of success is the whether the soprano can match and surpass the challenges of Donizetti’s score and Sienna gives us all that and more as she is able to sing the top notes without any need to dial down in a mesmerising performance that is vocally breathtaking and surely marks her out as the soprano of this generation and a worthy successor to such legendary exponents as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland.

She is complemented by a superb performance from Ruciński that demonstrated quality and technical command in equal measure. It is worth noting that they featured together in Simon Stone’s modern take which performed at The Metropolitan Opera some two years ago and as with other productions, it is the audiences that enjoy the real benefit from these ongoing collaborations irrespective of production.

With a special mention for Hotea, a replacement, who performed strongly, singing with a real edge to capture the passion and heartache at the heart of his character, there were good theatrical and vocal contributions from Gibson, Lloyd, Presno, and Sim. Conductor Giacomo Sagripanti led with composure, drawing confident playing from the orchestra and strong singing from the chorus.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 30th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.