Lucia di Lammermoor

Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor opera to libretto by Salvadore Cammarano. Directed 2009 by Mary Zimmerman at the Met. Stars Mariusz Kwiecien (Enrico), Anna Netrebko (Lucia), Piotr Beczala (Edgardo), Colin Lee (Arturo), Ildar Abdrazakov (Raimondo), Michaela Martens (Alisa), and Michael Myers (Normanno). Marco Armiliato conducts the Met Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Donald Palumbo). Harp solo by Mariko Anraku; flute solo by Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson; harmonica solo by Cecilia Brauer. Sets by Daniel Ostling; costumes by Mara Blumenfels; lighting by T. J. Gerckens; choreography by Daniel Pelzig; directed for HD TV by Gary Halvorson. Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Donizetti was an extremely brilliant and prolific composer. He was not a historian, philosopher, or social critic. All he wanted was stories about power, sex, violence, and death to which he could write thunderbolts of music. (He did comedies too.) So we don't need to know anything about Scottish history to enjoy Lucia de Lammermoor, one of the easiest operas to follow cold.

Still, I'll give you a bit of background. This production is set sometime in Scotland's troubled past. The old kings (or chiefs of clans), who mostly own inherited real estate, are being squeezed out by the rising middle class. The royally have turned to devouring each other. A few years ago, the Ravenwood family was dispossessed of most of their land by the Ashton clan. Ravenwood now belongs to Lord Enrico Ashton. The last male Ravenwood is Sir Edgardo, who still lives in a ruined castle nearby that was (probably by schrivener's error) not covered by the foreclosed mortgage. Now Enrico is also in financial and political trouble. But he does have a beautiful sister, Lucia. Enrico is seeking to arrange for Lucia to marry Lord Arturo Bucklaw, who has the money and connections to save Enrico and all the Ashton clan.

There is only one problem with Enrico's plan. Sometime ago in the forest, Edgardo by happenstance saved Lucia's life. Even thought their families are enemies, Lucia and Edqardo are now desperately in love. When the secret romance is discovered by Enrico, he threatens his absent sister as seen below.

Enrico is played by Mariusz Kwiecien, a fantastic baritone whose acting ability is at least as strong as his voice. This is Kwiecien's first appearance in an HDVD, and getting his performance would be the best single reason to buy this disc. (I happened to see him a few years ago singing Don Giovanni for the San Francisco Opera at one of those movie-house shows. Kwiecien looks and acts like a real lady-killer; in his banquet scene with with the guest of stone, Kwiecien was more terrifying than any supernatural vision could be.)

Following this furious opening scene, Donizetti wrote a 3-minute harp solo to introduce his tender Lucia. The Met folks put a camera in place to get this shot of lovely Mariko Anraku playing for a full house + vast numbers of folks in movie houses. The players in the opera orchestras rarely get the credit they disserve:

Now we meet Lucia (Anna Netrebko) in the forest waiting for Edgardo:

Edgardo (Piotr Beczala) has bad news. He is leaving for France where he safely can meet with others interested in the future of Scotland. Before he leaves, Edgardo wants to make peace with Enrico and ask for permission to marry Lucia. She convinces Edgardo that this would be futile.  The lovers exchange rings and vow fidelity until Edgardo can return: 

Time passes. Enrico finishes his negotiations with Arturo and then presses Lucia to marry him:

Enrico is desperate and  resourceful. He has intercepted all the mail between Lucia and Edgardo. He also has forged a letter which makes it appears that Edgardo has taken a new woman in France. Enrico shows the false letter to Lucia:

Arturo (Colin Lee) shows up for the marriage to Lucia. He looks like a good catch to me. I think he's an expert in industries and finance. By marrying Lucia, he can add real estate to his portfolio. Here he speaks like a statesman to the leaders of the Ashton clan:

The signing of the marriage contract:

Suddenly Edgardo crashes the event. Here we see the famous sextet. Edgardo stands alone on the left. Behind the seated newly-weds are Enrico, Raimondo (Lucia's teacher played by Ildar Abdrazakov), and Alisa (Lucia's best friend played by Michaela Martens):

While each of the protagonists sings out his private anguish, the photographer relentlessly arranges for the joyful wedding picture. The irony of this exquisitely directed scene is palpable:

After the photograph, Lucia faints. This is turning into a bad day for Lord Bucklaw:

Poor Edgardo and Lucia. With a minute to compare notes, they could discover Enrico's betrayal. But there's not even that much time. Edgardo loses his temper and leaves before anyone can run him through:

A third of the opera is still to come, and I'll not discuss the plot any further. In parting I give you a few shots from the the Mad Scene, a kind of Mount Everest for sopranos to try to climb without getting killed:

Why did the Met and Decca wait so long to publish this? Everything is wonderful with great singing and acting by all the stars, beautiful sets, costumes, and lighting, admirable directing by Mary Zimmerman, and a fine performance of the Met orchestra and chorus under Armiliato. This is the only Lucia avaliable now in HDVD, so it is probably the best video available in any  format. And finally, it would be a "must-have" title for any fan of Netrebko, who in 2009 was maybe the most photogenic of all the sopranos around then who could try to record it. Grade: "A+".