10 Aug

By Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
Based on the Walter Scott novel The Bride of Lammermoor
At the Arcola Theatre
On a rainy Thursday night what could be lovelier than a typical melodramatic opera by Donizetti
It is part of the Arcola Grimebourne Opera season which specialises in making opera relevant for today.
In this case, it seems to be just a matter of dressing people in normal clothes and doing the opera as written. It is of course in Italian but one soon forgets this as there are English subtitles coming up from time to time on a screen above the piano.
It is a little odd to see the opera with only a pianist -Ben Woodward with Michael Thrift conducting beside him throughout.. Odd it may be , but it doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the action.
It is set in Scotland, because Donizetti was fascinated by the wars of the clans in Walter Scott’s story. The Bride of ‘Lammermoor’ and clan wars are at the bottom of the plot.
It’s a well-known story of greed, revenge and frustrated love. In this version, the girl, Lucia Ashton, is romantically in love with Edgardo Ravenswood, a man whose family is at war with hers. Her brother Enrico wants her to marry Arturo a rich man who can get him out of financial difficulties.
The two lovers are vocally beautifully matched in their love scenes. Alberto Sousa as Edgardo wears casual clothes, where Enrico and his religious advisor Raimondo wear elegant suits in order to easily distinguish the factors and making it obvious that Edgardo is an unwanted stranger in these parts.
Nicola Said as Lucia is especially strong in her final mad scene in which she completely dominates the room surrounded by the rest of the cast and the chorus who feel unable to interrupt her enormously powerful voice. This is a brilliant characterisation from a pretty girl with a voice to die for.
Another voice to die for is the operatic base of the remarkably tall and handsome Simon Grange as Raimondo, the priestly advisor to Enrico. The voice is remarkable in his dramatic scenes – it is his job to tell everybody what is happening so he is an ever present character.
Ashley Mercer plays the wicked brother Enrico who cheats her and forces her into an unhappy marriage. He is well cast and gives the impression of his panicky state of mind and desire to save his own skin. He is helped in his nefarious plans by Normanno played by James Bowers. Alisa, Lucia’s friend and confidante is played by the mezzo soprano Rebekah Jones.
It is a satisfying production and one must be grateful to Ben Woodward of the Fulham Opera for the terrific chorus work and to the fabulous Sarah Hutchinson for directing this production.
di lammermoor

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