The Indiana Univeristy Opera Theater opens their spring semester with a stirringly involving production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor conducted by recent faculty appointee Arthur Fagen with stage direction by guest James Marvel on the familiar design of C. David Higgins.
From the opening notes Saturday night it was clear that conductor Fagen was going for color and contrast in Donizetti’s orchestration. Dynamics were very much in evidence and the alternately lyrical and dance like sections were exploited. Lucia’s accompaniment in her first act aria was beautifully played by harpist Shih-Yun and the famous duet with the flute in her mad scene was flexibly partnered by flutist Jiyoun Hur.
Lucia… can easily become an exercise in black and white a sort of dark Dark Shadows, but stage director Marvel has resisted that to I think very good effect. Saturday night’s lass of the Lammermoor, sung powerfully by Heather Younguist, was an imaginative and perhaps overstressed young lady, but not crazed until the snap of the wedding night. The ghostly figure that appears in her first scene and stalks through the crowd in the later mad scene was visible as a grim harbinger to the audience, but not to Lucia.
Her brother Enrico, who forces her into the marriage that drives her over the edge, is portrayed as a devious schemer, but not a black hearted one. He deeply cares for his family and indeed for all of Scotland. Saturday night’s Enrico, baritone Scott Hogsed was the singer who could best match Younquist in duets.
The list of characters who could be villains also includes the family Chaplain Raimondo and the chosen groom and savior of the family fortunes Arturo. Saturday night’s cleric was strongly sung by Andrew Kroes. His Chaplain certainly pushes for the marriage, but clearly has broad ethical considerations and concerns for the people involved.
Arturo, the show’s one-scene-tenor was sung by Samuel Green. Again this is a character that can be portrayed in rather black terms. But though the voice was small, this Arturo was clearly supposed to be a charmer. The whole cast welcomed his entrance and with a light touch he even waved a greeting to us in the audience.
Frankly the part of Edgardo, the tenor hero sung well on Saturday by Joshua Lindsay is a tough one to make dramatic sense of. After some lovely singing in wooing and winning Lucia he departs on a secret mission and doesn’t come back until the night of her enforced wedding. Edgardo causes a fuss, but is forced to depart. Then Lucia does the mad scene of all mad scenes that everyone has been waiting for and Saturday nights with Younguist was terrifically moving. What more could one want…great ending…but no,…
The curtain comes down and there’s a set change so that Edgardo can reappear, sing and then kill himself. It’s a tribute to the production that they staging of this in a gloomy cemetery scene with a background of nicely marshaled darkly clad mourners did once again grasp the audience’s attention and make for a nicely worked out finale.
The IU production of of Lucia di Lammermoor has final performances on Friday and Saturday at eight in the Musical Arts Center. You can find this review and an interview with stage director James Marvel on our web site at WFIU dot ORG.
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti
Conductor Arthur Fagen
Stage Director James Marvel
Designer C. David Higgins
IU Opera Theater
February 5, 6, 12, 13, 2010