A tragic story with a gorgeous set of performances, the Florida Grand Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor is a showcase of exquisite story-telling and virtuoso design. The production of this classic three-act opera was a testament to ingenuity and minimalist aesthetics, very modern and very forward-thinking in taste and sensibility. That classic operas can be modernized is not a new concept. But it is in the how of this modernizing approach that distinguishes a great production from a cloying or ineffective one that leaves you feeling sorry for yourself.
The Florida Grand Opera is celebrating it’s 77th season, a remarkable achievement by any measure, particularly for a company in South Florida, a very raw and young cultural atmosphere bereft of the history and traditional patronage institutions of such grand regions as New York, San Francisco or Chicago.
The Lucia di Lammermoor delivered to near perfection at the Arsht Center in Miami last Saturday night is the production created by the Houston Grand Opera. The version I attended starred the soprano Anna Christy as Lucia, Joshua Guerrero as Edgardo and Trevor Scheunemann as Enrico.
Created by Gaetano Donizetti in 1835 and based on The Bride of Lammermoor by Walter Scott, Lucia di Lammermoor tells the story of political intrigue, true love defeated in the face of political machinations with tragic consequences, and the obsession with financial and political wealth while those obsessors are arranging marriages like chess pieces on a board of family relations.
Lovingly orchestrated by Alexander Polianichko, the performance commanded the audience’s attention in a way that most operas cannot. This is because the set consisted of a barren stage with a series of inter-laced scrims painted in a variety of somber and dramatic cloudscapes, sometimes arranged at odd angles for dramatic effect. What props were integrated into the drama were rolled and removed as needed and only sparingly, thus keeping the players alone on stage within their little worlds.
The culminating sequences of the final scenes included an extra long banquet table celebrating the sad marriage of Lucia. This was an exquisite spectacle of design that could have been extracted straight from the pages of Dwell or Kinfolk, in a good way.
Ms. Christy’s singing was delicate and restrained, almost guarded in a way that emphasized the withheld longing at the center of the story. Her epic delivery of the longest aria in classical opera was delivered while she was splattered in blood, writhing in agony during the final act. It was an unforgettable sight.
Ms. Christy’s russet tresses in gorgeous curls were a gargantuan luscious spectacle of eros and virginal sex appeal, as much a part of the evening as the production itself. Many times I felt they deserved to have their own credits in the cast. Or, at the very least her stylist should have take a bow on stage with the performers. If it was a wig then she pulled it off brilliantly!
The costumes were simple, almost drab outfits adding to the somewhat bitter sadness of the storyline, which I will not give away here. This is not an uplifting viewing experience as the story is concerned. What is uplifting however is the potency of the ensemble case, the delicate blend of Donizetti’s harmonies with Mr. Guerrero’s powerful deliveries.
The Florida Grand Opera is a true cultural treasure in the Sunshine State. This production of Lucia di Lammermoor only solidifies their exacting calculus when it comes to staging classical works of opera with a refreshing, even contemporary mindset that pays homage to the codes and traditions of both without sacrificing the integral and essentially conservative aesthetic demands of traditionalists.
This is a show not to be missed!