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Have real trouble defining this mixed bag...
on December 6, 2009
I am a great fan of Donizetti's 'Lucia di Lammermoor', harking back to the late 1950's Dame Joan Sutherland portrayal of Lucia.
I do not care for the Sutherland DVD of the early 1980's, though, and any one who considers that 'that' performance represents Dame Joan's Lucia would simply be way far off the mark.
Of the available DVDs, Jose Carreras/Katia Ricciarelli/Leo Nucci/Gardelli offered a very first rate performance recording in the 1982 Bregenze theatre. Even though Ricciarelli's voice was already on the downhill trend in that performance, she is still the BEST Lucia on DVD in terms of vocal acting, stage presence, and ultra-fine stage acting. I would even say in terms of looks, she had a definite edge over Anna Moffo. The best all-round portrayal of Edgardo, Lucia and Enrico in that Bregenze performance, even if Ricciarelli did not have the high notes to perfection.
This is NOT to mention Maria Callas' 1953 recording with Giuseppi di Stefano under Tullio Serafin, which remained the benchmark of performance despite Dame Joan Sutherland's illustrious portrayal later.
There is a third DVD of this opera that is worthy of mention - the La Scala recording in 1992 of Mariella Devia. Though not visually a great Lucia, Devia's coloratura is simply the BEST around in this era. Hers is the idiomaticity, the nuances, the width and breadth of expressions required of this title role. A spine tinging performance in the first Act and the Mad Scene.
Back to this MET 2009 production.
Musically it isn't bad at all.
Even though Anna Netrebko in the title role failed to deliver a distinguished Lucia, hers is still a sterling performance in that the top notes are loose and free, and the vocal delivery of the Mad Scene among the most secure EVER, and rightfully the best CURRENTLY available.
What troubles is her characterisation in the first Act. Netrebko is a trival too vivacious as the Lucia mourning her mother, troubled by her love, and apprehensive of her own future, even though she is very much in love with Edgardo. The light-heartedness as portrayed in this Act is clearly off the mark.
The duet in the second Act with Enrico is one of the high lights of this production, and Kwiecien and Netrebko rise to the occasion admirably. even though they do not surpass the absolutely great performance by Nucci and Rcciarelli in the Bregenze live performance.
The sextet is the biggest flop of this MET production. The dramatic tension, the pathos, the conflict...all worn down by the photographer in the form of an aimless busybody. WHAT A WASTE!
Then the great Mad Scene. Netrebko is great here vocally, but again, not so great visually. Instead of mapping out her actions with the music, Netrebko has adopted other gestures and movements that are theatrically sound, but musically distracting. If you compare her gestures with those of Katia Ricciarelli, you would be surprised that how much more 'with the music' was the latter's movements and gestures. In this respect, early bel canto specialists like Leyla Gencer, Monserrat Caballe, and even Katia Ricciarelli, were more attuned to the musical script AS WELL AS the libretto's demands in their portrayals, a feat that is seldom seen these days on stage or on DVD any more.
Last but not least, Piotr Beczala's Edgardo is some what of a revelation these days, as a beautifully timbered tenor and ardent interpretor. His last scene rounds off an otherwise mediocre production with an heroic note that should under no circumstances be taken for granted.