Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, Metropolitan Opera
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Anna Netrebko returns to the stage in the unforgettable Metropolitan Opera performance of Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor! This DVD release was originally broadcast live in HD from the Met on February 7, 2009. In addition to Netrebko's spectacular perform
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The setting of gloom - bare trees in a darkened landscape set the tone for the pending tragedy that would unfold. There's always drama behind the drama, so I feel I should mention here that Piottr Beczala stepped in for an "ailing" Villazon. I have never heard Villiazon, so I had no frame of reference, except to note that I hear Beczala in other operas. To step in at short notice and produce what would be a standout performance is what professionalism is about. Beczala steals the show for me.
Netrebko has a beautiful clear lilt which I liked and her "mad scene" about which so much has already been written, quite powerful. While some here may have reservations about her almost playfulness in Act 1 in the light of her mother's recent demise, her love for Edgardo places her in a situation where's she displays conflict - the vacillation between joy and sadness is palpable. The descent into madness must be gradual and the scene between Lucia and Enrico solidifies this aspect.
I must once again say that Piotr Beczala with this performance entrenched his position as one of the finest lyrical tenors today. His aria "Fra poco a me ricovero" was delivered with such powerful passion, the enthusiastic applause at the end of it was very well deserved.
Now I feel justified in having purchased this DVD.
Ms. Zimmerman seems to understand that "Lucia" is, at heart, a horror story, and, like all great horror stories, it knows what scares us. This production over the years has received criticism for straying too far from the basic text; with the critics noting such directorial touches as showing the specter of the murdered young bride Lucia has visions of in the glade in Act I, and of having the cast members pose for photographs during the wedding reception near the end of Act II. Too much business, they say, or showing us literally what should be left to the imagination.
But opera, I feel, is a medium that is not always just about leaving things to the audiences' imagination. Opera, at its best, takes the audience members into the imagination; the imaginations of the characters and, most importantly, into the imagination of the opera's original creators. It is through this dynamic that opera can plumb the deepest secrets at the heart of the human experience. In the case of "Lucia," the opera is about delivering powerful insights into mortality, and death, and the agonizing question of what, if anything, we leave behind us when we disappear into the void. Whether we remain after death on this earth as a wraith or as an image in a photograph, Ms. Zimmerman is telling us, at best it is a faint image of who we were when we alive, and often a false image at that.
Natalie Dessay sang "Lucia" when this production premiered in 2007, by 2009, when it returned to the Met, Anna Netrebko, the Met's chosen superstar soprano, had assumed the role. In this performance Ms. Netrebko clearly shows why she has established herself as arguably the leading soprano of our age. Keeping her face mostly blank during this performance -- her Lucia seems to know that even her happiest moments will ultimately bring her nothing but grief -- she delivers a Lucia who, in the introductory words of Ms. Dessay is a "victim of men and circumstance" who can only claim her autonomy by stepping outside what passes for the moral pale.
Many productions present Lucia as a woman who is driven to the brink of madness, Ms. Zimmerman, wisely, casts her as sort of a fun house mirror image of Jack Nicholson's character in Stanley Kubrick's film version of "The Shining." There, Nicholson's character was over-the-top crazy from the word go, a dizzying black hole of energy, an example of American can-do spirit taken to its sociopathic conclusion. In this "Lucia," Ms. Netrebko perfectly captures the emotional toll taken by sensitive women in Victorian Scotland, where smiles are about as rare as actual sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. She just keeps internalizing the repression within, until she reaches the psychological tipping point. When this Lucia emerges from the bridal suite, wrapped in her blood-drenched gown, she's an avatar of the deepest psycho-sexual fears of both genders.
Ms. Netrebko's performance of the famous "mad scene," featuring flute and glass armonica solos under Marco Armillato's spirited direction, is heartbreaking, as we see and hear Lucia's imploding psyche with our own ears and eyes. Mariusz Kwiecien, as Lucia's conniving brother, brings a strong physicality to the role, and suggests that his relationship with his sister, may be more than kin and less than kind. The real story of the cast, however, may Piotr Beczala as Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood. In her introduction, Ms. Dessay tells us that Beczala is a last-minute replacement, and that "This could be his moment." He certainly seizes it, beginning with his initial duet with Ms. Netrebko near the end of Act I, winning over the Met audience, which is not always the most supportive of opera-goers.
This Deutsche Grammophon DVD, produced in partnership with the Met, features superior sound and picture quality. By this point the Met's production crews are veterans at presenting HD performances, and mix in enough mid-screen and widescreen camera angles and shots so that we can enjoy the full visual power of this staging, along with the requisite close-ups of performers and musicians. This package also includes a handsome booklet complete with synopsis, cast and production credits, and an essay on this production of "Lucia." Additionally, unlike several other Met HD videos I've seen, this "Lucia" has the between-acts interviews as separate features, enabling the viewer at home to watch the opera straight through, with no interruption.
Opera purists may question some of the directorial choices made in this "Lucia," then again, most opera purists would probably be against HD presentations to begin with. For general opera fans seeking to build their own home video libraries of the canon, this DVD of "Lucia di Lammermoor" is highly recommended.
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