Strong Voices Propel ‘Lucia
By JON LENDER COURANT STAFF WRITER
Audiences sometimes gripe about a lack of innovation in the staging of operatic chestnuts such as “Lucia di Lammermoor” — and they will certainly find none of it in Connecticut Opera’s current straight-ahead production of the classic Donizetti work.
But, honestly, who needs that stuff when you’ve got the voices? That’s exactly what artistic di- rector and conductor Willie An-thony Waters has in three of his four main singers, at least judging by Thursday night’s very good rendering in the first of three scheduled performances at the Bushnell Center for the Per-forming Arts in Hartford:
As the doomed heroine Lucia, soprano Eteri Lamoris easily handled the gymnastics of Donizetti’s demanding, decorative bel canto flights of melody.
Her Mad Scene was a memorable — more internal than outwardly manic — depiction of de-ranged despair. Lamoris tended occasionally to gather herself for big notes, the high Cs and Ds, be- fore belting them with a near-athleticism. But, oh, did she hit the notes!
As Lucia’s equally doomed lover Edgardo, Scott Piper displayed one of the strongest tenor voices lately heard in Hartford for the 1,130 who showed up despite a competing televised UConn men’s NCAA tournament basketball game. UConn won by 20, and Piper’s performance was just as strong—employing a true spintotenor, at times with a metal cutting edge, in contrast to the many lyric tenors who have brought into the Bushnell pretty voices that don’t carry.
Piper also had a couple of remarkable diminuendos to sustained piano notes so well supported that they stiff, hauntingly, floated to the upper seats. His final “Tu che a Dio” aria, as hestabbed himself upon learning of Lucia’s death, was superlative.
As the Scottish nobleman Enrico, Lucia’s evil and domineering brother, Brian Davis, was a powerful and commanding presence with a Bushnell-filling baritone voice. It helped that he is tall and seemingly out of Hollywood casting. Baritones are often the bad guys; the stronger the voice, the badder the guy, and Davis’ voice was strong. In the renowned Act 2 sextet, it is the baritone who needs to stand out above
the other voices in a couple of shining moments when the melody needs to be pulled back to the beginning of a beautiful passage, which is repeated twice. Sometimes at that point you can’t hear
the baritone well enough, but Davis was very much there when needed. The sextet was fine. The fourth main singer — bass Valentin Peytchinoff as the chaplain Raimondo — was not quite the equal of the other three, at least not on this night, when his voice seemed overtaxed by the heavy demands of his part. But he did well enough, at least, in the Act 3 aria “Dalle stanze,” when he sadly tells the wedding guests that Lucia has murdered her new husband, Arturo, during opera’s worst honeymoon ever.
The stage sets for this Lucia are of the stock “Once-Upon-a-Timein-an-Old-Scottish-Manor” mold, but that’s what the 1835 opera, drawn from a novel by Sir Walter Scott, really is. The picture-book quality of the sets was accented by the use of a semi-transparent scrim curtain at the opening of the three acts and the end of the second. It gave the appearance of an old oil-painting tableau, and it was quite nice.
“Lucia di Lammermoor” will be performed again tonight at 8 and Sunday at 2p.m. at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. On Sunday, Lucia will be played by soprano Eglise Gutierrez. For tickets and information, call 860-527-0713or860-987-5900.