Soprano Emma Matthews excels in WA Opera's remount of Opera Australia's Lucia di Lammermoor. The three act 'bel canto' opera by Gaetano Donizetti, with libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, is based loosely on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor. This romantic tragedy, part of the Year of the Diva for WA Opera, is emotive and elegant, with a talented cast of singers.
Set in Scotland in the 1700's, young Lucia of Lammermoor is being forced by her brother Enrico (Lord of Lammermoor) to marry Arturo, who will bring fame and fortune to their family again. Unfortunately, Lucia has fallen in love with Edgardo, who comes from the Ravenswood family with whom the Lammermoor's have been feuding for years. Tragedy strikes at the wedding of Lucia / Arturo, as Edgardo returns unexpectedly; Lucia loses her mind, kills Arturo, and dies. Hearing that his love is dead Edgardo, overwrought with grief, kills himself.
Not being a regular opera or ballet goer (it's been 18 months or so), I was unfamiliar with the concept of "remounting" a whole production many years down the track. In essence this WA Opera production has taken the original direction (John Copley), set (Henry Bardon), lighting (Donn Byrnes) and costume design (Michael Stennett) from the 1980 Opera Australia production, rehearsed it with a new cast and orchestra, and brought it to the beautiful His Majesty's Theatre. Thankfully, it hasn't dated, and rehearsal director Julie Edwardson has done an admirable job in recreating the production.
As Enrico, regular WAO performer James Clayton dominated the stage whenever he was on. A mean, overpowering hulk of a Lord, his commanding presence and booming baritone was impressive. American tenor Garrett Sorenson was capable as Edgardo and had a good visible connection with Matthews.
Daniel Sumegi was remarkable as Chaplin Raimondo. Much like Clayton, his stage presence is commanding and unlike some of the other leads, he interacted well with the chorus. His voice is pure and rich and the moments where he tells the wedding guests of Lucia's madness, and tells Edgardo of Lucia's death, are powerful.
But the opera was really all about Lucia and Emma Matthews outshone everyone with her perfect bel canto technique. In this instance, bel canto refers to a style of operatic singing that was around ar the time of Donizetti (early to mid 1800's). The singing is notable for the ornate embellishments, vibrato, timbre and a lighter tone in the higher registersand Matthews did not disappoint in any area.
The renowned mad scene where Lucia descends into madness after killing Arturo was spellbinding. Matthews performance of the aria Il dolce suono (the sweet sound) was full of exquisite trills, mordents and runs showcasing her extraordinary voice. The section where Matthews and the flute "play off" against each other was hauntingly beautiful.
Supported by the superb WA Opera Chorus and WA Symphony Orchestra, the performance was resoundingly good, with Matthews the shining star of this tragic tale.
West Australian Opera presents
Lucia di Lammermoor
Conductor Brad Cohen
Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
Dates: 14, 17, 19, 21 July, 2012
Tickets: $154.50 – $37.50