Someone else does the heavy lifting for a change

La Cieca introduces a new feature on parterre.com, the guest review. First up to bat is longtime print zine stalwart Little Stevie, who saw Lucia di Lammermoor last night.

Take this as you will: based on this evenings performance the new Met Lucia is pretty bad. The acclaimed Ms. Zimmerman simply doesn’t know how to direct opera. The chorus work was among the WORST I have ever seen in any theatre – no motivation, and some of the most boring groupings you can imagine – very static. The highly touted “nuanced portrayals” of the principles translates to “can’t get the performances past the footlights”. As viewed from Parterre Box 12 tonight, my impression was that the relationships were so poorly realized that everyone was acting in their own opera with no connection happening between any of them. Dessay and Giordani hit the mark in the Act 1 love duet, but prior to and after that the opera turned into an emotional black hole.

As each act came about I could feel the performance slipping away dramatically. This was unfortunate for Ms. Dessay’s Mad Scene – which was very well sung, with reinstated pages of music new to my ears, and extremely interesting and difficult coloratura tailored to her abilities. If the opera had actually built up to this scene it would have been an experience to remember. The production lets her down, and the scene is an island in a vast ocean of emptiness. You really must experience Act 3 Sc. 1 between Edgardo and Enrico to believe it. Passionless, limp, “cross the stage on this line” type of directing – no conflict, no danger. It played as thought they were an East Village avant garde opera troupe making fun of the structure of the piece in a deconstructionist production. There was barely enough applause to cover the time to black out and raise the scrim (see below) on Sc. 2.

I have read that Ms. Zimmerman traveled with her designers to Scotland to soak up local color and get inspiration for this production. Well the only thing they seemed to have soaked up are several hundred gallons of sea foam green paint, and not a very stage worthy or pleasant shade either. Based on the designs released prior to opening I was expecting darkly foreboding landscapes, expressionistic backgrounds, gloomy yet appropriate spaces. The grassy mound in Act 1 works, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was the anorexic sister of the Met’s Parsifal set. Act 2 is a deluge of the aforementioned “sea foam green” – from the floor to way up past our site lines – all three walls of the set.

Act 3 is where it really falls apart. Scene 1: Lightning out of your local carnival’s “spooky house” housed in a black scrim that materializes into Wolf’s Crag Castle thanks to two cutouts at top and bottom with part of the Scene 2 stairs sticking out. Edgardo enters to a bare stage with your uncle’s ugly yellow wing backed chair the only piece on stage. Scene 2 was the most confusing – the costumes, giant wooden stairs and balcony (read faux-finished cat walk) seemed to place the scene in the Wild West and looked to be straight out of Miss Kitty’s Saloon from Gunsmoke!! Perhaps up close the impression was richer, but from my seat it sure didn’t read as Scotland. The Ravenswoods cemetery was a particular embarrassment – 2 or 3 cutout headstones that looked to be supported in the back by 2×4’s. Cheap cheap CHEAP!

The singing was OK. Myers (as Normanno in Act 1 Sc. 1) was inaudible when the ensemble was singing, and weak on solo lines. Relyea was wooly and tended to go flat. Giordani was Giordani – very good but just shy of superstar tenor quality. Kwiecien – I wish I could rave – but he has one dynamic – mezzo forte – a short breath line – and was quite cardboard tonight. He also really sang over Dessay in their scenes together. Stephen Costello projected youth, vigor, and a super fine tenor that has alot of ring top to bottom, though the absolute top didn’t quite bloom bigger as one might want – but what a fantastic sound. — Little Stevie

If you would like to be a guest critic on parterre.com, please contact La Cieca. First priority will be given to regular commenters.

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