Lucia di Lammermoor, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2010Posted on 5 February 2010
This David Alden production for the ENO, originally staged in 2008, has a clarity that allows a striking distinction between Lucia’s beloved Edgardo, and her brother Enrico. He is shown as a very nasty piece of work — a child still playing with his toys, putting his hand up his sister’s skirt, and showing himself to be an immature bully who eventually twists the neck of the mortally self-wounded Edgardo. This is hardly the Walter Scott story on which the opera is based, but the libretto by Salvadore Cammarano cut some of the main characters, namely Lucia’s mother and father, in order to fit the story into a three act opera. The result is usually considered a great success, and it makes Enrico the force behind Lucia’s fatal wedding, against her will, after he has shown her some forged letters demonstrating that Edgardo no longer cares about her. Enrico’s retainer, Normanno who is fully complicit in these forgeries is shown to be a callous rogue when he laughs loudly after hearing the chaplain’s condemnation. Altogether, David Alden has created a particularly malicious take on the story, and it works.
As Lucia, Anna Christy sang beautifully, and looked about sixteen. This was partly helped by her excellent costume, courtesy of Brigitte Reiffenstuel whose costumes gave a strong impression of religious Protestantism, and I liked the bowler hats on some cast members — in particular Normanno — reminding me of the Orangemen in Northern Ireland. Indeed Scott’s original story had this feature, as Lucia’s family were Protestant supporters of William of Orange, while Edgardo’s family were supporters of the Jacobites. But to return to the singing, Barry Banks was a very fine Edgardo, and Brian Mulligan a strong Enrico. Clive Bayley sang very clearly and powerfully as the chaplain, holding the stage with his erect posture, which reminds me that the staging involved people on their knees at many points, making them look small and powerless in this ill-fated drama of love and hatred. This was helped by the set designs of Charles Edwards, which were simple, yet surprisingly effective. With Adam Silverman’s lighting they gave an appropriate air of darkness and decay to the dwelling places of both Edgardo and Enrico.
Of course the singers can only give their best with suitable direction from the orchestra pit, and here we have to thank conductor Antony Walker for excellent work. The orchestra, including a glass harmonica that is used during Lucia’s mad scene, played beautifully. These are performances of Lucia that should not be missed!