Lucia di Lammermoor, Buxton Festival, July 2015Posted on 13 July 2015
This interestingly minimalist production by theatre director Stephen Unwin sets the story in the 1940s with mafia overtones, particularly notable in the figure of Enrico’s retainer Normanno (Richard Roberts) a sleazy chain-smoker, tie-less and wearing a hat indoors even during the Act II wedding scene.
‘Tis he who writes the forged letter from Lucia’s beloved Edgardo, ruining her tranquil determination to turn down Arturo, and in an Act III vignette that is sometimes cut, Andrew Greenan as a superbly commanding Chaplain accuses him of creating disaster within the family. Unfortunately the scene with the letter was so rushed that Lucia gave it scarcely a glance before reacting, but I liked the portrayal of sneering nastiness that Normanno represented.
This tragic story is hugely dependent on its main character, and in Elin Pritchard we had a Lucia of distinction. Elegantly expressive of vocal emotion in Act I, superb in her Act II duet with the Chaplain, and investing the Act III mad scene with theatrical and dramatic depth rather than coloratura extravaganza, Ms Pritchard delivered a thoroughly convincing performance.
As her brother Enrico, Stephen Gadd exhibited forceful vocal emotion in Act I with far more controlled ruthlessness in Act II, eventually grabbing his sister by the hair to compel her acquiescence in helping fix the family fortunes by an advantageous marriage. His chosen bridegroom Arturo (Bonaventura Bottone), exhibited suavity and wealth, contrasting well with the somewhat unprepossessing Edgardo of Adriano Graziano, whose excellent monologue in the last scene of Act III confirmed him as a man of sincere passion.
All three of these men, with their shoulder holsters, emphasised the mafia-like aspects of a production whose Scottish side is revealed in Jonathan Fensom’s designs for the highland scenes on the front and back drops, and the choice of occasional props.
Conducting of the singers and Northern Chamber Orchestra by Stephen Barlow gave Donizetti’s music its rightful Italian dynamic if sometimes lacking in energy and sparkle, but what really made the evening was the dramatic singing and theatrical portrayal of Lucia by Elin Pritchard, and the voice of reason represented by the hugely effective singing and commanding stage presence of Raimondo the chaplain by Andrew Greenan.
Performances continue on various dates until July 25 — for details click here.