Lucia di Lammermoor, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2018Posted on 26 October 2018
This 2008 production by David Alden expresses the idea that the Ashton family’s dour Calvinist attitudes have arrested the emotional development of their leader Enrico. He plays with his toys at one point, and even embraces his sister Lucia in a lecherous manner.
There is much to be said for this psychological approach, but the dark Calvinism and dilapidated nature of the Ravenswood House that Enrico has murderously taken away from his enemy Edgardo makes for a bleak staging. In doing so it tends to take away from the essentials, which is how Lucia chooses to love someone her brother hates, and refuses to marry his choice of a husband who will pull the family out of its financial difficulties. In his excellent programme essay, Christopher Cook discusses this conflict between patriarchal power and transgressive feminism in the context of nineteenth century opera. As he points out, Lucia in her mad scene is centre stage and utterly in control musically.
We are fortunate therefore to have Sarah Tynan as a superbly well-nuanced and grippingly effective Lucia with glorious top notes. Hers was a terrific performance, and the duet with her companion Alisa (Sarah Pring) in the second scene, where she refers to dark deeds in a previous generation, and Alisa attempts to dissuade her from her liaison with Edgardo, was the highlight of the first act. As her brother Enrico, Lester Lynch came over as a brutal narcissist, singing well and moving to spoken mode at the forced wedding to Arturo when he gives her the marriage contract with a curt “Sign it!” Eleazar Rodriguez as Edgardo warmed up as the evening progressed, and Michael Colvin gave a fine performance in the minor role of Arturo. As Enrico’s retainer Normanno, Elgan Llyr Thomas sang superbly, as did Clive Bayley as the chaplain Raimondo. His steadying and deeply effective bass line was a powerful feature of the performance, and his warning to the joyous chorus at the start of Act III was magnificent, setting in train the appalling truth that Lucia has murdered the husband she was compelled to marry.
The chorus themselves were terrific, and while Stuart Stratford in the orchestra pit kept singers and musicians together well, emphasising the ominous nature of the music, I would have preferred more of the Donizetti sparkle.
Performances continue on various dates until December 5 — for details click here.