Lucia di Lammermoor, Buxton Festival, 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.

Enrico, Chaplain, Edgardo, all images BuxtonFestival/ Jonathan Keenan

Enrico, Chaplain, Edgardo, all images BuxtonFestival/ Jonathan Keenan

‘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.

Edgardo condemns Lucia

Edgardo condemns Lucia

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.

Lucia in the mad scene

Lucia in the mad scene

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.

5 Responses to “Lucia di Lammermoor, Buxton Festival, July 2015”

  1. Alan Tootill says:

    The first act was awful with even a love scene delivered at shouting volume throughout.

    Fortunately the performance improved as the acts progressed. But Arturo was a cringe-making disaster and I could only be grateful he had a very minor singing part in the opera.

    Lucia fared well in her big scene, and Edgardo ‘s singing matured in acts 2 and 3.

    But it was no surprise when the production was booed at the end of the performance. Minimalist? Threadbare and totally offputting is more accurate a description.

    • Mark Ronan says:

      No booing heard in the dress circle, I’m afraid, but these theatre directors do sometimes go very minimalist. They do not make ideal opera directors.

      I agree Edgardo’s Act 1 performance was not good — too forceful — but I applauded his Act 3 monologue.

      As to Arturo, cringe-making is a good description for this mafia don, but I thought that was the director’s point. A frightful marriage prospect for Lucia.

  2. Jean Hill says:

    It wasn’t the performance that was booed when I saw it – it was the evil characters, which English audiences like to boo as if they were at a pantomime. Otherwise they were extremely enthusiastic, as was I.


    I haven’t been to the Lucia yet but i am prepared for the worst. I am getting heartily sick and tired of these present day directors and designers ruining my experiences in the opera house.Why can’t they respect the original requirements of the librettos as much as the musicians do the music. I think more Ballet Choreographers should be brought in to direct operas. At least I think they would uphold the musical and visual traditions that we would come to expect of these productions.


    I went to the Wednesday matinee performance of Lucia di Lammermoor and i have to admit that i was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed it. I don’t think it was necessary to update it to the 1940s and i could have done with more of the beautifully painted backcloth curtains, particularly for the interior scenes, but no harm was done to the opera, and Elin Pritchard had all the notes, (and more) for the mad scene .The tenor and baritone were also good.

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