A worthy cast hits most of the high notes in Met’s “Lucia”

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm
Joseph Calleja and Albina Shagimuratova in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

Albina Shagimuratova and Joseph Calleja in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

Never mind St. Patrick’s Day; on Monday night the Metropolitan Opera took its third trip of the season to the Scottish highlands with Donizetti’s beloved Lucia di Lammermoor. Even if the performers’ casual acting kept the piece from reaching its dramatic potential, the vocal acrobatics on display provided more than enough excitement.

This was, moreover, a performance about much more than just the one legendary scene. As previously, Mary Zimmerman’s 2007 production–though atmospheric and prettily costumed–neither illuminates nor obfuscates; the most effective touch is Act II’s Phantom-like transformation from crumbling manor to vibrant ballroom. Static theatricality notwithstanding, the complete musicality of the piece was fully revealed, sung and played with the sort of passionate elegance that makes the bel canto style uniquely rewarding.

Precise pitch is not among the greatest strengths of Albina Shagimuratova, Monday’s Lucia. Everything else is, at least in the vocal department. Right from the start she showed a light, easy tone that seemed to take wing and glide into the upper reaches house, making “Regnava nel silenzio” particularly enchanting. She did not give the most captivating performance of the mad scene, but the sheer beauty of her sound was exquisite. The cool, beaming clarity of Shagimuratova’s voice made the entire sequence a thing of otherworldly purity, particularly in the nimble, playful cadenza with flute accompaniment (spellbindingly spun by Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson). She took a split second to get all the way up to the final E-flat, but the whole was dispatched with skill and poise.

Joseph Calleja, apparently, was recovering from a bout of flu, and asked for our understanding. A consummate professional, he turned in a performance as Edgardo that was nothing less than first-rate, despite turning aside many times to let out a surreptitious cough. Sure, his voice might not have had quite as much charge as usual, and a hint of congestion was audible on his high notes. His lemony tone, however, was as focused as ever, and his dramatic commitment was absolute. His ailment did not keep him from going up for some gorgeous soft notes, nor from powering through to a tireless, passionate finish in his riveting tomb scene.

Luca Salsi made a solid Enrico, his voice imposing and his tone several shades darker than dusk. He brought full, woody resonance and thunderous power to the role, but still had enough control to show nuance, as well. His dramatic portrayal was harder to make sense of, as he often resorted to generic mustachio-twirling. Seemingly limited in his gestural vocabulary, he had made pointing the finger of doom at his interlocutors something of a trademark by evening’s end.

Conductor Maurizio Benini, one of the Met’s bel canto stalwarts, led an inspired performance. Even if he indulged a singer here or there, every tempo was just right, every texture impeccably balanced, every phrase eloquently turned. He wove a richly atmospheric prelude and led tight, thrilling ensemble numbers. Mariko Anraku, the acting principal harpist, was sublime in the solo that divides the two scenes of the first act.

Among the supporting cast, Matthew Plenk was especially notable as the ill-fated bridegroom Arturo. His voice spread slightly at its top, but he brought a taut, golden tone that fit the role perfectly. Alistair Miles’s mahogany voice could not always reach the low notes, but he gave a noble portrayal of the cleric Raimondo.

Lucia di Lammermoor runs through April 10 at the Metropolitan Opera. metopera.org

5 Responses to “A worthy cast hits most of the high notes in Met’s “Lucia””

  1. Posted Mar 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm by Ralph

    I agree with your review with one glaring difference, Luca Salsi sang off-pitch for much of the evening……….good phrasing, nice tone but off-pitch, to an alarming degree, making me wonder if he has a hearing problem. Also Alistair Miles’ vocal center of gravity is way to high for Raimondo, so his role was a near total loss. Thanks for bringing up Mariko Anraku, I agree her parts were sublime.

  2. Posted Mar 25, 2015 at 5:22 pm by Paul Joschak

    Ralph – what utter bollocks you write about Alastair Miles! His voice was perfect for the role and he did a great job. Shame you’re illiterate as well – “…is way to high Raimondo” Jesus! Where did you go to school???

  3. Posted Mar 28, 2015 at 11:43 am by Thomas Link

    What a disappointing cast for this season premiere. Lucia was not present that night, poorly acted and sung by Albina Shagimuratova. The star of the night was Calleja’s Edgardo–wonderful acting and singing. Alastair Miles was a weak Raimondo at best. I’m not a fan of this production, but Netrebko as Lucia made it a stellar production in the past.

  4. Posted Mar 28, 2015 at 4:02 pm by Juan Carlos Calderón

    Where is Bonynge now that we need him?.
    How can we revive Queen Victoria so she
    could scream “We are not amused”?

  5. Posted Apr 11, 2015 at 8:51 am by melissa

    since people are very strict, please apologize the mispelling of agree above!
    And I forgot to add that if I tend to agree wuth THomas on his appraisal of Raimondo, I definitely disagree that Netrebko limpid but emotionless singing is the uppermost stellar bound. Again only from my ear and feelings!

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