Friday, January 08, 2016

London Friday Photo

Austin Friars (Shades of Wolf Hall)
London, May, 2014


Darrick Chen said...

I think you and I see things very similarly. I too thought the strong point of the recent Lucia performances were with the guys, particularly Mr. Beczala. At the pre-performance lecture, it was said that in the early days of the opera, it was a vehicle for the tenor - Edgardo being the Byronic hero. Only with the coming of Patti, Tetrazzini and Melba did Lucia turn into a star turn for the soprano - hard to believe with the extended mad scene.

I thought the sets were inoffensive all things considered. I kind of liked the black, white and grey sets - kinda gave the piece the eerie cold feeling I think is essential to Lucia. Not sure it helps tell the story any better, or if it had a point of view, I truly missed it.

The costumes were quite attractive, once you got over the fact it really had nothing to do with the opera or set. At first I was excited as I thought the costumes were sort of mid-century modern 50s gangster. I especially liked the dresses Alicia, Lucia's nurse wore - very chic. When Lucia entered, I figured her white frilly dress helped define her as a "little girl" living in her own world of the fairy princess. The costume emphasized that she really was disconnected from her surroundings. However when the women of the chorus appeared in very similar costumes, just in jewel tones, I gave up thinking it meant something – just that the costumes were pretty.

I had no idea why the director chose to literally show the audience the ghosts Lucia imagines. I always thought Lucia teeters between lucidity and madness, so all the ghosts are in her imagination. I guess, the producers wanted the audience to not miss that point in case you didn't figure it out in the supertitles.

Finally, was having a naked Arturo really necessary? I don't see how it helps, other than shock factor. But who knows. I do recall reading that SFO once boasted that it sold 110% of the house seats for their production of "Fiery Angel" back in the 1990s and there was nudity a plenty in that production.

The singing. There were fine performances from the lower voices - Brian Mulligan - who I generally don't care for and Nicolas Teste as the priest. All of them worthy to be singing at SFO. Again, I thought the finest singing came from Piotr Beczala - his voice has darkened since I last heard it, but still possessing the glimmering ring and even registers - truly something to remember.

This brings us to the Lucia of Nadine Sierra. I should say, I was very disappointed when Ms. Damrau cancelled. I was looking forward to seeing and hearing her Lucia before she gives up the role. As a consolation prize, I did see her in the audience looking radiantly chic in black. She was there to support her husband who was making his SFO debut. I wish I had the nerve to have asked her for a picture, but I like to allow celebrities privacy when they are just members of the public rather than the star.

Back to Sierra, I don't think she was bad, just not great. Sierra was very good in sounding depressed and sad. Her voice is typically Italianate, which has that sorrowful sound built in. However, I think to fully portray Lucia one must be able to showcase the manic happiness and tragic despair in a matter of a few bars of music. Lucia is really walking that fine line between lucid and crazy. Sierra's voice is rather pretty except at the very top which I thought got shrill at times. But it may have just been on the night I was there as nobody else seems to have noticed.

The very best Lucia-s can make me cry during the mad scene and feel pity for her mistreatment by Edgardo and her brother, Enrico. The finest Lucia I've seen live is without a doubt Natalie Dessay. (It is unfortunate that you missed her performance in 2007. Great singing, truly ugly sets.) Sierra just didn't move me. Maybe in time she will deepen her performance and develop the character; one can hope.

PS - Are you going to post about the newly announced 2016/17 Season? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yes, I'll be posting about next season (I am sure you could write the post for me!). Post is about half-written; I had no time at all yesterday for blogging.

And...your comment wound up on the London Friday Photo rather than my Lucia review, where I think you probably meant it to go. Can you repost it there? I would then remove these two comments.