From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, Toronto – Part II

by Jonathan Pell

Getting up at 3:30 this morning to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight in order to get back to Dallas in time for this afternoon’s matinee at the Dallas Symphony was a challenge, but fortunately yesterday’s LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR at the Canadian Opera was a late afternoon matinee!

The production was staged by David Alden and originally created for English National Opera a couple of years ago.  It was set in a moldering Victorian insane asylum, and had an eerie Dickensian feel.  It may not have been faithful to the various locales indicated in Cammerano’s libretto, but it all had a certain theatrical logic that made for a riveting theatrical experience.

Anna Christy in the title role looked like a porcelain doll and created a chilling portrait of an abused child tormented by her demented brother.  She looked about twelve years old, clutching her stuffed toys as if trying to hold onto her sanity.

Baritone Brian Mulligan sang superbly as her creepy brother, creating an unusually vivid characterization of this often two dimensional villain while managing to sing the score with great tonal beauty.

The audience favorite, however, was obviously tenor Stephen Costello as Edgardo.  He sang with an ardor and intensity that was thrilling, and interpolated a ringing high C into the first act duet that was as exciting as it was unexpected.  Dallas Opera has been fortunate to have had this remarkable singer frequently appear with the company from the very beginning of his career, and I am only sorry that since his last appearance as the Greenhorn in the world premiere of MOBY-DICK his schedule has not allowed him to return.  He has been keeping himself busy at other theatres, though, like the Met, Covent Garden and Vienna, but he will be back in Dallas in 2015.

This LUCIA production was beautifully conducted by Stephen Lord, who obviously loves this score and brought out the best in his remarkable cast. It was unusually complete, including the often cut duet between Lucia and Raimondo, as well as including most of the Wolf’s Crag duet with Edgardo and Enrico.  For the first time in the theatre I actually heard the exchange of dialogue at the very end of the mad scene which is almost always cut.  It was probably only included here to cover a scene change, but it was intriguing to hear it once.  It really adds little to the plot, though, and I don’t need to ever hear it again.

The entire orchestra played the score with great sensitivity and it was fascinating to hear the mad scene accompanied by the glass harmonica, a bizarre instrument that was invented by none other than Benjamin Franklin.  Rather like the sound achieved by running a wet finger around the rim of a glass, it  created a spooky, other worldly quality that seemed appropriate for this production’s madhouse setting.

They are calling my flight now.  I just hope that I can catch up on my sleep on the plane…

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