The Met’s new production of Lucia Di Lammermoor staged by Simon Stone has been roughly handled by several critics. It received its second performance last night which was broadcast on the Met’s radio network. The show will be telecast on May 21. I decided to listen to it without the gouts of blood and high tech tchotchkes that are said to festoon the new staging before watching it next month. This way I could get an idea about the purely vocal characteristics of the current production without distraction by the latest directorial assault on a key opera.
The obvious starting point is the title role. The young American soprano Nadine Sierra has rapidly ascended to the top of the opera world. Gifted with both vocal talent and good looks she has almost everything needed for one of opera’s seminal roles. What requires development is the knack of conveying the inner emotional tension that lies just below the surface within Lucia. Given her youth and technical proficiency she’ll like get there before too long. There was a slight buzz in her voice during the first act aria and the duet that follows it. It was gone in the remaining two acts. Her reading of the mad scene was filled with ornaments and high notes to the general delight of the live audience. I don’t want to appear too critical. Hers was a fine performance by a rising star, one that likely has not yet peaked.
Javier Camarena was plainly miscast as Edgardo. He’s a light bel canto tenor who does well in the florid and high flying roles of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini. But this Donizetti role is different. It was first performed by Gilbert Duprez who set the standard for the spinto tenors that followed him. Edgardo was regularly performed at the Met by Enrico Caruso and Richard Tucker. Both were big voice tenors who easily conveyed the dramatic impact required for this role. The plain fact is that Camarena’s voice is way too small for the part. Adding to this condition was that his sound was much drier than his pre COVID appearances at the big house. Next season he’s schedule for Nemorino in L’Elisir D’Amore – a role much more suited to his voice. Hopefully, his sound will be that of his previous Met appearances.
Polish baritone Artur Rucinski gave the best performance of the evening. Therein lies the problem. The opera belongs to the soprano and tenor. When Enrico makes the best impression something’s out of joint. Rucinski has a powerful voice with an easy upper extension. He also conveyed the distress that causes him to treat his sister like a parcel of property. He made his role the most interesting of the three leading parts, something I’ve never experienced before in a performance of Lucia.
Conductor Riccardo Frizza is the music director at the Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo. He opened several cuts in the Met’s usual performing score, many of which were added to the baritone part which was fine given the excellence of Rucinski’s performance. The Met orchestra as usual was at the the top of their game. A glass harmonica was again used for the mad scene as was the composer’s wish. It added the appropriate eerie effect to opera’s most famous mad scene.
As to the production itself, I’ll comment on it after I’ve had a chance to see it on the upcoming telecast set for May 21.