A review by Nino Pantano
BENSONHURST â€” Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) composed many romantic tragedies and comedies. Lucia di Lammermoor, based on Sir Walter Scottâ€™s The Bride of Lammermoor, with a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, premiered in Naples, Italy in 1835, and all the great coloratura sopranos since then have yearned to triumph in this role. The performance of Lucia on Saturday, Nov. 29, by Regina Opera in Brooklyn, was a night to cherish.
In the title role, soprano Wendy Baker was an innovative and dramatic interpreter of a role too long defined solely for its coloratura stratospheric flights. Ms. Baker gave the role a more gothic and tragic edge of a broken hearted bride coerced by her brother into marrying a man she does not love. Ms. Bakerâ€™s Act One, â€śRegnava nel silencioâ€ť was sung with sweetness and innocence, with a nice swell on the high notes and a pleasant round quality. Her love duet with Edgardo was beautifully done.
Ms. Baker excluded some of those optional stratospheric high notes one is used to hearing, and wisely concentrated on Luciaâ€™s psychological destruction by skillful use of her secure darker middle and lower range. When Ms. Baker chose the optional high notes as in the end of the famed sextet in Act Two, â€śChe mi frena in tal momentoâ€ť the results were thrilling.
The mad scene was absolutely riveting! The glazed look in Luciaâ€™s eyes, her blood soaked wedding gown and Ms. Bakerâ€™s strong acting skills made this scene a feast for the soul as well as the eye and ear.
Beginning with â€śOh! Giusto cieloâ€ť, the combination of her vocal flexibility, fine fioritura, and intense emotion made Luciaâ€™s mad scene an extraordinary theatrical event and one of those â€śsavor the momentâ€ť experiences.
Tenor Aaron Sheya has an interesting sound to his voice that can be at times a little inconsistent. However, this is misleading. Sheya proved himself to be an exciting Edgardo. His tenor was on the ascendancy in the â€śVerrano a teâ€ť duet in Act One and Sheyaâ€™s prolonged notes in his denunciation of Lucia at the end of Act Two was quite impressive!
In the tomb scene in the final act, Mr. Sheya went from strength to strength. His singing of â€śFra poco a me ricoveroâ€ť was touching, with some wonderful sustained high notes, as was â€śTu che a Dio spiegastiâ€ť at the conclusion when upon hearing the toll of the bells for Luciaâ€™s death, he takes his own life.
Charles Sanford sang the part of Lord Enrico Ashton who forces Lucia into a marriage she does not want in order to preserve the family fortune. Her beloved Edgardo is despised by Lord Ashton. Sanfordâ€™s introductory aria in the first act â€śCruda, funesta smaniaâ€ť was sung with ringing vibrant tone and Sanfordâ€™s lusty strong baritone was a joy to hear. His confrontation scenes with his sister Lucia and Edgardo revealed him to be a fine actor, as did his scenes of remorse when the truth is revealed.
Raimondo Bidebent, Luciaâ€™s tutor, was sung by Bryce Smith, whose impressive basso gripped the listener. As a minister and peacemaker, his separating the feuding Edgardo and Enrico by using his cross was a clever bit of stage business, and his singing in the tomb scene and â€śOh! Qual funesto avvenimentoâ€ť in the mad scene was noteworthy.
The smaller parts were all very well done, including tenor Paolo Buffagni as the tragic groom Lord Arturo Bucklaw who ends up murdered by his reluctant bride Lucia. The rest of the cast included the light pleasing tenor of Alcibiades Sarantinos as Normanno, soprano Elena LaGalante in a most sympathetic portrayal as Luciaâ€™s companion Alisa, and in comprimario parts angelic Ingrid Kuribayashi as Luciaâ€™s maid, Nicholas Lagalante, a most ingratiating pageboy and the ever valuable Wayne Olsen as the notary.
The costumes by Adriana Baker and Julia Cornely were sparkling and regal. The sets were beautiful and rustic, especially the eerie whitish tombs at the finale.
The brilliant direction by Linda Lehr kept the action moving in all the right ways.
The chorus was outstanding with many bursts of vocal glory and subdued melodic sadness.
The Regina Orchestra played with precision, sweep and glory. Conductor Brian Holman has a magic baton and all the musicians deserved the cheers they received. A special mention to musicians Matthew Tutsky for his heavenly harp accompaniment and set artist/flutist Richard Paratley, whose flute accompaniment to Lucia in the mad scene was that of a true virtuoso.
For information, visit www.reginaopera.org.
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