Lucia di Lammermoor review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘a triumph’
Katie Mitchell’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor for the Royal Opera drew howls of protest at its premiere in 2016 for its bold feminist slant and blood-soaked staging.
Audiences for this revival will be rewarded by a musical and dramatic triumph that fuses the elements of a gripping and realistic TV drama with gobbets of gothic melodrama.
Staged in the haunted ruins and desolate fountains of Vicki Mortimer’s handsome set, lit by Jon Clark, Mitchell’s production uses a split-screen technique to show two scenes on stage at once. This allows Mitchell to fill out Lucia’s story. While the men are singing Donizetti’s score we can watch Lucia murdering her husband Arturo and later cutting her wrists in the stylish copper bath.
The cast is outstanding, especially the Lucia of Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa. A consummate actor with a fresh, pearly sound and exquisite top notes, Oropesa creates a flesh-and-blood character out of Donizetti’s sketchy heroine. Her mad scene is beautifully judged, full of nuance and changes of pace – deeply disturbing rather than tragic – and her tender relationship with Alisa (superbly acted by Rachel Lloyd) is the most honest in this ghastly story.
Lucia’s lover, Edgardo, is the ardent tenor Charles Castronovo, and her stuffed-shirt brother Enrico, who marries her off to save the family fortune, is Christopher Maltman, suppressing his sunny baritone to produce grim, sepulchral tones. Michele Pertusi as the sympathetic chaplain Raimondo and Konu Kim, in the thankless role of Arturo, are well characterised.
Under the baton of bel canto expert Michele Mariotti, the chorus and orchestra relish Donizetti’s lively score and harp and flute both have fine solo moments.