Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti and Salvatore Cammarano, directed by James Robinson, conducted by Maurizio Barbacini, with Marina Mescheriakova, Yasuharu Nakajima, Russell Braun and Burak Bilgili. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). September 30, October 6 and Oct 8 at 7:30 pm, matinee October 3 at 2 pm. $40-$175, limited stu/youth $18 to $50. 416-872-2262. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Maybe all the Canadian Opera Company's fall budget went into the striking production of The Handmaid's Tale. Clearly, very little thought or imagination has gone into the other opera they're running in rep, that usually reliable warhorse called Lucia Di Lammermoor.
A staple of the 19th-century romantic repertoire, Donizetti's classic melodrama embraces all three of those juicy themes we love in Italian opera: madness, murder and suicide. Poor Lucia ( Marina Mescheriakova ), in love with her family's enemy, Edgardo ( Yasuharu Nakajima ), goes mad when she's forced by her brother Enrico ( Russell Braun ) into a political and economically expedient marriage with Arturo ( Luc Robert ).
It doesn't end well, a fact that's foreshadowed continuously, and with bloody obviousness, by bits of violent red popping up in Christine Jones 's rather minimal set and Scott Zielinski 's lighting.
Helming a paint-by-numbers production, director James Robinson gives us staging that's so artless that chorus members must walk onstage with tables and chairs, and the heroine at one point must hoist herself onto a dining table. Talk about bad feng shui.
This wouldn't matter so much if the conducting or singing were exceptional. Mescheriakova lacks the dramatic instincts - or vocal equipment - to pull off this difficult role. In laboriously paced scene after scene, she cheats us of high notes, apparently saving her voice for the second-act show-stopping mad scene, where she initially succeeds only because she sings it in a quiet, careful manner.
Nakajima's Edgardo has more reliable pipes, but costume designer Constance Hoffman unwisely stresses his small stature with a long coat that makes him resemble a Munchkin.
Braun delivers a careful performance, but the only singer who understands Donizetti's style is bass Burak Bilgili , whose legato is smooth and rich. Without him, this Lucia puts the can't in bel canto.