Posts Tagged ‘Brian Mulligan’

Lucia di Lammermoor – a sad and confusing overkill

April 22, 2013

Lucia di Lammermoor is too tragic in itself to endure further layers of tragedy, without serious risk of sinking into irreparable overkill. There was an overkill with Lucia at the COC this season.

Oren Gradus as Raimondo and Anna Christy as Lucia in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, 2013. Conductor Stephen Lord, director David Alden, associate director Ian Rutherford, set designer Charles Edwards, costume designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel, original lighting designer Adam Silverman and lighting design re-creator Andrew Cutbush. Photo: Chris Hutcheson

Oren Gradus as Raimondo and Anna Christy as Lucia in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, 2013. Conductor Stephen Lord, director David Alden, associate director Ian Rutherford, set designer Charles Edwards, costume designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel, original lighting designer Adam Silverman and lighting design re-creator Andrew Cutbush. Photo: Chris Hutcheson

On top of everything tragic and unfortunate already provided in the libretto, Lucia is a child-bride and sexually abused. She has a toybox. She is like a character in a Charles Dickens’s story of dirty game of money and power, with youth and love as counterbalance. As if that were not enough, the story had to be spiced up with sexual abuse and incest.  American soprano Anna Christy responded dutifully to the additional demands of the title character. During Acts One and Two she spends a great deal of her stage time on her knees. The creative team got enthusiastic with the expressiveness about Lucia as a sexually abused child. Reviews in the daily papers speak about this sexually explicit content depicting the groping, tying of the hands to the bed frame, etc.  This is, I believe, the first time I can fully agree with the critic of the National Post.  (My strong disagreement about Einstein on the Beach and Semele remains.) On the other hand, historically looking, marriages were arranged, and the brides often were very young. Marriages among family members were customary. From that perspective it is probably a legitimate reading of Lucia’s plot.  All things considered, the real Lucia is more likely in reality to be something like the character depicted in this production, than a romanticized version of Lucia where she appears as a fully developed, fulfilled adult who truly goes mad after the dense climax, which is charged with the utmost cathartic extreme. Having said that, good taste is very important in the matters of depicting reality of cruelty, violence, and sex on stage.    

Visually, the stage is drained of any colour and the underlying spirit is drab and tired. Rain would make a fine contribution to the overall impression.  The final scene was supposed to be the suicide of Lucia’s sweetheart Edgardo, who cannot endure the tragic realization that Lucia in a single day  married another,  killed him on the wedding day, went mad, and died— while loving him faithfully throughout.  Lucia’s marriage to a wealthy suitor was a set up, arranged by her brother, who double-crossed both Lucia and Edgardo.

All would have been fine had it not been for the last moment, when Edgardo killed himself.  According to the various sources of this particular libretto, Edgardo “plunges a dagger to his own heart”[1] or “stabs himself”[2] or “stabs himself in the heart with a dagger”[3] and “stabs himself and expires”[4]. Carried away with the personal touch, this creative team have Edgardo kill himself with a gun. After shooting himself Edgardo sings further until Enrico finishes him off in a Jack Bauer style of finishing of an enemy. That was a real overkill, which then brings into question all the interpretative innovations mentioned before. By this last act Enrico acquires another char6acter trait, which makes him not only a selfish, immoral abuser and ruthless plotter but also a cruel murderer who cannot resist but apply a mercenary killing technique on his sister’s lover, who had already killed himself.

This particular Lucia di Lammermoor has some spooky elements of madness. The whole idea of deceiving the lovers and small-conning them individually is sufficiently wicked even for a 19th -century psychopath as seen from a 2013 North American viewpoint.  Adding sexual abuse and throwing in an additional murder is just too much.   

The stage interpretation of this libretto restricted bel canto potentials and  reduced the known qualities of this opera, limiting thereby the space for the singers. Steven Costello’s Edgardo was shaped with attentive and convincing phrasing. Brian Mulligan’s Enrico was on the side of strength. Without Costello’s lament and Mulligan’s strength, the whole project of this Lucia would hardly be able to stand on the wobbly knees of kneeling Lucia. This unfinished concept to some extent affected the orchestra, which could not attune to any particular dramatic quality of the sound except for a couple of effective caesure.


[1] 100 Great Operas and Their Stories, Henry V. Simon, Doubleday 1989, p. 269

[2] Eyewitness Companions Opera, Alan Riding & Leslie Dunton-Downer, DK 2006, p.155

[3] Ticket to the Opera, Phill Goulding, Fawcet Books,  1996 p.187

[4] A Night at the Opera, Sir Denis Forman, Random House, 1994, p.374

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