John Copley’s 32 year old production of Lucia di Lammermoor for OPERA AUSTRALIA has been released in cinemas and become as great a tradition as the La Boheme he created for COVENT GARDEN 38 years ago. The WEST AUSTRALIAN OPERA’S performance (HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE, July 14) showed the benefits and disadvantages of reviving a much-loved museum piece. The castle set was rich with detail but required lengthy set changes, while costumes were lavish but outdated and unflattering. Egardo’s grand entrance was greeted with laughter because of the tubby effect created by his gothic-black tights and puffy velvet jerkin. Red-headed Scots draped in stereotypical tartan crowded the stage as though to convince us that Sir Walter Scott’s historical drama poses no threat to contemporary consciousness.
Fortunately Emma Matthews brought a universal humanity to Lucia as she progressed from girlish coquetry to chilling lunacy. Her precise coloratura singing shimmered with colours and her mad scene swung between wide-eyed purity and icy anguish. It was utterly believable that a woman under such oppression would retreat to the only world she could control: the make-believe of the mind.
The remaining cast were more two-dimensional. James Clayton was a coarse Enrico with convincing aggression but lacking in bel canto legato. Garrett Sorenson sang Edgardo with fervour although high notes were strained. Daniel Sumegi was an imposing Raimondo, Andrew Foote acquitted himself well as Normanno while David Woodward was a foppish Arturo, not helped by the yards of lace dripping from his costume.
The WA Symphony Orchestra under Brad Cohen harnessed the tension between Rossini-esque merriness and Verdian melodrama. Ultimately though the potential for gripping theatre was shrouded by the outdated set.
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