Operas’ mad scenes are the stuff that legends are made of. And Sunday, when soprano June Anderson reached the end of hers, as the demented heroine in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” the ovation that shook the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was like a clap of thunder. And it went on and on and on.
In the tradition of great coloratura sopranos, Anderson has been hailed as the heir-apparent to Dame Joan Sutherland.
She arrives in a production dominated by a monumentally scaled set design by William Dudley, and a contemporary psychological interpretation conceived by director Andrei Serban.
The setting is fascinating — an immense hydraulically driven pop-up book depicting the craggy landscape of Scotland and the parapets of Ravenswood Castle. And the directing is original — establishing Lucia as the victim of a male-dominated society, who can only achieve peace of mind by escaping into an illusionary world of madness.
In the end, they prove secondary to Anderson’s performance. From her opening premonition aria, “Regnava nel silencio” to the final frenzy of the “mad scene,” Anderson delivers a performance that combines crystalline coloratura brilliance with on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement.
If the surrounding cast, assembled by LAMCO, had been equal to Anderson’s performance, this would be a “Lucia” of historic proportion.
Young tenor Craig Sirianni tries hard to hold his own as Lucia’s tempestuous lover, Edgardo. Their first act duet proved less than ethereal. But Sirianni’s robust duet with his nemesis Enrico (baritone Dimitri Kharitonov) in Act III, and final aria “Fra poco a me recorvo” both achieved some grandeur.
For his part, Kharitonov does his best to be nasty and vengeful as Lucia’s profit-seeking brother. But the effect is blunted by a baritone that lacks a ringing upper voice.
The real nemesis is Louis Lebherz, as Ravenswood’s chaplain, Raimondo. He is the one who terrorizes and strong-arms Lucia into signing the marriage contract that will save her family, but forsake her true love.
The orchestra is conducted by Richard Buckley, whose penchant for leisurely pacing often had a deleterious effect on the emotional heat of the moment. The members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale provide sonorous effects as Donizetti’s Scottish clans, as well as background support in the sumptuous Act II sextet.