With Charles Castronovo, Megan Dey-Toth, Gabriel Gonzales Lucy, the heroine of Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor,” suffers an unhappy fate. So, for some unexplained reason these days, does the opera Gaetano Donizetti fashioned out of Scott’s panorama of Scottish melancholy. The L.A. Opera’s previous “Lucia,” in 1993, had the heroine literally climbing walls. The L.A. Opera’s new version, brought up from Opera New Zealand and staged by original director Jonathan Alver, stretches the credulity somewhat less strenuously. It looks the way it sounds.
That, alas, is only sometimes for the best. Much has been trumpeted about Sumi Jo, the slender Korea-born coloratura soprano whose Queen of the Night (in Mozart’s “Magic Flute”) had earned cheers; the sad fact, if Wednesday’s opening night performance can be judged, is that she’s not ready. She produced a fine, gleaming thread of tone which, however, wandered painfully off pitch that night; worse for this role, her singing never seemed to own the stage, a crucial matter in this opera, made even more difficult by the tendency of her tenor, Frank Lopardo in his local debut, to yell.
Designer John Verryt has furnished the production with a believable suggestion of stern Scottish walls and doorways. But lighting designer Duane Schuler has cloaked them almost consistently in near-darkness until the end, when the sad graveyard choristers suddenly face a blinding-red projected cloudscape.
Director Alver’s staging also bears a fair resemblance to goings-on in Scott’s novel, at least until the crucial Mad Scene, where party guests around the forlorn Lucia mass into a chorus line that looks like nothing so much as a Hi-De-Ho number from an old MGM musical.
Saddest of all was the spineless, the real word is clunky, conducting of Richard Bonynge, whose real impact was in the fact that his “Lucia di Lammermoor” was performed complete, without the defacements of generations of excisions that included the omission of entire scenes.
Uneven cast, quirky production and all, the full-length “Lucia” didn’t seem a minute too long.