BWW Reviews: Opera in the Height's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR is Evocative and Atmospheric
Gaetano Donizetti was a tremendous influence on the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and laid the foundation for the popularity of Italian opera in the latter half of the nineteenth century. While not performed as often as the composers who came after him, Gaetano Donizetti's masterwork LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR does appear as number 21 on Operabase's list of most-performed operas worldwide. At Opera in the Heights, their rousing production of the tragic opera fully exposes audiences to why this opera has had such staying power and was popular enough to be performed almost once a season at New York City's Metropolitan Opera from 1903 until 1972.
The basis of Gateano Donizetti's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR is Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. It tells the tale of an emotionally fragile Lucia Ashton, who is torn between her family's desires and her love for Edgardo Ravenswood. In an effort to return the Ashton family to their previous status, Lucia's brother, Enrico, has promised Lucia in marriage to Arturo Bucklaw. Unfortunately, Lucia has secretly wed Edgardo Ravenswood, whose family is warring with her own. The opera's popularity was born out of continental Europe's fascination in the history and culture of Scotland, and it delights audiences today with its murderous tale of deception and betrayal.
Conducting the opera, Mæstro Enrique Carreón-Robledo brings the show to glorious life with its stirring and intriguing overture and its wonderfully atmospheric and moody score. Never lagging or showing a sign of growing tired, his baton flies through the air, keeping the rich emotionality of the production pressing onward and allowing the vocalists and instrumentalists to capably evoke and illustrate every emotion of the piece.
Stage Direction by Carlos Conde makes excellent use of the space, moving the cast about in a way that creates dynamic and interesting staged pictures. Likewise, he has expertly coached the cast to yield the spotlight to whomever the audience should be attending to at any given moment.
At the performance I attended, the evening belonged to Amanda Kingston as Lucia Ashton. Her powerfully emotive soprano instrument thrilled the audience every time she opened her mouth to sing. Moreover, her performance on the infamous mad scene was completely absorbing, delivering everything that fans of operatic singing, this opera, and performance in general would expect and want from it. She brilliantly showcased Lucia's vulnerability, heartbreak, and anguish, leaving the audience moved by the scenario.
Opposite Amanda Kingston, baritone Octavio Moreno as Enrico Ashton and bass-baritone Rubin Casas as Raimondo Bidebent, the chaplain, control the stage and the deftly grab the audience's attention every time they deliver a solo. Both sing with compelling majesty, strength, and conviction, ensuring that their characters stick with us long after the opera has ended.
Wesley Mogran's polished tenor instrument is put to great use with this score, especially in the opening of Act III when he sings of how he is sure to die and again in Act III when lamenting Lucia's death.
Laura Coale as Alisa, Lucia's maid, Nathan de Paz as Normanno, the captain of the guard, and George Williams as Arturo Bucklaw, delivered strong performances. Additionally, the full chorus performed well, blending together on impressive chords that heightened the tonality of the production.
Rachel Smith's scenic design gives a strong impression of Scottish architecture in the 1600s. The focal points on her set are the lovely stained glass windows, which give a church like ambience to the performance, guaranteeing that the audience is constantly reminded of the power of the clergy during the period that the show takes place.
Dena Scheh's costume design is period appropriate. Most importantly, it accurately uses different tartans to distinguish familial bonds and explain who is loyal to whom.
Kim Elliott's lighting design saturates the stage in deep, somber blues and builds a wonderful atmosphere for the dark opera to be performed in. He also cleverly uses washes of pinks and reds to indicate love, madness, and death.
Despite being generally unfamiliar with LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR prior to attending this production, Opera in the Heights has made me into a fan of the piece. Like most Italian opera, the story holds little to no surprises, but the performances offered to get us from the beginning to the end resonate in our hearts and souls. Paired with Opera in the Heights' intimate venue, this is one thrilling evening of opera that is too good to be missed.
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes with two intermissions.
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, produced by Opera in the Heights, runs at Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Boulevard, Houston, 77008 now through April 6, 2014. Performances are April 3, 4, and 5 at 7:30 p.m. and April 6 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://operaintheheights.org or call (713) 861-5303.
Photos by Shannon Langman. Courtesy of Opera in the Heights.
Left to Right: Laura Coale as Alisa, Amanda Kingston as Lucia, Rubin Casas as Raimondo and Wesley Morgan as Edgardo, with other cast members, in Opera in the Heights' LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Emerald Cast.