BWW Review: LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR at KC Lyric Opera
Someone once said that there are two types of stories: a man goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town. To those, I would add a third: woman suffers for man's misdeeds. In the opera world in particular, this is practically a genre all its own. You have Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto, La Traviata, among others. And of course, Lucia di Lammermoor.
The opera, composed by the prolific Gaetano Donizetti, tells the story of Lucia (Sarah Coburn), who has fallen in love with Edgardo (Evan LeRoy Johnson), scion of a rival family. Her brother Enrico (Troy Cook), having found out, works to deceive his sister into thinking Edgardo has been unfaithful in his travels. Of course, the moment she signs the marriage contract to wed her brother's friend Arturo (Joseph Leppek), Edgardo returns. He scorns her in front of the wedding guests and leaves in a rage. That night, after having been put through every sort of hell by the men in her life, Lucia finally cracks. She stabs her husband, and wanders through the castle, singing of the wedded life she will now never have. When Edgardo discovers she has died in her madness, he repents, and takes his life to join her in death.
Lucia is often cited as a classic example of Bel Canto singing, and indeed it is a treat as much for the singer as for the listener. Most of the principals get a moment to shine, including a marvelous sextet at the end of Act II. But of course, the shining star of the work is the famous "madness aria" or 'Il dolce suono'. This is a demanding piece, but a favorite of sopranos eager to show off their technical abilities.
Ms Coburn did a splendid job with the role, moving from joyous innocent in Act I to the broken madwoman staggering through the wedding feast in her blood-stained gown. The production, originating from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, does have some excellent production value, though there are parts where the blocking and chorus movement could have been improved upon. The (hopefully fake) stags' heads upon the wall set the right general tone, as a portrait of a noble house in decline.
Overall the performance was very well done. Cook's Enrico is brooding and understated. Leppek does as much as can be done with a role whose job is essentially to show up and get stabbed (we have seen him previously in The Abduction From the Seraglio, so we know what he is capable of in larger roles). Adam Lau does a splendid job as Raimondo, the all-but-unheard conscience of the clan.
There is a tendency to portray Lucia as fragile, a "typical" weak-willed girl. But frankly, given the hell she is put through, the manipulations, the waiting, the sheer social and familial pressure, it's really no wonder it all becomes too much. In her final descent into madness, she becomes the instrument by which the machinations of her brother and his helpers receive their just punishment.
Anyhow, happy Women's Day.