Despite what anyone says regarding soprano Natalie Dessay’s vocal
technique or her attendance record at the Met, she is undoubtedly an exciting
performer to watch. Joseph Calleja and Ludovic TÈzier both bring ample good
looks and stage worthiness to the table in addition to fine musicianship and
distinctive voices. Director Mary Zimmerman, a 1998 recipient of a MacArthur
“Genius” grant, took the theatre world by storm with her 2002
adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. So, why is this
Lucia so bland?
Joseph Calleja as Edgardo and Natalie Dessay as Lucia
From the moment the curtain raises, it appears that the devil is in the
details. The overture is a semi-staged affair with depressingly literal
lighting effects and, when the action begins, the extremely tight false
proscenium looks more like a diorama from the Museum of Natural History than a
set from one of the world’s leading opera houses. During the interlude
after the first scene, snow falls for no apparent reason other than to justify
the large muff that Lucia wields later.
But these are relatively small concerns compared to the generic performances
that Zimmerman elicits from her starry cast. Dessay, a stage animal par
excellence, even seemed tentative in the first and second acts. Perhaps
this was partially due to the limitations placed upon Lucia’s
psychological development by making the ghost literally appear during
“Regnava nel silenzio.” If Lucia is not unhinged by grief at the
beginning, her affection for Edgardo falls short of passion, and the situation
with her brother is only vaguely threatening in the second act, then there is
little justification for her later actions.
Furthermore, in this production, Lucia appears with her bridegroom at the
beginning of Act III, Scene ii and they exit the stage only moments before
Raimondo enters and tells the wedding guests what has transpired in the bridal
chamber. This robs the audience of seeing Lucia’s shocking transformation
from obedient bride and sister into a madwoman. Even worse, the timing is
completely off — the horror of the moment stems as much from the
realization that the party has gone on for hours as Arturo’s body grew
cold as in Lucia’s act itself. There were several such lapses in the
storytelling and Zimmerman seems to have stayed too close to the original novel
and done the opera a disservice by not treating it as the ripping tale it
Ludovic TÈzier as Enrico and Natalie Dessay as Lucia
Within the murky and misguided production, the singers did their level best.
Dessay rallied for her mad scene which transfixed the audience. Ludovic TÈzier
looked and sounded the part of Lucia’s brother Enrico, burdened as he was
with a costume that made him Severus Snape’s doppelg‰nger. And
while tenor Joseph Calleja was impassioned as Edgardo, unfortunately the
tension between the two characters during the Wolf’s Crag scene was
nonexistent due to some serious park and bark staging in front of a
silly-looking scrim with a mouse hole. Kwangchul Youn was absolute luxury
casting in the role of Raimondo and Matthew Plenk handled his duties as Arturo
so well that it seemed a real pity to see him go so quickly.
The chorus was well-rehearsed musically but did little to convey the social
turmoil that provides the impetus for the action and ultimately serves as a
Greek chorus during the opera’s greatest moments of catharsis. Conductor
Patrick Summers lead the reliably excellent orchestra with suavity and
With all the elements in place behind this production — including
great source material, a fantastic cast, and the technical and artistic
resources of the Metropolitan Opera — the results felt like a waste, much
like the blighted life of the opera’s heroine.
image_description=Natalie Dessay as Lucia [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
product_title=Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
product_by=Lucia: Natalie Dessay; Edgardo: Joseph Calleja; Enrico: Ludovic TÈzier. Raimondo: Kwangchul Youn. Conductor: Patrick Summers. Production: Mary Zimmerman. Set Designer: Daniel Ostling. Costume Designer: Mara Blumenfeld. Lighting Designer: T. J. Gerckens. Choreographer: Daniel Pelzig.
product_id=Above: Natalie Dessay as Lucia [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]