Lucia di Lammermoor at Arizona Opera

The daughter of the
famous Italian tenor and cellist, Nicola Tacchinardi, Fanny began working on
her vocal technique in childhood. Eventually she became associated with the
music of bel canto composers, such as Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and the
young Verdi. In 1832, she made her stage debut at Livorno and she soon appeared
in major Italian cities singing major roles in operas such as
Tancredi, La gazza ladra, Il pirata, and
L’elisir d’amore.

When Donizetti heard her in 1833, he described her voice as “rather cold,
but quite accurate and perfectly in tune.” He chose her to create title roles
in three of his operas: Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, Pia de’
, and Lucia di Lammermoor. Her voice has elsewhere been
described as sweet and light with a brilliant upper register. We know that she
had remarkable agility and that she could sing a given aria several times in
succession, each time with a different cadenza. It seems that she
caused an unfortunate dispute during the rehearsals for the Lucia
premiere. Donizetti wrote that she made a fuss, which terrified tenor Gilbert
Duprez, because she wanted the last scene of the opera to be sung by the
soprano, not the tenor.

Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896), the French tenor famous for pioneering the
delivery of an operatic high C from the chest, created the role of Edgardo in
Lucia. Having made his debut as Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Il
barbiere di Siviglia
in Paris in 1825, a few years later he decided to try
his luck in Italy. There, the operatic scene was more active and he found work
even though he preferred to sing operas in which there were few elaborate
coloratura passages. In 1831, Duprez took part in the first Italian
performance of Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell and, for the first time
during the performance of an opera, he sang a high C full voice, not in the
so-called falsetto register as was usual at that time. After that, his
success was assured in Italy. By 1835, when he sang Edgardo at the world
premiere of Lucia di Lammermoor at the San Carlo Opera House in
Naples, his reputation was well established. He also sang leading roles in
other Donizetti premieres such as La favorite, Les Martyrs,
and Dom SÈbastien. In 1851, he made his last public appearance as
Edgardo at the ThȂtre des Italiens in Paris. By that time his high C from
the chest had become a standard feature of operatic singing. His legacy was the
tenore di forza, a direct ancestor of today’s dramatic tenor.

Domenico Cosselli (1801-1855) was an Italian bass-baritone most often
associated with the florid singing of Rossini’s operas. For Donizetti,
however, he created: Olivo in Olivo e Pasquale, Azzo in
Parisina, and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor. He was one of
the first singers to make the transition from the old concept of a bass to what
we know today as a baritone, a voice type that in 1835 was still in its
infancy. He gave the role of Enrico a new dimension that looked forward to the
idea of the Verdi baritone.

On Saturday evening October 13, Arizona Opera presented Lucia di
in a traditional production with sets by Robert R. O’Hearn
that was originally seen at Florida Grand Opera. Fenlon Lamb, who has sung
mezzo-soprano roles on the opera stage, directed it in Arizona. She told
Lucia’s sad tale in a most realistic manner. Some might have questioned her
use of an actress to embody the ghost that Lucia says she sees at the fountain,
but it did underline the young woman’s desperate mental state. The
attractive, detailed costumes from A.T. Jones and Sons were correct for the
time and place. Douglas Provost’s evocative lighting added much to the
show’s gothic ambience.

The Lucia was Stacy Tappan, who sang one of the Rhine Maidens in the recent
Los Angeles Ring of the Nibelungen. Hers is a substantial lyric
coloratura voice and she has the technical resources to follow in the steps of
singers like Tacchinardi Persiani. Joseph Wolverton was a romantic Edgardo who
sang with a secure line. The surprise of the evening was the Enrico of Mark
Walters. He sang his first scene aria, “Cruda, funesta smania”, with
powerful low tones and thrilling top notes. Jordan Bisch, who has a dark, dense
voice, made an auspicious debut as Raimondo, the minister who tries to make
peace between the families. Samuel Levine was an appropriately smarmy Normanno
and Laura Wilde a dramatic Alisa. David Margulis, whom I last heard as an
apprentice at Santa Fe Opera, was a radiant voiced Arturo who held his own in
the beautifully sung sextet. The chorus is most important in this opera and,
thanks to the hard work of Henri Venanzi, Arizona Opera has a truly first class
choral group. They acted individually and sang their harmonies with exquisite
precision. Steven White conducted at a brisk pace, never letting the tension
sag in the least. He shaped the orchestral sound so as to bring out every color
and detail of Donizetti’s magnificent score. This was a fine performance and
an auspicious opening for Arizona Opera’s 2012-2013 season.

Maria Nockin


Lucia: Stacy Tappan; Edgardo: Joseph Wolverton; Enrico: Mark Walters;
Raimondo: Jordan Bisch; Normanno: Samuel Levine; Arturo: David Margulis; Alisa:
Laura Wilde; Conductor: Steven White; Director: Fenlon Lamb; Chorus Master:
Henri Venanzi; Set Designer: Robert R. O’Hearn; Costumes: A.T. Jones and
Sons; Lighting Design: Douglas Provost.

image_description=Stacy Tappan
product_title=Lucia di Lammermoor at Arizona Opera
product_by=A review by Maria Nockin
product_id=Above: Stacy Tappan (Lucia)