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01 August, 2008

Sydney Lucia success. Sutherland's costumes severely cut-down!

Lucia di Lammermoor. Sydney Opera House, Wed 30th July 2008

This Lucia opening was a splendid affair. John Copley knows how to present opera while Bardon’s sets and Stennett’s costumes are classics. Such a production should be treated as history lesson for modern directors, every aspect enhancing the story line while never impeding the singing which is what an opera audience wants above all else. Nothing in the production draws attention to the director which cannot be said of many modern productions. This production was originated for Joan Sutherland to be done in the Concert Hall before being re-sized for the Opera Hall. This run is being conducted by Richard Bonynge, just like the original, proving his artistic longevity.

Emma Matthews is ready for this role. While her voice has little in common with that of Joan Sutherland, it is a role in which Matthews plays her own particular bride of Lammermoor. She can afford to be more energetic on stage, especially during her mad scene from crouching to lying on the ground and spinning, sautéing, collapsing, etc. Likewise, her vocal acrobatics were extraordinary, only once briefly departing from good taste in a duet. She used virtually all of the ‘Sutherland’ ornaments with great style and accuracy. Full throated high E flats ended the fountain cabaletta as well as the two third act show-pieces. With a tall, handsome tenor they made the perfect, if tragic couple.

Jose Carbo was an excellent Enrico, putting in all the baritone flourishes with his usual flair. Happily, the Wolf Crag scene was included, allowing us to hear this rare gem of the male duet repertory. In many ways Carbo was the star of the night.

American Eric Cutler returned to Australia and was a creditable Edgardo. He has a pleasant vocal timbre with a strong projection and fine dramatic sense. His cemetery scene was vocally engaging as it was devastating dramatically.

Basso Richard Anderson has a large range, singing the tutor’s role more youthfully, but with a plunging richness to his low notes.

The support singers were not up to the high standard of the main roles. The company used to employ over 100 solo singers but now has only a small group of ‘favourites’ of varying competence doing small roles. Some of the problem may be casting while some may be nerves on opening night. These roles should usually be done by young singers ‘on the way up’ in my view. Sutherland played Clotilde, the maid, long before she played Norma.

As I often state, we are privileged to have such a professional orchestra and chorus and neither let the side down (if we ignore the very first note of the opera, ‘fluffed’ by the horns).

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

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