Lucia di Lammermoor. Metropolitan Opera Tues 11th and 15th April 2018
It is my view that these performances are a milestone in the performance history of this opera. And I don't just say that because I am an Australian ... Ms Pratt was born in England and came to Australia aged 11. In the past decade she has sung in many European opera houses before being engaged by The Met as second of three Lucias after Olga Peretyatko and before Pretty Yende. Pratt has sung only rarely down-under but is finally engaged to sing this very role with the national company later this year. I would advise everyone to try for a ticket as they will not be disappointed on the Met performances.
There was a strong cast in a dark but effective production by Mary Zimmerman. The production was up-dated to the 1920s which would have been fine but for two rather stupid and distracting ‘side shows’ starting with the entire sextet being a set-up for a wedding photograph, hooded box camera, old slide film, flash and all. Furthermore, for the end of the mad scene a doctor arrived with black bag and hypodermic in the right deltoid … like the Cuckoo’s Nest. Most unnecessary and from the box of: “when in doubt, add more” as my decorator uncle used to say.
Popular Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo took all the difficult options as Edgardo and at times he was almost over the top. His final scene in the graveyard was exemplary, ending the opera on a seriously exciting and tragically moving point. I was told it was a semi-tone down … to which I replied: “So what?”
It was a matter of 'if you have got it, flaunt it!' Ms Pratt sang an unwritten and unexpected high F (youch!) at the end of the scene with her brother and the priest. This was about the only thing I would be critical of but for the magnificent overall portrayal. A colleague told me that Beverly Sills once did it. Like the high E flat in Callas's Mexico City Aida, it is exciting and unique.
The mad scene was a tour de force and Ms Pratt added quite a few of her own flourishes, all now tasteful and in keeping with the bel canto piece. Her final cabaletta E flat was the longest and strongest E flat I have ever heard and it was simply extraordinary, especially when the rest of the aria was sung to perfection in a stylish manner worthy of any opera house. All principals had voices which were large and beautiful. It was a shame that Normanno played admirably by Gregory Schmidt did not hit his optional high note in the first scene with the woodsmen which would have set the standard for the entire performance.
Enrico on the Wednesday was Luca Salsi with Mr Cavaletti on the Saturday, both singing at a very high level and taking the difficult options. There were some rubati, ritenuto and other liberties which must have been with the conductor's permission (Maestro Abbado was back from being indisposed). Raimondo was played more than adequately by bass Mr Kowaljow from the Ukraine.
The applause from the Met audience was rapturous, almost ecstatic. Like most operas these days the house was not full. There were no bouquets or ticker-tape which would certainly have been the case if Ms Pratt had sung the whole season. The comparison with the first soprano could not be more contrasted. The first was adequate while the second, Ms Pratt was incomparable. Brava Jessica Pratt who went on to sing I Puritani in Italy the following week. We look forward to hearing her Lucia in June/July.
Notes by Andrew Byrne ..
Opera blog: http://andrewsopera.blogspot.com/
Andrew's blog http://ajbtravels.blogspot.com/