And the ROH’s even more amazing Lucia…

Lucia di Lammermoor

Royal Opera House, London



Hot on the heels of Aigul Akhmetshina’s brilliant Carmen for the ROH comes an even more breath-taking incarnation with the American soprano Nadine Sierra in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor.  I have seldom known a response as long and ecstatic as the one which followed Sierra’s ‘mad’ aria here. It wasn’t just admiration for the effortless way her coloratura mirrored the sound of the flute in its very fast and very high moments, though that was marvel enough. It was for her consummate stage craft, and for the sheer beauty of her singing.

Katie Mitchell’s production – first seen in 2016 – has now got properly bedded in, with its split stage working seamlessly, and the massed male moments lit and acted with total conviction. And the elements which once caused talk about its ‘feminist’ take simply help to underscore the timelessness of Mitchell’s conception.

Artur Rucinski as Enrico with Nadine Sierra as Lucia (c) Camilla GreenwellArtur Rucinski as Enrico with Nadine Sierra as Lucia ©Camilla Greenwell

Murderous family feuds? Compulsory arranged marriages? Look through the news pages any day, and you’ll read all about them. Murderous sectarian feuds? Look at the Middle East. We first see Lucia vomiting with her head down the lavatory: yes, morning sickness. She spends the last twenty minutes of the opera bleeding from the waist down – yes, some of that blood was from the man she had just been forced to murder, but more was from the miscarriage brought on by the shock of her situation, and the rest was a result of her suicide.. Even the blinkered fools who run the Arts Council would have to admit that this much-loved 200-year-old classic embodies ten times more ‘relevance’ than anything else staged this year.

There is no weak link in this strongly cast production, and Xavier Anduaga, as the tortured lover Edgardo, is the perfect foil for Sierra’s Lucia. In Robin Tebbutt’s assured revival, Donizetti’s magnificent creation takes a while to catch fire, but by the time we reach Lucia’s deranged and hallucinating outpouring – with the orchestra under Giacomo Sagripanti accompanying her with exquisite delicacy – the whole world seems touched with a terrible beauty.

To May 24

Michael Church

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