John Doyle’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s 1837 opera dates back to 2012 – a co-production with La Fenice and Houston. It is a rather self-important production – very dour and Presbyterian. The dark cloudage never parts. There is a radical want of props: one long table, two chairs, and a row of otiose sticks which are deployed with something like religious gravity. Every gesture, every placement, must be solemnised. The grey panels that are lowered and raised throughout are distracting. The chorus lacks all affect. Even during the Mad Scene, the wedding guests remain robotic, slowly turning their back on Lucia as if one of the guests has just splashed red wine on an expensive carpet. These Scots, superbly costumed by Liz Ascroft, are dour, humourless, and beyond humanity.
Donizetti’s glorious score calls for great brio from the orchestra. Carlo Montanaro took it exceptionally fast, unsettling the orchestra and singers at times. The Act One duet, ‘Verranno a te sull’aure’, one of the most stirring things in Italian opera, suffered as a result and was oddly unmoving.
This was a long season – nine performances – and Michael Fabiano (such an inspired Edgardo at the Met in April, opposite Pretty Yende’s Lucia) – sang the first eight, a coup for Opera Australia, which presented him as Faust to great acclaim in 2015.
Diego Torre stepped in as Edgardo for the final performance, which is the one ABR Arts attended (July 27 ★★★★). Torre, immensely popular with this audience, sang with his usual ardour and sure top notes. Edgardo, of course, ends the opera with some of the best music, and Torre was convincing and expressive.
The true lunatic in Donizetti’s opera is Enrico, Lucia’s vicious, petrified brother. Giorgio Caoduro – still interestingly young for the role, though he sang it here as early as 2012 – was unfailingly dastardly. Like all true baritones he luxuriated in his high notes, several of them interpolated and held to rousing effect. He was at his best in the Wolf’s Crag scene (cut in 2012), when Edgardo visits Edgardo in his lair to taunt him about Lucy’s conjugal throes.