CINCINNATI – (June 26 & 28, 2008) This was the sort of production that left much to be desired. Cincinnati’s Lucia (performed in Donizetti’s French language Paris revision) was strange to say the least.
As the evening began, a small voiced Jeremy Cady started the action – but he was covered by chorus and was nearly inaudible. Conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni led the Cincinnati Symphony in some good “om-pa-paing”.
Some good singing came from Gaétan Laperrière. The French Baritone had an interesting and large voice and proved to be a fine Enrico. His “Cruda funesta smania”, I couldn’t tell you the title in French, was quite good. He negotiated the Bel Canto hurdles well even if there wasn’t much ornamentation. His acting was acceptable.
Another strange part of the evening was tenor Mark T. Panuccio. This was a strikingly uneven performance. The nasal vowels often became annoying, but this is more the fault of Cincinnati Opera’s leadership for programming the French version than the tenor himself. Panuccio’s Edgardo started off weakly, in voice and manner. Panuccio often stands with his arms hanging to his sides, looking rather tragic and weak. Perhaps he finds Edgardo to be a weak character – but in fact this is warrior and should never look like someone who would be a target for mugging. When he killed himself, people laughed out loud…but I’ll get back to that.
A bright spot in the evening was Sarah Coburn. The lyric coloratura’s Lucia was excellent. Again, the French version left things to be desired, this time it was the absence of “Regnava nel silenzio”. This change suited Coburn, who may not have had the vocal dramatic chops to have excelled in the aria. The alternate aria was lighter and higher than the original, however it was still inferior to the original. Even while it worked to her advantage, it wasn’t as thrilling as Lucia’s usual opening aria.
Coburn’s mad scene was very unique – the acting almost always of a high quality. The flute cadenza was longer than most. They added a review of almost every aria, duet or other tune which Coburn had performed in the evening, but it never became annoying. Her final cabeletta in the scene was a little annoying, but still thrilling because of the clean beauty of her voice.
The production was what left the most to be desired. It was more or less a series of ramps. The set was stark, with suggested period clothing. Women draped in red and men in Black always carrying crossbows. The angular platforms that dominated the stage were also dark. Everything was dark.
The production consistently employed the use of dancers who pretended to be a pair of deer. This was stupid and distracting. It often provoked laughs and maybe even a few boos from the audience. This stupid production became rather campy with touches like this and the flower petals used to represent blood. In fact, when Edgardo (Panuccio) stabbed himself and clumsily threw a handful of red petals I heard cackels and hisses from the balconies. The fight scene was pitiful.
My general feeling is that this production didn’t work well in a house the size of Music Hall. Cincinnati’s opera house is comparable in size to the largest in the world. What works well at Glimmerglass doesn’t work so well at the Metropolitan or the Cincinnati Opera.
In conclusion, this opera left much to be desired. It lacked the sophistication of the grand presentations Cincinnati Opera has staged in the past. Perhaps the Cincinnati Opera’s leadership believes (as many opera goers used to) that Lucia is simply a showpiece for a soprano. It is not. It requires attention to dramatic detail and sophistication. Last season the Metropolitan showed the world that it was possible to make it into a riveting piece of music drama, perhaps Cincinnati should take note.