May 23, 2022
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By the seems of it, there’s little in widespread between the Metropolitan Opera’s new manufacturing of “Lucia di Lammermoor” and the one it replaces.

The outdated staging, which premiered in 2007 and was final revived in 2018, set Donizetti’s work — about a lady pushed to homicide by a pressured marriage — in the late Victorian period, with luxurious robes and picturesque, wintry bushes. The brand new “Lucia,” which opened on Saturday and is directed by Simon Stone, takes place in the present day, in a dying postindustrial American city, the type whose electoral preferences have so fascinated the world over the previous six or seven years.

There’s a motel, a pawnshop, liquor and drug shops, a mini-mart, a water therapy plant, some beat-up automobiles: “the wasteland,” as Stone has described it, “of free-market capitalism.” The costumes are much less luxurious than expressly cheesy. There’s nothing Victorian, nothing picturesque. Video, a lot of it captured reside by an onstage cameraman, typically fills a display screen stretching above the singers.

And but this seemingly contemporary, modern, multimedia tackle a Romantic basic suffers from precisely the similar elementary drawback as the 2007 staging, directed by Mary Zimmerman: an unwillingness to point out its heroine — certainly one of the most anguished characters in opera, whose life ends in the wake of an prolonged, eerie mad scene — as actually tormented.

Now, as then, there’s a uninteresting vacancy at the work’s heart. Whereas scenically intriguing and fantastically sung and performed — with Nadine Sierra, Javier Camarena and Artur Rucinski in glorious voice, and Riccardo Frizza conducting with fluidity, briskness and grandeur — this new “Lucia” is in the end unaffecting and unpersuasive.

It was actually affordable for the Met to entrust the piece to Stone, a 37-year-old Australian director who has made one thing of a specialty of unsparing modern-dress depictions of determined girls in theater productions like “Yerma” and “Medea.”

And his updating is sensible on paper. “Lucia” relies on a novel that entranced the Romantics: Walter Scott’s “The Bride of Lammermoor,” set in Scotland round the flip of the 18th century. It was a time when that nation’s aristocracy felt itself mortally threatened by an approaching union with England, a tumult that Scott translated into a fervid panorama of bulls charging out of forests and ghost-haunted fountains, their water reddened with blood.

Donizetti, completely bored with the particulars of historical past, and his librettist, Salvadore Cammarano, made the novel’s political and spiritual conflicts virtually totally private. There are two implacably opposed clans, which have produced a pair of star-crossed lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” fashion. Enrico Ashton, his fortunes in tatters, seeks to revive himself by engineering an advantageous marriage for his sister, Lucia; too unhealthy she’s secretly betrothed herself to Edgardo Ravenswood, her household’s mortal enemy.

However this drama, nonetheless intimate, remains to be formed by its social context: the misery of a class and gender that really feel themselves being squeezed out. The same dynamic, in fact, is enjoying out in America right this moment — so why not set the opera in America right this moment? As Stone mentioned in an interview on the Met’s website, “It’s all the time in these moments, the place males really feel that they and their sources of revenue are threatened, that misogyny and patriarchal abuses resurge.”

But if “Lucia” — whether or not in 1700, 1870 or 2022 — is about the affect of patriarchal abuses on an more and more remoted younger girl, we nonetheless have to register that affect if the opera is to have stakes and stature. She is a character, in spite of everything, who, we’re informed from the begin, is totally distraught, mourning her mom’s demise even earlier than the onset of worse afflictions — a character who weeps, swoons, trembles and is commonly, as the libretto places it, “beside herself with distress and concern.”

Sung with assured agility and womanly fullness quite than vulnerability, Sierra’s Lucia, although, spends a lot of the efficiency oddly unperturbed and sane, even completely satisfied. Fairly than the determine indicated by the libretto and rating — who nervously vaults from desolate to ecstatic and again once more, her repressed passions surging earlier than she’s cowed as soon as extra into silence — on this portrayal she is so even-keeled and sturdy that we really feel little of the affected person accretion of stress on her, the stress that culminates in killing her organized husband, Arturo, on their wedding ceremony night time.

If that crime doesn’t really feel preordained, with the grim inevitability that defines tragedy, the drama goes limp, regardless of how properly vocalized. Even the supertitles on Saturday lowered the emotional temperature: “Il pallor funesto, orrendo, che ricopre il volto mio,” as Lucia describes herself to her brother, means one thing way more dire than merely “the look you see on my face.”

And whereas there’s actually greater than a whiff of poisonous masculinity in Rucinski’s skeevy, face-tattooed Enrico — sung with evenness and energy — and in Matthew Rose’s sonorous, ineffectual pastor Raimondo, a deeper working-out of Stone’s notion of a permeatingly anxious patriarchy would require a rougher, more durable, extra ominous Edgardo. Typically seeming as fixated on his enmity towards Enrico as on his love of Lucia, this character truly contributes to her burden quite than relieving it. However Camarena — a golden-voiced, long-phrased tenor, genial to his core — comes throughout as a innocent sweetheart. The stakes are lowered as soon as once more.

In that interview with the Met, printed in February, Stone described his plan to make Lucia an opioid addict.“I needed to painting a extra complicated journey than simply that she was made to decide on between certainly one of two males,” he mentioned, “and being with the incorrect one turned her into a psychopathic killer.”

That every one-too-simple journey, although, is the one he has offered; the dependancy concept appears to have been dropped throughout rehearsals. However whether or not the trigger is males, medicine, mourning, temperament or all of the above, if we don’t really feel Lucia as perilously fragile from the begin, her destiny feels unearned — way more sudden than Donizetti and Cammarano’s gradual, fastidiously calibrated trajectory of degradation and insanity.

The staging’s set is extra evocative of circling madness than its title character is. Stone favors near-constant movement onstage, and for this “Lucia,” Lizzie Clachan has designed a perpetually rotating and remodeling little city, its constructions collapsed into and overlapping each other, like a Cubist sculpture. For the remaining act, the buildings are damaged into fragments, nonetheless turning, a sinister merry-go-round.

It’s an formidable and spectacular spectacle, but it additionally accommodates an uncomfortable fringe of too-easy tourism for a moneyed crowd at the Met to be watching a spectacle of misogyny and violence set in a trashy Center America. The result’s the reverse of the supposed relevance; this opera could have been up to date to our second — eliciting some boos from traditionalists throughout Stone’s bow on Saturday — however the implication is that it’s not likely us.

And given the hypernaturalistic trappings, some particulars ring false. The place in Twenty first-century America are folks going to drive-ins, not to mention to observe Bob Hope noir parodies? “WORD SON YO!!!” is the form of graffiti concocted by somebody who’s by no means seen graffiti. And whereas it is sensible that Edgardo and Lucia couldn’t have communicated from afar in the libretto’s Scottish Highlands, the clarification for his or her radio silence in right this moment’s world strains credulity, even by operatic requirements.

The manufacturing’s movie components are generally evocative, largely after they present personal, close-up moments, like Lucia in her bed room, quietly making a watercolor for Edgardo. However by the finish of the opera — when an elaborate black-and-white depiction of the couple’s imagined life collectively competes with Sierra’s mad scene — the films are simply an excessive amount of.

And whereas she sings that scene with utter poise, accompanied by a spectral glass harmonica, Stone plops proper into Grand Guignol mode, with Lucia’s wedding ceremony gown so drenched in crimson that — coupled along with her staring creepily at the digicam as soon as it’s over — you possibly can’t assist however consider low cost slasher movies. Lucia is even stalked by a horde of bloodied Arturo doubles.

It’s too little guts, too late.

Lucia di Lammermoor

Continues via Could 21 at the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan; metopera.org.

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