The Audience Booed Lucia Di Lammermoor, But The Gore Isn't The Real Problem: Review

Lucia Di Lammermoor at Royal Opera House ★★★☆☆

By Holli-Mae Johnson Last edited 27 months ago
The Audience Booed Lucia Di Lammermoor, But The Gore Isn't The Real Problem: Review Lucia Di Lammermoor at Royal Opera House 3

Katie Mitchell’s Lucia Di Lammermoor is a bloody and decidedly earthy Gothic melodrama with a feisty, fully grown heroine dogged by grimly persistent ghosts as she shags, swoons, stabs and staggers her way to a gory demise. The onslaught of sex, suicide and a horrific miscarriage had sections of the audience clutching their pearls and booing the production team at curtain call on opening night.

Mitchell has defended her choices as an attempt to give more stage time and agency to the opera’s leading lady, bringing the offstage onstage in a way that demands our attention. While deeper examination and focus on female characters will always win our vote, there are legitimate concerns about Mitchell’s execution.

The production is certainly ambitious and leaves nothing to the imagination — except the narrative itself, as it turns out. The dizzying retinal gymnastics required to keep track of both the onstage dialogue and offstage events, played out on Vicki Mortimer’s split stage, as well as the subtitles means much of the crucial plot detail goes unheard.

Celebrated coloratura queen Diana Damrau is a mature, sensual and obstinate Lucia who forcibly resists, but ultimately succumbs to the iron will of the patriarchy which encircles and assaults her. She brings considerable previous experience to the role and commits unfalteringly to Mitchell’s direction and creative choices, but the physical and emotional demands on her result in occasionally overcooked vibrato and pinched top notes.

While the murder of her unwanted husband Arturo (a suitably unremarkable Taylor Stayton who gives Rasputin a run for his money in his refusal to expire) descends into pantomime absurdity, Damrau’s ‘mad scene’ is spellbindingly tragic and superbly delivered to pin-drop silence.

Romantic hero Charles Castronovo is faultless, copulating and slashing as required and singing exquisitely all the while, even when his aria has to compete with the sound of running bath water.

There are moments in this production which move, unsettle and thrill, but altogether there are too many ideas and additions shoved onto one stage to create a cohesive, fully engaging whole. Donizetti’s emotive score contains all the agony, ecstasy and foreboding required to tell this harrowing story, but underwhelming interpretation from conductor Daniel Oren and the aforementioned clutter clips its wings.

Lucia Di Lammermoor is on at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, until 19 May. Tickets £38-£190. Londonist attended on a press ticket.

Last Updated 10 April 2016

Firefly328

"There are legitimate concerns about Mitchell’s execution."
Seems a bit of a harsh penalty for a bit of dodgy theatre.

Rigoletto

I saw it last night. The hype was overdone: the sex was merely silly, the murder absurd, and the feminist clichés mildly irritating simply because they are unnecessary. The fatal flaw was that the theatrical concept of upstaging the true libretto with a parallel mime-show on split stage was a disaster. No tension was allowed to build, all the cast were upstaging each other, the design meant that only one quarter of the ROH stage was usable at a time (too cramped for the chorus) for the real libretto. The conducting was pedestrian.
Great belcanto opera of this period is very fragile and vulnerable. It needs precise and brilliant, and sensitive, handling. This un-revivable production should never have made it to the stage.