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In this opening scene the chorus was kept outside of Ravenswood, singing through the windows, thus causing some balance problems. Only at the end did the singers enter, climbing through the windows, frock coated, top hatted and clutching papers, they seemed to be Enrico's creditors. This entering and exiting via the windows was one of Alden's puzzling pensées which recurred throughout the opera.
We first met Lucia not in an abandoned grove in the forest, but in another room in the house. This is a production which firmly banishes any notion of the romantic feel of the Scottish landscape. Lucia is sitting on the edge of a small stage, and much of her opening aria seems deliberate performance. At one point she stands on the edge of the stage and directs it clearly at Alisa (Sarah Pring) and a pair of dolls. She is dressed as a young girl, in short-ish skirt and bloomers, rather than as a marriageable young woman. Alden seems to have encouraged soprano Anna Christy to play Lucia young. In this they were helped by Christy's trim figure and her bright, soubrette-ish voice.
There is no doubt that Christy has all the notes and this, her first Lucia, is a considerable technical achievement. But her voice sounds more suited to Blonde or Aennchen rather than the darker travails of Donizetti's Romantic heroine. Her voice currently carries no hints of darkish, Italianate spinto traits. Apologies were made for her indisposition but her voice seemed apparently unaffected.
Barry Banks, as Edgardo, made his first appearance through the curtains of the small stage, on his knees. This made an admittedly shortish tenor look positively bizarre. His dress, plaid skirt (not a proper kilt, it lacked the fullness), leggings, long leather coat and straggly long hair, made him look more like Bill Bailey's character in the TV comedy Black Books than a romantic hero. Banks' dress was the only piece of Scottishness on display on the stage.
Edgardo and Lucia's duet was rendered more as play acting than reality. We had only the music, brilliantly and passionately sung by Banks and Christy, to believe in.
Copyright © 20 February 2008
Robert Hugill, London UK