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The Ravenswood family vault was backstage, behind the stage within a stage. Lots of engravings of Victorian worthies propped up against chairs, chairs which were eventually occupied by the male voice chorus. Banks' superb performance of Edgardo's difficult final scene was undermined by Alden, with Enrico bringing the dead body of Lucia, propping her in a chair, assaulting the dying Edgardo and finally breaking his neck. So much for Donizetti's final image of Edgardo transfigured and joining Lucia in death.

I imagine that when ENO engaged Alden to produce Lucia they intended that he would create a radical new look to the opera, as he has done to other works in the past. Alden is sympathetic to bel canto -- witness his fine ENO Ariodante. But here he replaces the opera's fundamental notion by a mixed bag of pensées and idées fixes which never added up to a coherent production scheme.

Musically the evening was superb. Even though Christy was not my ideal Lucia, she is an immensely gifted singer and turned in a fine musical performance. Banks' Edgardo was a tour de force, intense, musical, passionate, reckless almost, yet always within the confines of Donizettian style. I wish we could hear more of him on stage in this style of piece.

Mark Stone's Enrico was on the same level, providing superb support and counterpoint.

It was unfortunate that Clive Bayley only sang one scene, but Paul Whelan stood in magnificently. Sarah Pring's Alisa, got up like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, provided fine support, as did Dwayne Jones' Arturo and Michael Colvin's Normanno.

Paul Daniel and the orchestra were on strong form, giving us a fine, sophisticated performance of the work, complete with glass harmonica. There were moments when we wandered back into the bad old days, with the orchestra threatening to drown the singers, but overall the results were impressive and confidently in style.

Whilst David Alden's production leaves something to be desired, musically ENO was confidently on form, and I might hope that we could look forward to more serious early 19th century Italian opera at the Colisseum.

Copyright © 20 February 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK



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