Sunday 29 March 2015

Lucia Madness at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Last week, the Secret Victorianist, along with some student friends, attended MetStudents’ #LuciaMadness event before a production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera.

The Secret Victorianist at the Metropolitan Opera
Mary Zimmerman’s production has a mid-nineteenth-century setting, although Donizetti’s opera premiered in 1835, and Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor (the historical novel on which Salvadore Cammarano’s libretto was based) was published in 1819 and set in the seventeenth century.

Mara Blumenfeld’s sumptuous costumes are instrumental in suggesting this period in the production (with Daniel Ostling’s striking sets more focussed on creating a Romantic Scottish landscape), so it was apt for the drinks event to encourage young operagoers to don Victorian dress of their own. There was even the opportunity to pose in Lucia’s blood-drenched gloves and veil and brandish her knife (check out #LuciaMadness on Twitter for more photos).

The Secret Victorianist as Lucia Ashton
The emphasis on Lucia’s madness isn’t just a marketing ploy. The plot (familial feuds, love, betrayal) and the music move towards the climatic scene where Albina Shagimuratova’s blood-splattered bride loses her mind and hits the high notes in the beautiful aria ‘Il Dolce Suono’.

That Lucia’s madness is especially important to this production in particular is suggested from Act One, where Zimmerman chooses to stage the ghost during Lucia’s ‘Regnava Nel Silenzio’. Madness seems the natural result of a young girl living out her life on these misty moors, surrounded by ghosts, and torn between the passions of her brother and lover.

The Secret Victorianist brings nineteenth-century
dress to the streets of New York
Joseph Calleja sang Edgardo with strength and passion, producing a second climactic moment after Lucia’s mad scene, but the scenes between the siblings (Shagimuratova with Luca Salsi’s Enrico) perhaps showed more connection between the performers.

Other highlights included the injection of humour during the wedding scene. The cast pose for photographs as Lucia turns away from her groom and the camera, raising some titters from the audience just prior to the tragic and murderous turn of events.

Lucia di Lammermoor is an opera with a timeless plot of love and betrayal, but a nineteenth-century setting seemed an ideal one, given how Victorianism can at times be a sort of shorthand in popular culture for the repression of women in marriage and their resulting madness.

The production is running until April 10th so catch it if you can.

Do you know of any other nineteenth-century-based plays or productions the Secret Victorianist should attend in New York? Let me know – here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist!

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