- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

The Virginia Opera’s final production of the current season, Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” arrives at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts tonight and Sunday afternoon, giving area audiences a golden opportunity to attend a local performance of this much-loved bel canto masterpiece — never long out of the operatic repertoire since its 1835 Naples premiere.

While slightly reducing the character count in Sir Walter Scott’s popular 1819 romantic novel, “The Bride of Lammermoor,” Donizetti and his librettist retained the melodrama of the original. The operatic version focuses on the central tale of Lucia, an innocent young woman deeply in love with Edgardo, the young heir of a rival family. Unfortunately, she’s duped for political and monetary reasons by her nefarious brother Enrico into marrying Arturo, a wealthy but vapid nobleman. Predictably disastrous consequences ensue, reaching a climax in the opera’s immortal sextet and in Lucia’s equally famous — and difficult — “mad scene.”

As directed by Dorothy Danner, the Virginia Opera’s “Lucia” is blessedly traditional, featuring lavish period costumes set against a too-busy forest backdrop whose trees move restlessly (and sometimes noisily) at each scene change. We attended the March 30 performance in Norfolk, which found the Virginia Opera Orchestra and chorus, under the baton of Peter Marks, in near perfect form.

In the title role of Lucia, soprano Manon Strauss Evrard proved a convincing actress, rendering her character’s mental decline and fall not only believable, but sympathetic. However, particularly in the early scenes, her voice unexpectedly seemed a little thin at its margins, possibly because of the annual plague of seasonal allergies that vex our region.

Fortunately, she seemed able to overcome most of these vocal issues by the time the sextet arrived, reminding us of her remarkable performance in last season’s “Tales of Hoffmann.” Her “mad scene,” in which she fully integrated her musical and dramatic capabilities, detailed her character’s complete emotional collapse.

In the role of Lucia’s evil brother, Enrico, Sebastian Catana unveiled a rich, supple, well-supported baritone instrument further buttressed by crisp diction and a bold swagger.

As Enrico’s hated rival and Lucia’s ill-fated, beloved Edgardo, tenor Israel Lozano, a protege of Placido Domingo’s, was highly effective, with his smooth, lyric voice capably expressing the wild range of conflicting feelings.

Bass Christian Van Horn was also fine in the small but important role of Raimondo, as was tenor Gregorio Gonzalez, who inhabited the short, unhappy life of the wealthy Arturo. Smaller supporting roles were sung effectively by Brandon Wood and Amanda Ingram.


WHAT: The Virginia Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” by Gaetano Donizetti

WHEN: Tonight at 8 and Sunday at 2 p.m.

WHERE: George Mason University Center for the Arts, Fairfax

TICKETS: $44 to $94


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