Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Donizetti - Lucie de Lammermoor |
Opéra National de Lyon 2002
Actors: Patrizia Ciofi, Roberto Alagna, Ludovic Tezier, Nicolas Cavallier, Marc Laho
Director: Don Kent
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
Valuable for its rarity; singing uneven
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 09/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a rare treat, to have this release. It is so improbable that any of us will get to see live, the French version of Lucie de Lammermoor. This is a valuable archival edition, and a fascinating one at that.
This version of the opera holds considerable interest, as it differs from the familiar Italian treatment. Besides the language change, there are several intriguing departures. The character of Alisa is missing, so that Lucia has no companion, and in sextet, her part is filled out by Normanno. Normanno - here called Gilbert, and played well by Yves Saelens - himself is given a much more significant hand in the proceedings: in fact he is akin to an Iagoian type of villain. Seeking to profit financially, he is the scheming catalyst for the tragedy. Henri (Enrico) is less of a villain than a frightened, desperate man determined to save the Ashton family from ruin. Raymond has most of his music cut, and in fact seems more like a comprimario role. There are several other differences; Arthur appears with Enrico in the first act; Lucia's dialogue with Raymond is missing; and perhaps most significantly, Lucia's *sortita* is totally different from the Italian. "Regnava nel silenzio...Quando rapito in estasi" is here instead a piece unrelated in any way to the mood of the original. It is in fact the melody of an aria from Donizetti's own "Rosmonda D'inghilterra" - "Perchè non ho del vento..Torna, torna o caro oggetto," and which is often used as a replacement for coloraturas who want a flashier virtuoso piece in Lucia. Joan Sutherland included it (brilliantly sung) as a bonus piece in her first Lucia recording. I find it an interesting piece of music, but more decorative than meaningful; it does not have the atmosphere and haunting foreboding of the original. As well, all of Lucia's music is in the original, higher keys; the duet with Enrico in A, and the mad scene in F. No capping high notes here to arias (there are some variants within the melodies), and no flute cadenza either (there is a very short unaccompanied cadenza at the fermata prior to the section's end). I can't say I miss either (the high note or lengthy cadenza), but have no objections to the familiar variants if they're well done. Instead of the cadenza with flute, we have Donizetti's original, beautiful ending - the harmonic resolution is intensely poignant, and needs no substitution.
I gathered that Evelino Pido, the conductor, was largely responsible for the performance edition here, and he leads his forces with unusual drive and commitment. The drama in the orchestra really comes through.
I love the production. It is dark, grim, and extremely gloomy, which is as it should be. You get the Poe-like atmosphere, the cavernous cold-castle feeling, and the brooding, threatening discord. A chilly, bluish light is effectively used throughout. Some of the "touches" are a bit idiosyncratic: during Henri's cabaletta, in which there are a few dead deer littering the stage, he puts his hands into the animal's wound and fairly washes his hands "madly" with the blood - the "sang" reference in the piece - get the connotation? Duh. While the men's costumes are all historically correct (and they all sport long, scraggly-unkempt tresses and facial hair), Lucia's costumes and coiffures strike a discordant appearance; her hair hangs down in long strands and she's dressed in these simple, unadorned shifts. I don't know if this was an idea of the producer/designer, but it makes Lucia seem too contemporary, too removed from the surroundings. OK, ok, maybe it was the intent to have her isolated, but lost in time she ain't.
Another rendered choice I didn't care too much for was the intent at a "cinematic" effect - the bulk of the shots are in extreme close-up. Singers were not meant to be scrutinized so closely, and many of the broad effects intended for an theater audience can look painfully contrived - the "silent movie" effect occurs in spades here. And frankly, a lot of the singers are ill-flattered by having their faces so omnipresent. All this tight camerawork lends a suffocatingly claustrophobic effect, and the inclination is to want to push the camera back to allow for some spatial perspective. All of the singers are well-versed and directed in their acting assignments, but their efforts are undermined by having their faces so ruthlessly exposed (Ludovic Tezier is several times seen with flecks of saliva barreling out).
Beginning with the lower end of voices, Raymond, played by Nicolas Cavallier, is the youngest looking chaplain I've ever seen. A handsome presence, one wishes he had more of his music restored, for he's got an attractive, warm, well-produced bass-baritone.
Ludovic Tezier, looking very much like a relative of John Wilkes Booth, is a committed, involved actor, and really carries across Henri's intensity and desperation. Some of his bug-eyed reaction shots are disconcerting, though (through no fault of his own). Tezier has a serviceable baritone, beautiful in tone quality, ringing, and strong, though fast music brings out some gruffness (but may be considered dramatically appropriate).
Roberto Alagna is of course entirely at home in the language, makes a fine impression dramatically, and really looks the Byronic hero. Though he is singing in French, he proceeds more like an aggressive Italian tenor with a penchant for pushing, especially on high; one wishes he could produce an authentic French head tone. Though he shows a great deal of repose and long-lined phrasing in his last scene, he's unrelievedly loud. His finest moments occur in what would be "Tu che a dio spiegasti," which is heartfelt and eloquently sung.
Patrizia Ciofi, taking over from an indisposed Natalie Dessay, is the Lucie. She has an angular, bony-spindly appearance; her face startlingly recalls portraits of 19th century Italian sopranos, in particular Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani herself - huge, almond shaped blue eyes. I had a very difficult time, though, enjoying Ciofi's performance. If there was any singer not meant to be caught for the camera, it is she. Watching her sing is a real trial in itself. Ciofi frequently looks as if in acute pain producing a tone. Tense neck, screwed-up face on high, hideous facial contortions, bug-eyed expressions. She curls her lips over her teeth in a tight, round-mouthed 'O' - so the effect is almost alarmingly vulgar looking. She works very hard in giving her portrayal, and it seems it; her busy, unrelievedly 1000-expressions-a-second performance grows weary after awhile. Twitches abound; think Sandy Dennis at her most mannered. The voice itself is rather monochromatic and without much dynamic variety; the tonal production is a "mouthy" sound, and the highest notes (which Ciofi registers in her face as if someone stabbed her in the back) are larrupped into place, and are bleaty, caterwauled and painfully tight. No trill. I don't know whose idea it was to stage the mad scene the way it's presented here, but it sure is overdone. This production has Lucia busily writhing on the floor, flailing arms, near-crashing into the scenery. The effect of this misguided Looney Tunes-Carol Burnett approach is to render Donizetti's music spectacularly ineffective. Gone is the intense pathos and deep tragedy inherent in the scena. I have always hated this mad hatter sort of approach, and this is perhaps the worst extreme. One reads accounts of Callas's Lucia, how she allowed the music to shine through very little physical movement; though I never saw her actually do it, it seems to me that a sensitive artist might have the capacity to hear the overriding poignance in the mad scene, which excessive physical gimmicks should not be allowed to sully. Though there are many who enjoy this kind of flashy, mindless melodrama, I for one can't stomach it, nor do I find this approach to have credibility. I wish, for such an historical release, that all of Ciofi's hard work and apparent dedication promised more residuals, but technically and histrionically she misses by miles.
It's unlikely that we'll have this version of the opera at any time in the near future (maybe never), so this release is definitely recommended fo Donizettians and Lucia admirers. One will have to settle for the fact that Ciofi needs indulgence, though I'm sure there are those who will enjoy her hyper-spastic performance.
A very satisfactory French version Lucia.
Alan M. Silbergeld | Baltimore, MD United States | 08/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I admit to disliking the excision of Lucia's big aria at the start of Act I, scene 2 (the fountain scene), which is my biggest quibble with Donizetti's French rewrite of his essentially Italian (and Italianate) work. But,that's what he did and that is how the Opera of Lyon played it. And well did they play it. Ciofi is a fantastic Lucie. Her voice was never in better shape than here, her artistic interpretation is excellent and her acting exemplary. I though Alagna's voice lacked the plush sound needed for Edgar (sorry - spoiled by the young Jose Carreras as Edgardo) and he strained most of the time in the upper register. I preferred the tenor (I think it was Marcello Giordano) in the broadcast performance when the production migrated to Paris. Ludovic Texier is an adequate but hardly unforgettable in the baritone role. And I wish the camera work did not include closeups near enough to see him expelling beads of saliva as he sang. All in all, though, a must both for the rarity of the French version and for Ciofi as Lucie."
Excellent!!! Not to be missed!!!
P. Sutherland | Berea, Ohio, USA | 05/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Patrizia Ciofi is outstanding as Lucie in this French version of Lucie de Lammermoor. I'm a big fan of Natalie Dessay and I've seen her do the mad scene with this cast and Ciofi is certainly her equal. Her voice is just plain glorious and she never holds back on her singing or acting. The audience loved her.
Roberto Alagna was equally wonderful as Edgar and he exceeded my expectations of him in this role. Ludovic Tezier sang Henry Ashton with great passion and more expression than I expected from him, too. Marc Laho as Arthur wins the prize for the best French sounding singer, as usual. He was excellent. Actually, there were no weak links in this production. The entire cast was marvelous.
I thought the stark set could have used more light. The music, singing and characterization were atmospheric enough. But, I won't quibble over that.
Overall, this is a production not to be missed."