Feb 17, 2008

Lucia revelation

My love story with Gaetano Donizetti is still young and in the makings.
Already it has developed to a level I had never forecast.

Up until last year, my experiences with that composer were limited to Lucia (a bunch of different versions hadn't convinced me that much), L'elisir d'amore (Lyon 1999 with Alagna and Gheorghiu, Pidò conducting, which was fun but not mind-blowing), a few extracts of Don Pasquale and La Fille du Régiment (then again, experiences not great enough to be memorable) and Roberto Devereux (Lyon 2005 concert version, boring).

As I had learn the Opéra de Lyon was planning a concert version of Maria Stuarda with Patrizia Ciofi for September 07, I embarked on the discovery of this opera. And came upon the 2003 Liceu concert version (with Juan Diego Florez and Olga Borodina, broadcast available on Operashare, extracts on YouTube) which was indeed my first mind-blowing experience with Donizetti.

Yesterday I had my first Lucia moment.
I'd never empathized with the character before (no Dessay, Scotto, Tebaldi, Sutherland or even Callas had the key to unlock my emotions). The 2006 Orange performance of Patrizia Ciofi had similar non-results.

This Saturday, Arte broadcast the 2002 Lyon performances of Lucie de Lammermoor with Ciofi*. To be perfectly honest, the first thing that drawn me in was the great performance of French baritone Ludovic Tézier (as a matter of fact the first time I hear something worth noticing from him).
Ciofi was not really a factor at the beginning, but she managed to turn a slow start into a fantastic performance. How she did that I have no idea and don't really want to know.

But for the first time I felt the emotions Lucia is going through in this opera and the road to madness she portrayed was one I could understand and relate to, as well as the madness itself.
There's something in her intensity that is truly overwhelming and totally shadows her strange looking face when she sings.
Her madness is jerky, convulsive, on the edge whereas others portray flat or totally eccentric. The journey that leads to it is full of contradictions, back and forth, maybes, improbable possibilities. It is just full of life, really.

That's the reason why I was blown away I think.
She is so alive in that performance.

* In 2002, the Opéra de Lyon scheduled Lucie de Lammermoor, the 1839 French version approved by Donizetti with a top-class cast: Roberto Alagna as Edgar, Ludovic Tézier as Ashton, Natalie Dessay as Lucie and Evelino Pidò conducting.

Alas, the vocal problems of Dessay (forcing an operation on her vocal chords) prevented her from singing in all the dates and a backup had to be found.
Patrizia Ciofi, a young singer who was the only one knowing the role (as she was the one to sing the modern recreation of this version in 1997 for the Festival della Valle d'Itria - Martina Franca, conducted by Maurizio Benini, CD live available) was hired and ended up performing on the day the DVD was recorded.

Overall cast performance

Edgar - Roberto Alagna : A
Henri Ashton - Ludovic Tézier : A
Sir Arthur - Marc Laho : C+
Raymond - Nicolas Cavallier : B+
Gilbert - Yves Saelens : D

YouTube extracts:
  • Maria Stuarda, 2003 Liceu, JDF, Borodina: 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Lucie de Lammermoor, Lyon 2002: none available, can you believe that? plenty of Dessay though (1, 2, 3)


Vitalba Ablativ said...

i saw this production when it went to paris later that year. ciofi was truly astounding!

(she looks uncannily like dessay in that first screencap...)

Extatic said...

Don't they look strangely alike?
Vocally though, it was clear Dessay was not on the same level as Ciofi.

Was an amazing night it must have been to witness her performance live...

I so envy you.