Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crazy Night Out in Lammermoor

Christopher and I went out last night to see the Minnesota Opera production of "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Gaetano Donizetti.

Now, before you glaze over and think "this is *so* not something for me," I'd like to say that you should, please, read on.

Let's face it, if you've read any of my posts, you probably know that when I go to a theater to see people singing, there's probably also going to be dancing... and speaking... and the composer will be someone named Sondheim, or Hammerstein, or Brown. But Christopher likes opera, and so I go with him to the opera.

Before we got there last night, we had a drink at the St. Paul Grille, and Christopher gave me a quick rundown of the plot of the show. Honestly, all I'd known before this was that it was in Italian and that one of the arias was featured in the movie "The Fifth Element."

Turns out that tragic heroine Lucia has fallen madly in love with Edgardo, one of her family's sworn enemies. Her brother vows to kill Edgardo, so Lucia and Edgardo swear an oath of marriage one night before he flees Scotland for France.
(Show artwork from the Minnesota Opera website)

But her brother, being rather a power-hungry ass, forces Lucia to marry the powerful guy from the next territory to bolster the family. And, well, Lucia kind of has a breakdown and things go terribly terribly wrong - the banquet/wedding scene and the party that follows... well... there's some serious crazy going on there.

This is, frankly, opera at some of its most operatic. We're not talking about massively ornate sets. We're not dealing with a cast of thousands. We've got one woman with an amazing voice putting every emotion into song before she decides to take matters into her own hands. (And, let's face it - I told you early on that she was a tragic heroine.)

Some pluses and minuses:

Plus - I loved the starkness of the set and how the two main pieces moved and shifted. And I enjoyed most of the costuming - although I had expected a tad more plaid.

Minus - Not sure the "White Cliffs of Dover" look of the set really stands in that well for the Scottish moors. But, well, swampy grasslands probably wouldn't be quite as operatic. And Donizetti had probably never travelled there to get a feel for the area before writing it, anyway. On the other hand, I still can't figure out why one of the main characters basically showed up dressed in a black turtleneck, black trousers, and a black leather blazer like he was going out to dinner in New York.

Plus - Susanna Phillips (as Lucia) was incredible to listen to.

Minus - Of the male counterparts, the only voice I enjoyed (and could consistently hear over the orchestra) was that of the minister (played by Ben Wager).

Plus - The music, overall, was truly amazing. Although I wasn't blown away by the male voices, there was something about the score that really pulled me in.

Minus - As a musical theater fan, I'm always thrown by how operas cast for voices, primarily, and not for looks. I just couldn't see Lucia falling for any of these guys.

But, really, if you're going to splurge a bit on some art this week, I'd highly recommend it. (You can find full info on the production - and ticketing - here.) (The MNOpera often does "rush" sales just prior to the show if seats are available, if you need less expensive tickets - call their box office for details.)

Overall rating (from my "movie" scale): B+ because I just couldn't get into the male leads. But don't let that stop you from seeing it, because... well... you really just should.

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