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Classical Review: More Than Just a Mad Scene

Tracy Dahl Steals the Show in Boston Lyric Opera...s ...Lucie de Lammermoor...

By Kelley Rivoire
EDITOR IN CHIEF

Lucie de Lammermoor

Boston Lyric Opera

Produced by Lillian Groag

Featuring Tracy Dahl, Gaetan Laperriere, Yasu Nakajima

Nov. 6, 2005, 3 p.m.

Shubert Theatre

Also being performed Nov. 11, 13, 15

Start with a Romeo and Juliet story. Now, crank up the drama a few notches — on a logarithmic scale — and you have Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucie de Lammermoor.” Performed by the Boston Lyric Opera in its French version, which the program notes describe as “meaner, leaner, and scarier” than the original Italian, “Lucie,” led by the phenomenal Tracy Dahl in the title role, breathtakingly thrills the audience.

Packed with action from beginning to end, the opera is a two hour forty minute tug at the emotions. The Romeo and Juliet story itself is not unusual. Lucie Ashton loves Edgard Ravenswood, but their love is fated to end badly because of a long-standing family conflict. The constant level of deceit and trickery, however, stands out — never once do the lovers ever enjoy a moment of true repose in this story based on “The Lady of the Lake” by Sir Walter Scott.

Lucie’s brother Henri, in political trouble so severe he fears for his life, arranges for Lucie to marry Arthur Bucklaw, who can save him from ill ends. Through one lie after another, to both Arthur and Lucie, he schemes and connives to get his way, sacrificing the happiness of everyone else for his own. Assisting him is the even more duplicitous Gilbert, whose easily flexible loyalties depend on who is paying him, and who mourns that Henri’s reluctance to have Edgard murdered will mean a lesser monetary reward for himself.

Lucie remains determined to wed Edgard, even as Arthur has him sent to France, until Gilbert makes a copy of the ring that promises him to Lucie, telling her that Edgard no longer loves her. Lucie, confused and alone, finally agrees to marry Arthur, but her wedding scene is one of fear and trembling rather than joy and happiness. Edgard makes an appearance and the chaplain Raymond barely stops a swordfight to the death.

A now married Lucie, manipulated by the men around her who conspired to keep her from the one she loved, feels she has nothing left for her in life and loses her sanity, This final fall leads to the infamous mad scene with the coloratura fireworks.

Dahl puts all she has into making us sympathize with Lucie, alone, confused, and without a friend (her female confidante Alisa, present in the Italian version, is eliminated here). Her every move portrays Lucie’s character, her voice perfect in each note of the elaborate, melismatic part. In a talented cast, the stage was hers, and she conquered the audience long before the mad scene.

Gaetan Laperriere excelled as Henri, not thoroughly evil, but desperately focused on saving himself at all costs; he sang marvelously as well. The role of the evil manipulator was left to Alan Schneider as Gilbert, whose posture and expressions matched his role. In the role of Edgard, Yasu Nakajima, a tremendous tenor, sang powerfully, though I couldn’t help but feel that much of his acting involved not much more than taking a controposto posture with a look of intent on his face.

The chorus, in particular the chorus of hunters, was also superb, with their phenomenal opening chorus, magnificently sung and beautiful choreographed, setting the bar for the rest of the opera.

The staging, simple in nature, was extremely effective. The thrusting angles of the painted background and terraced stage mirrored the constant tension of “Lucie.” The dark lighting, sometimes with a tinge of blood red added, also contributed to the mood.

“Lucie” presents a story of tension and deceit like few others. Performed by a lesser group, the constant melodrama might seem unrealistic and stifling. But the Boston Lyric Opera completely won me over; I fell for every dramatic device from start to end.