The Opéra de Montréal promised great singers for the 2019-20 season. They delivered in Eugene Onegin (with a cast led by Nicole Car and Etienne Dupuis, read review) and now also in Lucia di Lammermoor, notwithstanding some opening night jitters and cast changes before rehearsals started.
What you missed?
No opening night jitters for Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl in the role of Enrico, controlling nasty brother to Lucia, replacing the originally cast of American baritone Lucas Meachem, who ditched the OdM to replace Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakhov in six performances of Don Giovanni at Chicago Lyric Opera. Dahl showed off a solid voice and firm legato, continuing his string of successes.
Replacing “international superstar” Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova (indisposed) was Korean-American soprano Kathleen Kim, who starred in the 2011 Met Live in HD of John Adam’s Nixon in China. From her first notes, it’s clear that Kim has also an international calibre voice, as it projected easily in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. The first aria and duet showed some unsteadiness in her sound, which eventually subsided after her first duet with Edgardo. She went on to a wildly effective Mad scene in the third act which brought the house down. I would have much preferred a fuller or more dramatic voice for Lucia to feel the emotional dynamic of the character, but Kim looked young and her slender pin-point voice fit the young age of women who were forced into loveless marriages of that epoch. Throughout though, Kim strained to reach the highest notes in Lucia’s score.
Canadian tenor Frédéric Antoun also caught the opening jitters in his first vocal entrances, as he tended to sing in his throat. But he shook it off midway in his opening duet with Lucia in Act I, and he sang heroically the rest of the way, including moments of vocal gold in third Act.
From row R in the parterre, Modovan bass Oleg Tsibulko sounded hollow and whoofy in the role of Raimondo, Lucia’s tutor priest. But for Act III, I moved to row F of the corbeil, and he projected quite well with some ring to his voice.
In the secondary roles, Atelier lyrique graduate tenor Rocco Rupolo did well in the role of Normanno, while Atelier lyrique member mezzo Florence Bourget showed promise as Alisa. 2018 CMIM aria division winner tenor Mario Bahg was effective as Arturo, but this role doesn’t really show off his abilities.
Michael Cavanagh’s staging was generally decent, but infused with excesses. Like in OdM’s Onegin production, the use of a ghost at Lucia’s Act I dream aria seems kitschy. But the ghost kept coming back and it really got out of hand at the end with 5 ghosts to witness Edgardo’s death.
Also, at the end, Normanno handing a dagger to Edgardo to suggest suicide was not really necessary. What message was Cavanagh trying to convey? Is this the same dagger Lucia used to kill Arturo? Not clear.
Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, presented by the Opéra de Montréal, runs Nov. 9, 12, 14
and 17 in Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts.