Operagasm Exclusive! Dallas Opera’s Lucia: A Wonderfully Tragic Evening
by Laura Begley
Last Friday night, Dallas Opera kicked off its fifty-fifth season of “Tragic Obsessions” with a bang in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. I am excited to see how Dallas is striving to do what every company needs to do in these uncertain times by bringing opera to the masses. For the second year running, they provided a simulcast, free-of-charge, outside (think the Met HD showings) which featured the opera as well as backstage interviews. Beforehand, there was also a red carpet and a bit of a fashion show for spectators.
Now on to the actual opera itself! I have to say that I was worried about writing this review after the first scene. To get the bad out of the way, I was rather disappointed with the American debut of baritone Luca Grassi as Enrico. He struggled to be heard over the orchestra in the first scene and his tone was quite flat in comparison to the richness heard in his fellow stars. That being said, he did improve as the night progressed and his duets in later acts were pleasant while his voice was complimentary to the rest of the singers. Grassi’s dullness in Act I was only amplified by the wealth of beauty heard in the other voices.
Tenors Scott Quinn and Aaron Blake as Normanno and Arturo, respectively, sang their roles beautifully. Quinn gave great presence to his small role and Blake’s light tenor was quite striking. Mezzo-soprano Cynthia Hanna gave her rich color to Alisa and while the character can be easily forgotten in the presence of Lucia, Hanna’s voice literally made the audience sit up and take notice.
It’s rare to not have Lucia di Lammermoor be all about Lucia, but this production was blessed to have not just one but three standouts of the night. Tenor Bryan Hymel’s performance of Edgardo was breath-taking. His voice easily filled the great hall from his first entrance and gave an interesting pairing to the light lilt of Lucia in the first act. Hymel was wonderful in the first two acts but he really shined in the dramatic third act as every note was sung with exquisite beauty. Bass Jordan Bisch may have stolen the night for me though. Bisch’s portrayal of the priest Raimondo was operagasmic! With a commanding presence of the stage, Bisch was able to let out his rich roar of sound at every note. Every one-word interjection filled the hall with some of the richest color I have ever heard. Bisch’s tone alone sold me as one of the best live voices I have ever had the privilege to hear, so it was an added bonus that he was a commanding actor and ensemble singer as well.
And then, there was soprano Elena Mosuc as the main character Lucia. I was impressed with her ability to control her voice from the start as she had one of the best mezza di voces that I have ever heard. The Romanian soprano was a lovely Lucia in the first act; she looked beautiful, she was a great actress, and she had a lovely voice. Her first aria was pretty, with some really spectacular moments, but to be honest, I was nervous that she may not have enough gusto to really perform the third act and thought she overused her great mezza di voce a bit. After the second act though, I was sold. Mosuc glided through the music with such beauty and grace that it was impossible to not be in love with her voice, and then came the Act III “Mad Scene.” Stunning. Simply stunning. Not only was her acting superb but her singing was perfect — it was the most elegant and poised mad scene I could have imagined.
Act II and Act III were really quite amazing. The combined efforts of Mosuc, Hymel, and Bisch were enough to get anyone to fall in love with the world of opera. The famous sextet was beautiful and the chorus master Alexander Rom deserves credit for the outstanding chorus. David Zimmerman and the late Peter J. Hall also deserve applause for their great wig/make-up and costume design which transported the audience into Scotland. I wish the set (designed by the late Henry Bardon) could have been tailored so that the breaks between scenes for changes weren’t so long, but the simplicity of it was perfect to keep the focus on the singers.
I must congratulate Dallas Opera on their wonderfully tragic season opener and applaud the performers, director Garnett Bruce, conductor Graeme Jenkins and his orchestra on a job well done. The biggest disappointment of the night was that every seat wasn’t filled to see this beautiful production of Lucia di Lammermoor.
Laura has been a part of summer training programs for the past 4 years having performed starting as a soloist in Austria in ’08 with the acclaimed AIMS in Graz program and in Italy in ’09 with the Orvieto Musica- Art of Song Festival. Laura performed many times in a chamber setting in Italy during the Art of Song Festival and was the featured soloist in an Amani String Quartet’s recital performing Respighi’s Il Tramonto. Laura was also selected to sing for 2 weeks at the Amalfi Coast Music Festival. At the Amalfi Coast Music Festival, Laura performed in recitals and scenes as Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Mallika in Delibes’ Lakmé, and Nicklausse in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffman., and performed a mainstage role as Third Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte conducted by Joseph Walsh. Laura recently returned from being an Opera Studio Artist with Opera Saratoga (formerly Lake George Opera) where she performed in all the mainstage shows as well as performing in a duet recital. This fall Laura was once again selected as a finalist in the UNT concerto competition and will compete in finals later this month. Upcoming performances include a scene from Robert Ward’s The Crucible as Elizabeth Proctor, scenes as Sister Helen Prejean from Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking with UNT Opera Theatre, and Suzuki in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at UNT.