You know you’re in for a spot of gloom when the ENO starts the evening with a black curtain hung across the stage. But if Sir Walter Scott’s tale is one of pretty much unremitting misery, this is also a thrilling night. David Alden’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor was last seen here in 2010 and this is a magnificent revival.
Lucia is a heroine so tormented by the men in her life that her only recourse is murder and madness. Her primary tormentor is her brother, Enrico who marries her off against her will – a mere chattel to sell in order to recover his fortunes. And there are darker suggestions of his treatment of her too – brutality and sexual assault included. Who can count the skeletons in this family’s cupboard? US baritone Lester Lynch, making his ENO debut, is a dark, brooding Enrico, with an equally dark, rich voice.
As Lucia’s lover, Edgardo, Eleazar Rodriguez is outstanding and in thrilling voice. He is, though, a deeply flawed hero. This is a man who throws Lucia to the ground in a fit of temper and is ready to believe the worst of her. It seems even he fails to perceive Lucia’s almost child-like innocence. But then Lucia is, in the end, a commodity to be ransomed for her brother’s fortunes, plotted against by family retainers (Elgan Llyr Thomas as an Iago-like Normanno) and men of the cloth (an oily Clive Bayley) alike.
Sarah Tynan is a Lucia who is barely out of the nursery, a frail girl-woman even before the trials she has to face. She sleeps in a narrow bed (she’s later tied to it by her monstrous brother) and still plays with her dolls. Forced to marry the popinjay Arturo (played with swaggering entitlement by Michael Colvin) she murders him on their wedding night. This is also Tynan’s debut as Lucia and it’s a role she utterly makes her own. Her sweet bel canto voice can be expressive or teeter on the touchingly fragile but she makes light work of her big moments and is quite superb in the Mad Scene. The inclusion here of Donizetti’s often discarded glass harmonica made for an eerie and thrilling duet.
The chorus are in fine form, too, the embodiment of the oppressive atmosphere that pervades the drama and destroys Lucia herself. They are Enrico’s creditors climbing through the windows of his rotting mansion. They are the guests at surely the gloomiest wedding in opera. They are the bystanders who avert their eyes as Lucia descends into madness.
English National Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the London Coliseum, St Martin’s Ln, London WC2N 4ES until 5 December 2018. Running time 2 hours 50 minutes. Production images by John Snelling. For more information and to book tickets please visit the website.