Guest review by: Donald Rosenberg I hope this doesn’t put us into overtime,” said Marty Merkley, Chautauqua Institution’s vice president and…
By Guest Critic Donald Rosenberg I hope this doesn’t put us into overtime,” said Marty Merkley, Chautauqua Institution’s vice president and…
Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, whose 200th birthdays are being celebrated this year, took a while to find their operatic footing. But not Benjamin Britten, who’ll be a mere 100 in November. With his first opera, Peter Grimes, Britten burst onto the scene as a master in the genre.
The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performs under circumstances that can only be termed unreasonable. The musicians rehearse and perform up to three programs a week, which would appear to work against any semblance of high standards. They often contend with climatic conditions that play tricks on reeds, keys, embouchures and more.
And yet, as it demonstrated Thursday in the Amphitheater, the ensemble can surmount most obstacles and turn in performances of remarkable depth and excitement. The principal offender on this occasion was rain, which fell throughout the concert, sometimes with defiant force, almost as if it intended to maintain a presence in the sonic textures.
How many dead tenors does it take to bring Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor to blazing life? Usually two. One portrays Arturo, the wealthy nobleman whom the conflicted heroine dispatches on their wedding night. The other is Edgardo, the mad maid’s true love — and enemy of the family — who stabs himself when he learns that Lucia has expired after doing her loony coloratura thing.
In Chautauqua Opera Company’s stirring production of Donizetti’s greatest hit Saturday in the Amphitheater, Lucia used her bloody knife on a third tenor, Normanno, during the mad scene. He’s the fellow who made major trouble by providing Enrico, Lucia’s dastardly brother, with a fake, forged note from Edgardo about an alleged infidelity.
The increased body count wasn’t the only ghoulish touch in Jay Lesenger’s inventive staging. Even before Lucia sang her first aria — about a jealous young man who stabbed his sweetheart — the ghosts of those figures danced across the stage. At key moments throughout the opera, they returned to reinforce the theme of doomed love.