A configuration of armchairs, an Oriental rug and a coffee table will transform the Amphitheater stage into a living room this Sunday, as the 8 p.m. Sacred Song Service celebrates a man who sang gospel until he was 102 years old.
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.
Rachelle Durkin might have gone too far when she licked the bloody knife during rehearsal.
As the title character in Chautauqua Opera Company’s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Durkin descends into insanity before killing her new husband. She has never considered herself a method actress — accessing the thoughts and emotions of the character as if the actor’s own — but Lucia’s extreme persona brought out in Durkin a tendency to become the mad murderess.
“It changes every time, I never do the same thing twice,” Durkin said. “I look in the mirror and see myself with my wig on and blood all over my dress, and try to imagine that I murdered someone. To do it properly, I must conjure up some sort of emotional feedback, but since I’ve never murdered anyone, I have to go on what I’ve seen in movies, or what I’ve seen on ‘60 Minutes’ when they interview criminals. I end up pacing the floor.”
“The monk I trained with, who influenced me the most, told me: ‘Alan, what you have to face and what we struggle with most is God’s absolute lack of taste. God loves everyone. It is disgusting,’” said the Very Rev. Alan Jones at the beginning of his Sunday Morning Worship sermon, “The Call to Be Human.” Jones is dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, Calif. His text was Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 4:1-11.