« Answering Questions about Charles Ives | Main | Honegger's Woman Joan, a "Pretty Candle"? »

Lucia di Lammermoor, Girl Toy

Apparently the Dresser has not been to enough opera in Europe. Never has she experienced an opera production where the audience rose to their feet with thunderous applause but also booed. This is what happened for Washington National Opera's opening night November 10, 2011, at the Kennedy Center for David Alden's production of Lucia di Lammermoor sung in Italian with English surtitles.Lucia.png

What pleased? What displeased the Washington, DC audience that is usually too eager to show their appreciation? The cast pleased, especially and rightly so, the singing of Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu playing Lucia's lover Edgardo and American soprano Sarah Coburn playing Lucia, but apparently the director's interpretation, which made Lucia a girl toy to her cruel, maybe incestuously attracted, brother Enrico played by American baritone Michael Chioldi, angered a large portion of the audience.

For the Dresser's part, since her preference is for contemporary opera, everything about this Donizetti opera originally premiered in 1835 drew her in. The cast was outstanding. Take note that this casts sings only three more times November 13 matinee, 15, and 18. The black and white sets and costumes make an impressive metaphoric statement--something is horribly wrong with the landscape and people who populate it. Most importantly the direction added a new layer of attention.

Librettist Salvadore Cammarano based his libretto on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor that depicts a brother in debt forcing his sister to forsake her true love to marry for money but she loses her mind and kills the unwanted groom with a knife. To the foundation story, Alden magnifies the brother-sister relationship. The most telling scene is where the brother, in her bedroom--a room stilled filled with toys, sits on her bed stroking a doll and says to his sister she must marry Lord Arturo Buklaw (American tenor Corey Evan Rotz). What cinches the concept of the brother-as-predator is that he helps put Lucia in her wedding dress and he does this with another man.

Alden.pngHow Alden frames the story is masterful. As the curtain goes up and the overture plays under the baton of Philippe Auguin, Lucia sleeps fitfully in a narrow bed whose railed head- and footboards look like a prison. Pretty soon the huge windows of her sleeping chamber are framed with men peering in and eventually prying open the windows and entering in this unorthodox fashion. Alden uses framing in another way too. He puts Lucia on a curtained stage high above the floor where initially she dangles her feet as she sits on the edge talking to her companion Alisa (American mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko) and waiting for Edgardo to appear for a late night secret meeting. When she jumps down from the stage landing on all four limbs, one notices she is dressed as a child. Her skirt does not cover her ankles like Alisa's. Later this stage, with curtains pulled aside, becomes the matrimonial bedroom where Lucia has murdered Arturo.

Did Alden get this angry reception when he premiered this production in London for the English National Opera? The Dresser wasn't in London in 2008 to know.

The bottom line for the Dresser is anything David Alden directs would be worth experiencing, because she is bound not to like what those booing in the Kennedy Center's opera house prefer.

Like Alden's Lucia, the woman in B. K. Fischer's poem "Paperweight Museum" is a sex toy who lives in a world she does not seem able to escape.


The girl goes walking in the city
and the storm begins, snow settling
on garlanded façades, taxicabs,
her coat. A world full of water
with a teaspoon of air at the top.
Bubbles blown in with syringes
while glass is still molten, a knife
plunged into multi-colored sand.

She has a bunny tail and bustier,
Tweety Bird eyes. If you shake her,
she disrobes; when the sediment
settles, the catsuit's on again. She
lives in a place where there are no
cypress trees, no Roman ramparts.
Interior figures are acrylic, lit
from a bulb in the melamine base.

The girl stays in bed long after
the lover has left. Props herself
against the cheap veneer. Lamps
are brass and bolted down, curtains
drawn with a cord on a pulley
that swings free. In the last gasp,
the lover looked away from her
flesh, as from a needle stick.

The girl is getting up now, opens
the window. Papers blow across
the bureau--map, take-out menu,
missive to herself on waking. Heavy
odor of workshirt, menthol cigarettes.
She looks around for something to
hold it all down--lead-crystal apple,
bronzed baby shoes, a rock from

the grave of Elvis. Just not a globe,
please not a globe, a little world.

B. K. Fischer
from Mutiny Gallery

Copyright © 2011 B. K. Fischer


Post a comment

Use this form to place a comment to a post in the blog. You must include a valid email address for spam protection. Please see our Privacy Policy for details on how your private information is used and protected. Your comment will be posted as soon as it is reviewed by the blog editor.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 11, 2011 9:47 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Answering Questions about Charles Ives.

The next post in this blog is Honegger's Woman Joan, a "Pretty Candle"?.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.