What's Playing? / Arden Anderson-Broecking
Published 6:39 pm, Thursday, August 16, 2012
Opera Theatre of Connecticut was founded in 1986 and has expanded its horizons since to include several other venues and events, including an opera cruise to the Bahamas. Productions are presented at the Andrews Memorial Theater in Clinton, a comfortable venue.
A family feud, a forced marriage, ghostly apparitions, madness, murder, with a hint of 16th-century politics - all of it set to some absolutely marvelous music.
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The tragic story unfolded on a functionally simple set, lit effectively by Matt McKinney. The effective costuming, by Kate Ford, was colorful and in period, including kilts, worn well by many of the men. Directed by Alan Mann, the acting was truthful, valid and convincing, and the staging suited the relatively limited playing area. The orchestra, using a reduced score, was conducted by Kyle Swann, perhaps a little overpowering once in a while, but very fine playing overall. The long, demanding harp solo in the first act was not a harp at all, but a keyboard with a remarkable recorded sound, excellently played by Lucas Wong.
I am beginning to think that, with some highly notable exceptions, the place to hear really good singing is in companies like this one.
I've heard many performances of this opera, and this one had terrific singing, which is what bel canto is all about, really. Heavily florid, romantic music, laden with arias and ensembles, all of which demanded not just vocal excellence, but also attention to character and the ability to convey the story, and these singers did just that.
The title role of Lucia was sung by Amanda Hall, a dramatic coloratura, with warm, solid heft in the middle and lower ranges, essential for the role, and a stratospheric top that never lost color.
Add to that, she made you want to cry for this lovely, fragile young woman in love with Edgardo but forced into an unwanted political marriage. She finally cracks completely in one of the most celebrated mad scenes of all time. Edgardo, sung by Luigi Boccia, was tall and good-looking, and had unflagging strength and tone in a ringing tenor voice.
His character's emotional life was full-flown, from passion to rage to despair. Lucia's unkind, self-absorbed brother, Enrico was sung by David Pearshall, who was a delight as Figaro in last season's "Barber of Seville." He showed an entirely different side in this role (you really didn't like him), but his strong, flexible, baritone negotiated the killer music of this role with seeming ease (it's not!) and a wonderful sound. Bass Daniel Hague was Raimondo Bidebent, a sympathetic clergyman, basically the conscience of this piece, a thread of continuity throughout the action. He tries to keep peace and to soften Enrico's heart, to no avail, and to comfort Lucia, yet persuade her to accept the marriage. Hague's full, deep sound brought this music to life. He has to tell the assembled company that Lucia has gone mad and murdered the man she has just married and break the news to Edgardo that Lucia has died calling his name. With sorrow and horror very clear, Hague's full, deep sound brought this music to life, and throughout, his singing was excellent.
Three smaller roles were also well done. The hapless Arturo, Lucia's bridegroom, was sung with sweet authority by lyric tenor Michael-Paul Kriubitzer. Tenor Jorge Prego, gallantly carrying on using old-fashioned crutches despite a badly sprained ankle, was a very good Normanno, Enrico's friend. He had a light moment, needed in this dark story, in which he had a brief flirtation with Lucia's companion, Alicia, attractive mezzo-soprano Karolina Wojteczko.
This is the third time I've been to this company's performances. It has a very interesting series of events planned for the upcoming season, and Clinton is not that far away. Next summer, the main stage production will be Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto."
For more information, call 860-669-8999.
Arden Anderson-Broecking is a theater and music critic residing in Fairfield County.