Young Stars Shine in Vancouver Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”

Reviews from the Production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” from Vancouver Opera, starring two great young performers, the elegant Eglise Gutierrez and the masterful Michael Fabiano.

Review: Mad About Lucia

By David Gordon Duke, Special to The Sun December 5, 2010

Lucia di Lammermoor

Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Saturday, December 4

Performances continue December 7, 9, and 11

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Vancouver Opera has another hit in its recent string of must-see productions: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which opened a four-evening run at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday.

This bel canto favourite holds its place in the repertoire as a vehicle for just the right singer; but while this production glories in the contribution of a single star, the endeavour has other strengths. These include a picturesque (if appropriately gloomy) set and Amiel Gladstone’s pragmatic direction, a fundamentally traditional staging enlivened with a few surprises.

Then there’s the sensitive work of the VO orchestra, led with dash and real verve by Jonathan Darlington. Casting is consistent, with bass-baritone Burak Bilgili and Gregory Dahl turning in strong performances as, respectively, the Lammermoor chaplain and Enrico, Lucia’s dastardly brother.

Tenor Michael Fabiano is showcased in the role of Edgardo, Lucia’s love interest. Fabiano’s big voice is still a trifle inconsistent at the top, but he delivers with a flashy confidence, and an unmistakable charisma animates all his big numbers. His raw intensity takes the second act finale to a level of dramatic clarity that makes the plot seem, for just a split second, remotely plausible.

Here is a tenor to watch.

But the evening begins and ends, just as Donizetti meant it to, with the title role. Vancouver audiences had their first glimpse of soprano Eglise Gutiérrez in Rigoletto a few seasons ago; Lucia shows what Gutiérrez can really do.

Her vocal technique is more than a match for the gruelling demands of bel canto: she has the utterly reliable high notes, the quicksilver agility, the sense of line, the feel for ornamentation and, most significantly, the taste to own the role.

Gutiérrez stopped the show with her first number, and thereafter went from strength to strength. Her take on the fabled third act “mad scene” was clean and consistent, a musical and dramatic tour de force abetted by wonderful work from the orchestra’s principal flute—playing so tangible and supple that it might just as well have been coming from a character up on stage.

The great bel canto operas are the property of vocal stars who can make them live, and force audiences to see beyond their stylized conventions. Eglise Gutiérrez is just such a star, and her Lucia is old school opera at its most powerful.


The Vancouver Sun

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Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 2:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nixon in China opens to great reviews at Vancouver Opera and heads to Toronto next season.

As of late, there has been a resurgence of interest in John Adam’s 1987 opera, “Nixon in China,” to a libretto by Alice Goodman.  The opera details the visit of United States President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972, where he met with China’s Chairman Mao Zedong and other Chinese officials.

The work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Houston Grand Opera and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It premiered at the Houston Grand Opera, October 22, 1987 in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris.
The opera focuses on the personalities and personal histories of the six key players, Nixon and his wife Pat, Jiang Qing (spelled “Chiang Ch’ing” in the libretto) and Chairman Mao (“Mao Tse-tung”), and the two close advisors to the two parties, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai (“Chou En-lai”). It is composed of three acts. The first details the anticipation and arrival of the Nixon cortege and the first meeting and evening in China. The second act shifts focus to Pat Nixon, as she makes tours of rural China, including an encounter at a pig farm. The second scene includes a performance of a Communist propaganda play, in which first Pat Nixon, then her husband and then Jiang Qing, intercede in the performance. The last act chronicles the last night in China, in which the characters dance a foxtrot, their thoughts wandering to their own pasts.

Composer, John Adams

Musically, the opera perhaps owes more influence to minimalism than any Asian styles. (John Adams adapted the foxtrot theme from the last act into a concert piece entitled “The Chairman Dances”, published before the opera in 1985. In the intervening period, Adams switched publishers, hence the Foxtrot for Orchestra being published by G. Schirmer and the opera by Boosey & Hawkes.) The libretto, by contrast, was written completely in rhymed, metered couplets, reminiscent of poetic and theatrical styles native to China.

Here are some recent reviews for the Canadian premiere of “Nixon and China”:

“Nixon in Vancouver: a triumphant visit” by Elissa Poole (Globe and Mail)

Review in the Vancouver Straight by Janet SmithFrom the Vancouver Sun

Nixon in China coming to Toronto for 2010/11 season

Several years ago, John Adam’s work, “On the Transmigration of Souls,” touched me deeply following the 2001 September 11 attacks.  The work deserves a mention, due to its juxtaposed palate and the type of sound that is unmistakably recognized with Adams. Adams began writing the piece in late January 2002 for a requested tribute for September 11. The music was premiered by the New York Philharmonic on 19 September 2002 at Avery Fisher Hall. It is approximately 25 minutes long. In an interview Adams explained: “I want to avoid words like ‘requiem’ or ‘memorial’ when describing this piece because they too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn’t share. If pressed, I’d probably call the piece a ‘memory space.’ It’s a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions. The link to a particular historical event – in this case to 9/11 – is there if you want to contemplate it. But I hope that the piece will summon human experience that goes beyond this particular event.”

The title itself carries a certain heaviness of thought and meaning. According to Adams, “Transmigration means ‘the movement from one place to another’ or ‘the transition from one state of being to another.’ But in this case I meant it to imply the movement of the soul from one state to another. And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience.” Adams received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music for the piece. Its premiere recording (with Lorin Maazel conducting the New York Philharmonic, New York Choral Artists, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus), received the 2005 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Its sheet music is published by Boosey & Hawkes.