Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) and William Burden (Edgardo)  in Seattle Opera’s astounding production of ‘Lucia di Lammermoor.’ Photo by Rozarii Lynch.
Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) and William Burden (Edgardo) in Seattle Opera’s astounding production of ‘Lucia di Lammermoor.’ Photo by Rozarii Lynch.
Seattle Opera's "Lucia di Lammermoor" is an astounding production, one of the best the company has ever done. If you miss it, you'll kick yourself-more than once.
Like Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" follows a pair of star-crossed lovers, Lucia and Edguardo, who are divided and destroyed by their families' enmity. Conductor Bruno Cinquegrani and director Tomer Zvulun never sacrifice the intense passions of the characters in this most popular bel canto tragedy to the beauty of its music. Instead, the duo, both new to Seattle Opera, manage to both play the bel canto stylishness and keep it emotionally real. In true bel canto fashion, the singers convey the characters' feelings through their voices, even when Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak is showcasing her technical prowess in the stratosphere as Lucia.
When I saw the production on Oct. 23, Kurzak and the Saturday cast were on fire. In her Seattle Opera debut, Kurzak blew the audience away with her beautiful, dramatic voice that has a top as fearless as her physicality. Unlike some Lucias, Kurzak's eventual mental meltdown was presaged as early as her first scene with Edguardo, in her acute anxiety over his pending departure into exile. More foreshadowing came in the form of a ghost, an apt addition to the Seattle production. The opera's famous Mad Scene is a marathon test of a soprano's ability to convey Lucia's insanity and grief, all while displaying prodigious technique. Kurzak was truly crazed, ripping apart flowers, rolling on the floor, mistaking wedding guests for her lover Edguardo, slicing her wrists. I'm seldom completely convinced by an opera's Mad Scene, but Kurzak's was one of the best pieces of acting I've seen, operatic or otherwise.
Just as tough is the opera's finale, immediately following the Mad Scene. If the tenor in the role of Edguardo can't persuade an audience he is in a downward spiral of despair, then his death is a non sequitur. Fortunately, Edguardo in Seattle Opera's Saturday cast was William Burden, who has an emotionally expressive tenor as smooth as warm cream.
In another Seattle Opera debut, baritone Ljubomir Puskaric wasn't initially as forbidding as I expected of Enrico, but that changed. And refreshingly his Enrico was no two-dimensional villain but rather a complex character driven by fear of destruction into forcing his sister to wed Arturo, a nobleman who could save the family.
Always a hit at Seattle Opera, Arthur Woodley brought his marvelously resonant voice plus a gravitas and understanding to Raimondo, the family priest. Three Seattle Opera Young Artists also made fine main-stage debuts in smaller roles: Eric Neuville as Enrico's henchman Normanno, Andrew Stenson as Arturo and Lindsey Anderson as Lucia's companion Alisa.
The orchestra was spot on with their impressive playing under Cinquegrani's baton, as was the Seattle Opera chorus, rehearsed by chorusmaster Beth Kirchhoff. Harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon's arresting solo work reflected Lucia's vibrant unworldliness. Scott Goff's flute solo in the Mad Scene poignantly paralleled Lucia's voice
To reflect the story's timelessness, Kvulun eschewed the opera's original 17th-century Scotland's tartans and moved it into the mid-19th century, tapping into the repressiveness of Victorian society. Deborah Trout's lovely costumes reflected the period in lightly luxe fabrics and subdued colors. Robert Dahlstrom deftly adapted the set he designed for Seattle Opera's 2008 production of "I Puritani," which Robert Wierzel lit with an enigmatically dramatic edge.

Seattle Opera's "Lucia di Lammermoor" plays at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., through Saturday, Oct. 30. Prices $25-$191. Tickets/information: 389-7676, www.seattleopera.org.

Freelance writer Maggie Larrick lives in the Seattle area.