This was a night of opera to be cherished. The air of expectancy in the Joan Sutherland Theatre was palpable at the prospect of experiencing this particular performance by an Australian singer making her Sydney Opera House debut in a role for which she has won International acclaim, supported by a cast of outstanding local and International singers.
Jessica Pratt did not disappoint. Honed over nearly 100 performances in 20 different productions, her multi-faceted interpretation, as Donizetti’s tragic and fragile heroine, Lucia, who, forced into an arranged marriage by her unscrupulous brother, Enrico, to settle family debts, goes mad and murders her husband on their wedding night, was as near to perfection as one is ever likely to experience.
Pratt commands attention from her very first entrance, as she confidently attacks the complexities of the role. Her stagecraft is impeccable, her acting strong and affecting, and she certainly knows how to make the most of her costumes.
However, it’s her voice which really sets her apart. Her sound is crystalline clear over the full range, and she sings with incredible precision with each note perfectly produced to spine-tingling effect. Her trills and cadenzas are cut-glass clear, and even when she is singing at her most pianissimo, as in the mad scene when she sings Alfin son tua, alfin sei mio (At last I’m yours, you are mine at last), every note floats effortlessly to the far corners of the theatre.
However, Pratt is not the only outstanding singing in this production. Both American tenor, Michael Fabiano, as Lucia’s passionate lover, Edgardo, and Italian baritone, Giorgio Caoduro as her conniving brother, Enrico, sing magnificently and act with such conviction, that their solos and duets elicited excited “Bravos” from the audience.
Regular Opera Australia principals, Richard Anderson (Raimondo), Jane Ede (Alisa), John Longmuir (Arturo) and Benjamin Rasheed (Normanno) were certainly not overshadowed, offering strong characterizations and singing of distinction.
John Doyle’s austere production with its sombre abstract setting of grey clouds and geometrical shapes, devoid of any sense of time or period, with the chorus costumed in gloomy black and grey costumes, provided a suitably foreboding atmosphere.
His staging for the ensemble has them moving in regimented lines, curiously detached from the action, and in the mad scene, reduced to lines of faceless shadowy figures. This staging provides occasional welcome spectacle, but most often simply reduces the ensemble to background for the set-pieces performed by the principals.
The rich period costumes of the seven principal singers provide some visual relief and the staging is certainly effective in focusing the attention on the singing, which when you have a cast of singers as exceptional as these, backed by a fine chorus and impeccably accompanied by the Opera Australia Orchestra, under the baton of Carlo Montanaro, is exactly as it should be.
Lucia di Lammermoor
Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
Performance: Thursday 28 June 2018
Season continues to 27 July 2018
Information and Bookings: www.opera.org.au
Image: Jessica Pratt, Benjamin Rasheed and Michael Fabiano in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Sydney Opera House – photo by Prudence Upton
Review: Bill Stephens OAM