A review of Seattle Opera's new production of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor." The staging, by Tomer Zvulun, is a nearly unalloyed triumph, writes reviewer Bernard Jacobson. Aleksandra Kurzak, making her company and role debut as Lucia, set the theater alight both vocally and dramatically.

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Opera Review |

Cold logic might admittedly raise a question or two about Seattle Opera’s new production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” For one thing, there’s a ghost interfering in the proceedings. And though the top-hatted mourners with their umbrellas in the snowy final scene make a wonderful stage picture, “it’s lucky” — as my wife remarked after the final curtain came down — “that they took their mourning clothes to the party!”

But then, an opera is hardly a prime candidate for assessment by cold logic, especially when it culminates in the most famous of all mad scenes. To my mind, Israeli stage director Tomer Zvulun’s debut production for the company was a practically unalloyed triumph.

Usually, stage business while the prelude is playing serves only to distract, but in this case the eerie passage of the aforesaid ghost was a poetic touch justified by later events, and foretelling Lucia’s obsession with the ghost of an earlier victim of violence at the hands of her beloved’s family. Such effects are heightened by set designer Robert Dahlstrom’s frequent use of scrims, working hand in hand with lighting designer Robert Wierzel to add a touch of mystery to the action. Deborah Trout’s costumes handsomely echo the transfer of the story to the mid-19th century. Zvulun’s production marshals principals and Beth Kirchhoff’s superb chorus on a clever set adapted from the one Dahlstrom originally created in 2008 for “I puritani” with telling clarity, drawing intensely lifelike performances from all concerned. A moving touch was a kiss he had Edgardo plant on Lucia’s lips even while repudiating her, emphasizing the ambivalence of his fury.

Three roles were double-cast. On opening night, William Burden made a formidable hero, evoking the urbane and complex character of Walter Scott’s novel more than the simpler figure of the opera’s Edgardo, and rightly letting passion trump literalism in his singing. As Enrico, Ljubomir Puskaric, initially a shade colorless, gained strength as the evening went on. But it was Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, making her company and role debut as Lucia, that set the theater alight both vocally and dramatically. She made me believe she really was Lucia.

In the Sunday-Friday cast, Davinia Rodriguez was not so credible in the title role, though she achieved some clarion high notes, but Philip Cutlip was a fine Enrico and Scott Piper’s Edgardo rivaled Burden’s with singing by turns strong and meltingly delicate.

Besides good work on both days from Seattle Opera Young Artists Eric Neuville as Normanno, Lindsey Anderson as Alisa and Andrew Stenson as Arturo, company favorite Arthur Woodley contributed a sonorous and sympathetic Raimondo. Conductor Bruno Cinquegrani paced the score authoritatively, and excellent orchestral playing was highlighted by impressive solos from harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon and flutist Scott Goff.