Lucia di Lammermoor, Buxton Opera House

A review of the Donizetti opera performed at this year’s Buxton Festival

A gauze drop curtain with the picturesque castle ruins emblazoned on it, more Italian than Scottish to hazard a guess, greets you on stage upon entering the auditorium for Donizetti’s opera.

Behind it is dark gloom and misery!2142972

Stage director Stephen Unwin updates the action to what looks like a circa-1950s scenario and populates it with gun-toting gangsters, yanked out of shoulder holsters at every opportunity – mafia families for Scottish clans perhaps?

Cigarettes are lit with great regularity and smoked unconvincingly; Edgardo kills himself with a pocket penknife at the end; historical references and swords in the English side-titles bear no relation to period they are in on stage.

From a personal point of view, music redemption is scarce. The Sulla tomba duet at the end of act one and famous Sextet come off extremely well and there is a wonderful Mad Scene.

In truth, Elin Pritchard didn’t set off too promisingly as Lucia on the first night but she warmed up superbly and delivered a totally triumphant Mad Scene, capping it with a magnificent, full-toned top C hit on a sixpence. The coloratura fireworks with the flute are ironed out but it still works.

Her Edgardo, Adriano Graziano is not overly convincing dramatically but has a pleasant enough tenor voice that is not always up to sustaining Donizetti’s vocal lines, most noticeable in the last scene.

No acting problems for Stephen Gadd as Enrico – on the contrary! – but his strong baritone is often too forceful and unwieldy for the music, while Andrew Greenan’s bass didn’t always sound happy in that given to Raimondo.

Stephen Barlow’s conducting is idiomatic, but neither the orchestra nor chorus quite reached the exalted levels of 24 hours earlier in Verdi. The chorus frequently looked uneasy, too!!

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