Against a backdrop of vocal brilliance, powerful emotions and internecine battles, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor has all the makings of a highly dramatic opera. Nice Opera brings to the stage this co-production with Teatro Verdi de Pise.
Starring Kathryn Lewek in the title role, with Oreste Cosimo as her secret lover Edgardo, Mario Cassi as her overbearing brother Enrico and Philippe Kahn as the priest Raimondo, Lucia di Lammermoor is considered by many to be Gaetano Donizetti’s finest work.
Although no longer an unknown composer in 1835, Donizetti really established his reputation with Lucia di Lammermoor. The story is loosely based on Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel, The Bride of Lammermuir, set in the Lammermuir Hills in south-east Scotland. The novel – which in turn is roughly based on a real-life murder that scandalized 17th-century Scotland – tells of the tragic and doomed love affair between Lucy Ashton and Edgar Ravenswood. Their feuding families were sworn enemies, as the Ashtons had ousted the Ravenswoods from their ancient estate which ultimately became Enrico’s possession.
In Donizetti’s opera, with a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, the Ashton family’s fortunes are in a perilous state. Enrico decides that in order to salvage the situation, his sister Lucia must marry well. Lucia has been having secret trysts with Edgardo Ravenswood to whom she has sworn loyalty, and on learning this, Enrico vows to end the affair and destroy his enemy. He forces Lucia to marry Lord Arturo, but on her wedding night Lucia suffers a complete breakdown, totally losing her mind, and leading to what’s regarded as one of the most unforgettable ‘mad scenes’ ever created. The opera premiered at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples on September 26th, 1835.
American soprano Kathryn Lewek – who reprises her 2020 role as Lucia for Nice Opera – has made her name as Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). According to New York Classical Review, “Lewek has to be the finest contemporary Queen of the Night, bar none”. This season she will mark her 50th performance of the role at The Met. Other engagements during the 2022-23 season include role débuts as Countess Adèle in Rossini’s Le comte Ory with Lyric Opera of Chicago and one of the Heroines in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann with Deutsche Oper Berlin, house débuts with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Semperoper Dresden as Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, and she will also sing the role in a return to the Vienna Staatsoper. Future seasons include reprisals of the roles of Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, as well as long awaited role débuts of Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto.
The role of Lucia’s brother, Enrico, is taken by Italian baritone Mario Cassi. Winner of several important international competitions, Mr Cassi’s operatic repertoire ranges from the music of Handel, Porpora, Cavalli and Mozart to contemporary music, with special attention to the Italian bel canto works, such as those by Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. Roles in which he has appeared include Figaro in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Marcello in Pucccini’s La bohème, the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Conte d’Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Conte di Luna in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Sharpless in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. He has most recently appeared as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata and Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro for Opera Australia.
Italian tenor Oreste Cosimo takes the role of Lucia’s secret lover, Edgardo, a role he has previously sung for Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duesseldorf, Aalto Theater Essen and Opera Craiova in Romania. He has recently appeared in the title role in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann and as Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata for the Israeli Opera, and other major roles in which Mr Cosimo has appeared include Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème, the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
The role of Raimondo the priest is taken by French bass Philippe Kahn who has performed in some of the major opera houses in France, across Europe and in the United States. Mr Kahn’s repertoire includes roles such as Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Commander in his Don Juan, Father Laurence in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Nilakantha in Delibes’ Lakmé, Colline in Puccini’s La bohème, Zaccaria in Verdi’s Nabucco, Il Commendatore in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Basilio in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
Also in the cast are Maurizio Pace as Lord Arturo the ill-fated bridegroom, Karine Ohanyan as Lucia’s handmaid Alisa and Gregoire Mour as the huntsman Normanno.
Stage Director Stefano Vizioli has guested in some of the most important theatres in Italy and worldwide, working with eminent international conductors. Included in his greatest triumphs are Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at La Scala in Milan, Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and Bellini’s Norma at Ravenna Festival.
The conductor of Lucia di Lammermoor is Andriy Yurkevitch, Music Director at the Polish National Opera. He has also worked with Monte Carlo Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Bayerische Staatsoper, Liceu in Barcelona, Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Greek National Opera and San Francisco Opera.
Maestro Yurkevitch leads the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in four performances of Lucia di Lammermoor between 17th and 23rd February. Further information is available on the Nice Opera website.
This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz