Desolate, dark, and brooding, the Scottish moors in this 2011 Met production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor by Mary Zimmerman (a revival whose previous outing at the Met had been two years earlier) mirror the personality and fate of the opera's tragic title character. The bleak, grey-and-blue landscape with which the opera opens, with bare trees silhouetted against the backdrop and a detailed rocky terrain, creates plenty of atmosphere, and T.J. Gerckens’s lighting design suitably and subtly adds to the effect. The backdrop for Act II, when preparations are being made for the wedding, sets the scene with the interior of an old house, of faded grandeur, its curtains shredded and furniture covered in dust. It’s certainly ominous.

But for all its subtlety and muted palette, this production is unassumingly sumptuous, most notably in Mara Blumenfeld's costume design: witness the patterned taffeta and exquisite tailoring of Lucia's bustled, full-length skirt and matching jacket, or the silk tie beneath the swathes of Edgardo's heavy woollen cape, not to mention the vast number of equally detailed, mostly silver-grey finery worn by the chorus.  

Following on from Anna Netrebko in the 2009 Met production, here we have Natalie Dessay in the title role once again (she sang Lucia at this production's first outing in 2007). For Ms. Dessay, Lucia is something of a signature role, and her excellent acting ability makes her a good fit for it. Lucia's histrionic character, her desperation and her ultimate madness are all brought out here, and with a superb voice, too. Dessay has a gift for capturing the fragility of her character, even in Lucia's more confident moments (as in “Ardon gli incensi”, in which she boldly takes and commands centre stage). By the end, we are so drawn into the character that there is a bizarre and chilling sense of normality about her madness and that incident with Arturo, her bridegroom.

Joseph Calleja brings resonance and light to his Edgardo. His is not only a pleasant sound, but one which, coupled with a fine stage presence, invites the viewer to sympathise with his plight. By contrast, that Enrico is a villain is almost instantly obvious. Ludovic Tézier lends a seductive, plummy baritone to his odious character, which works compellingly well. Kwangchul Youn makes for an authoritative Raimondo, most particularly – and crucially – in “Dalle stanze, ove Lucia”, in which he announces Lucia's deadly deed to the masses. Matthew Plenk's smaller role, as Arturo, is not to be forgotten. He sings sensitively, is charming, and demonstrates his protective nature in “Esci, fuggi”.

Lucia di Lammermoor is an opera in which the chorus gets some memorable outings, and the Met Chorus certainly does itself justice here. On the one hand, the nature of the chorus's interventions always makes them difficult to forget. On two occasions they express their great joy: once, at the supposedly forthcoming nuptials between Arturo and Lucia and later, when Lucia kills her bridegroom. Musically and dramatically the Chorus has no less spark than the main characters. The singing is underpinned by Patrick Summers' precise, well-judged conducting and the Met Opera Orchestra's responsive playing.