For their 2009 production of Lucia di Lammermoor, the Met assembled perhaps the least Scottish-looking group of people on the planet. Almost all hail from beyond the former iron curtain, with the intended Mexican contingent, tenor Rolando Villazon, indisposed and replaced by Piotr Beczala, who was on site already for another role. 

Mara Blumenfeld’s lavish costumes suggest the Victorian era, and the cast can consider themselves lucky this took place in February rather than the hell of a New York summer. Daniel Ostling’s set design is also highly detailed and naturalistic, reminding you that the Met’s production budget, even compared to other first rank opera houses, is on another level entirely, the heathland for the first act covered with Hibernian frost. Both set (lit by T.J. Gerckens) and costumes are unremittingly dark, giving a brooding Gothic feel to the whole affair. But Mr Ostling’s crowning achievement has to be the set for the mad scene, a winding staircase and gallery set against the backdrop of a huge full moon, rendered in Kit Williams-like detail.

This broadly traditional production by Maria Zimmerman is nonetheless inventive, with some brilliant touches. When Edgardo bursts in on the wedding of Lucia and Arturo, absurdly shouting his own name in case we didn’t recognise him from the first act, there’s a dramatic hiatus as the principals all fall into a reverie (“Qual terribile momento”). Ms Zimmerman shrewdly covers this by having the wedding photographer arrange them into the happy family we know they aren’t, the Victorian theme carried over into a hypocritical need for outward displays of conformity. Ms Zimmerman also shows us the ghost Lucia is describing in the first act, having Lucia mirror her movements exactly, so it isn’t a huge surprise when Lucia returns as a ghost in the final scene, materially aiding Edgardo in his suicide to be with her again.

The performance is introduced by Natalie Dessay, who mentions (without dwelling on it à la Renee Fleming) that she once played Lucia in this production. Our Lucia, Russian star soprano Anna Netrebko, gives us a mad scene that’s undeniably tamer than Dessay’s and she doesn’t have the clarity in the coloratura runs of Joan Sutherland, perhaps the greatest singer of the role. However, she’s consistently engaging and lyrical, and achieves a real intensity in her duets with Mariusz Kwiecien as Lucia’s scheming brother Enrico. Mr Kwiecien is so chillingly evil that it’s hard to imagine him in any other kind of role, though he does show vulnerability when he tells Lucia of the fate that threatens the family if she doesn’t marry strategically.

Mr Beczala is undoubtedly up to the role of Edgardo, but seems to tire vocally at the beginning of the third act – it’s not clear exactly when the bombshell was dropped that he’d be filling in for Villazon, and what’s more on the night they were filming the show. However, the long mad scene gives him time to recover, and the end finds him in good voice again. Perhaps through lack of rehearsal, his duets with Lucia never quite achieve the dramatic intensity of Kwiecien’s, and their duet with each other at the beginning of the third act suffers from a little too much aimless stomping about.

Ildar Abdrazakov is imposing as Raimondo, though he seems young for the role and isn’t happiest in its lowest notes. Colin Lee makes a fresh-faced and lively Arturo, and Michaela Martens a capable Alisa. The world leading Met Chorus is in fine form as ever. In the pit, Marco Armiliato gives a sensitive account of the score, working well with Ms Netrebko in the mad scene – kudos to the Met, incidentally, for giving us a real glass harmonica. The video, directed by Gary Halvorson, makes good use of close-ups, but perhaps cuts a little too often from one shot to another at the expense of continuity.