The second opera of the 2021–22 season at the Teatro San Carlo was chosen from the canonical repertoire, which would predictably guarantee great success. Lucia di Lammermoor is at home in Naples, where it premiered in 1835, while Donizetti held the position of music director of the Royal Theatres of the town. It was acclaimed a masterpiece from the very first night and remains one of the archetypes of Romantic melodrama. The mix of thwarted love and the struggle for power has always provided explosive material for dramas usually ending in tragedy, and the ill-fated character of Lucia is not spared in this respect: hardly any other opera carries such an imprint of anguish and despair like this.

Nadine Sierra
© Luciano Romano/Teatro San Carlo

Director Michele Sorrentino Mangini revived again, as he did five years ago, a 2012 production originally helmed by Gianni Amelio. The staging is conventional and fully compliant with the libretto. The beautiful scenery by Nicola Rubertelli and the wonderful costumes by Maurizio Millenotti perfectly restored the Romantic image of a gloomy Scotland in the 16th century.  This traditional dramatization heartened the audience, somewhat weary of the useless “creativity” of many modern stagings; the performance was enthusiastically cheered even beyond its undeniable merits.

Nadine Sierra was called to take on the difficult role of Lucia. The American soprano sang with flawlessness and grace, exhibiting a fine bel canto flair. Even though her volume was not high, her beautiful singing line was grounded in a very good technique. Sierra has many of the qualities of a lyric coloratura soprano, with an extended range, graceful staccato, and agile leaps and trills. In “Regnava nel silenzio”, she showed poignancy and pathos, and her dramatic interpretation of Lucia increased progressively until the mad scene, where she was accompanied by the Sascha Reckert on the glass harmonica. Here she took the risk of exaggerating the vocal and dramatic tone, and it worked well. She was able to render all the different nuances of sensitivity and pain that make Lucia such a complex and fascinating character.

Pene Pati and Nadine Sierra
© Luciano Romano/Teatro San Carlo

Samoan tenor Pene Pati was Edgardo, with his ambivalent feelings: a passionate lover and a resentful rival. Pati strove to act his part with a more-than-necessary rush. He has a good instrument, though, with a timbre rich in overtones and some excellent technical abilities. Overall, he gave his character a heartfelt and sincere trait.

Lord Enrico Ashton, Lucia's unscrupulous brother, was interpreted by Gabriele Viviani with imposing presence and vocal authoritativeness. Dario Russo as Raimondo did not have a particularly effective projection in the recitatives and in certain points of the score, and his vocal line sounded a bit dried-up. Still, his bass possessed all high and low notes required, which he emitted and supported with perfect control. Carlo Bosi played the role of Normanno, Enrico's dishonest assistant; mezzo-soprano Tonia Langella was Alisa, Lucia's loving and supportive confidant. Daniele Lettieri as Arturo, though acceptable for most of the evening, stumbled into a bit of a vocal incident.

Gabriele Viviani and Nadine Sierra
© Luciano Romano/Teatro San Carlo

More than one eyebrow was raised by Carlo Montanaro’s conducting, who showed an excess of vehemence, not controlled by a solid technique. This led to a lack of cohesion and fair balance among the sections of the orchestra, to the detriment of the accents and dynamics. Under the baton of Montanaro, the ensemble produced a somewhat jangling sound throughout the work, with too-high volumes in the brass section that often hid the voices of the singers. The chorus prepared by José Luis Basso gave, once again, good support to the performance.