For every opera lover it is a true joy to see a singer in his prime, improving with every performance and conquering new roles. Javier Camarena’s debut as Edgardo is yet another solid step in his career, which together with Lisette Oropesa’s charismatic Lucia and David Alden’s powerful staging, contributed to a triumphal night at the Teatro Real.

Javier Camarena (Edgardo) and Lisette Oropesa (Lucia) © Javier del Real | Teatro Real
Javier Camarena (Edgardo) and Lisette Oropesa (Lucia)
© Javier del Real | Teatro Real

Edgardo is a daunting role for a light-lyric tenor. His first phrases in Act 1 are constant heroic climbs to the passaggio, where Camarena’s voice still seems a bit uneasy, losing some of its rich and beautiful colour. Almost all the high notes are also attacked with the help of portamento, always a bit open but immediately corrected and covered with masterful technique. Besides these obvious caveats, it is amazing how he owns the role as if he had been singing it for years. The richness and contrast of his phrasing, from the affronted noble to the ethereal lover, sustained by a total control of colour and dynamics, is a masterclass of bel canto singing. In the sextet, he negotiated the dramatism of the score with a poignant expression of repressed anger. But it was in "Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali”, precisely the most lyrical part of the role, where he truly excelled, with mesmerising mezzavoce and the ecstatic effect of the high C sharp on “ascenda”, optional in the score and seldom sung.

Outstanding debut aside, it was Lisette Oropesa who brought the house down with her candidness on stage and her total match with the production’s concept. Her dramatic triumph wasn’t so unqualified at the vocal level. Her technique is canonic, allowing a total command of her beautiful voice, which possess a sober and warm colour at the centre. Despite giving all the high Es, her instrument tends to sound tenser in its higher range, which diminishes the effect of the cabalette, specially in repetitions, where the usual variations didn’t always reach their intended effect. Her final scene, however, was magnetic, phrased with subtlety and sung with perfect trills and astonishing fiato in the long arcs.

Lisette Oropesa (Lucia) and Artur Ruciński (Enrico) © Javier del Real | Teatro Real
Lisette Oropesa (Lucia) and Artur Ruciński (Enrico)
© Javier del Real | Teatro Real

Artur Ruciński was a harsh, merciless Enrico. A bit cold and unconvincing in his aria, he progressed along the night and was impressive in his duet with Lucia. Roberto Tagliavini has one of the most beautiful basses today, a lyric and soft timbre that seduces the ear but lacks authority in the lower range. Yijie Shi was a real treat as Arturo, with an attractive light tenor and elegant singing, and might have well been the third Edgardo of this run. The chorus, which sounded less unified than usual, made a true impression right before the mad scene, with loud, rich high notes and well dynamic contrast.

Daniel Oren gave a good rendition of the score in which all the sections could be heard perfectly. His energetic conducting altered the tempi at will, producing an interesting effect of instability, although some extreme rallentandos resulted in occasional power cuts in the musical phrases. The string section sounded fresh and rich as usual, but the horns didn’t shine in a score that is full of beautiful moments for this instrument. It was a commendable decision to use the glass harmonica in "Il dolce suono”, less precise but far more dreamy and tragic than the flutes.

Lisette Oropesa (Lucia) and Yujie Shi (Arturo) © Javier del Real | Teatro Real
Lisette Oropesa (Lucia) and Yujie Shi (Arturo)
© Javier del Real | Teatro Real

David Alden’s well-known staging, created at ENO, is a powerful revelation of the psychological essence of the plot. Set in a crumbling house assailed by debtors, superbly designed by Charles Edwards, he presents Lucia as the ultimate victim: shunned by Edgardo, abused by her brother, manipulated by Raimondo and god-knows-what she suffered from Arturo on her wedding night. However, her rebellion in the final scene is neither a strike of madness nor the heroic turn of a woman who takes control, but the sombre staging of a gory drama which only makes sense as morbid amusement of the audience. The final scene purportedly echoes the plays that inmates of 19th-century mental asylums staged to donors. Despite the extreme language, not always as effective as it intends to be, Alden’s Lucia rightly points at the centre of the drama: Romanticism as the tombstone of a woman who is burdened with the survival of her house, always present on stage through menacing wall portraits, and whose body is used as currency for paying the family debts. Even Edgardo is characterised from Lucia's perspective, as a friendly genie who lives behind the scenes of her childhood. In the end, Enrico forces Lucia to attend Edgardo’s demise, as the ultimate demolition of her juvenile fantasies. It was no easy task to applaud after that, but the vocal excellency of the cast easily dissipated the gloomy end.