Double casts are a mixed blessing. When they play side by side, there's a temptation to indulge in 'fantasy casting', mixing and matching your ideal team from those available. But at least both casts will have shared rehearsals, helping shape the staging as part of the creative process. When one cast trails in the wake of another after a brief hiatus – as in the case of Katie Mitchell's new production of Lucia di Lammermoor – there can easily be a sense of 'after the Lord Mayor's show'. This was happily not the situation this evening.

Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) and Rachael Lloyd (Alisa) © ROH | Stephen Cummiskey
Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) and Rachael Lloyd (Alisa)
© ROH | Stephen Cummiskey

Despite the sense that Covent Garden had been bracing itself before opening night, Mitchell's production wasn't the scandalous staging that people either feared or willed it to be. It has flaws, but it is also, ultimately, incredibly powerful. For my initial thoughts on the staging, check my review of the first cast. Mitchell has worked with this new cast and some tweaks have been made. Most of my caveats still apply: the split stage means that silent action on one side distracts attention from the singing on the other; the ghosts overstay their welcome; the running water in Lucia's bath undermines Edgardo's final aria and has many of us crossing our legs. The Act I sex scene has been modified – no bumping and grinding to the rhythm of the duet – but it's still biologically impossible for Lucia to have become pregnant from her graveyard fumble. The Torn Curtain-inspired murder scene, where a desperate Lucia and Alisa take several attempts to kill bridegroom Arturo, is toned down, with no hint of bondage now. Arturo succumbs after fewer stabs, but the scene still produced much mirth from the audience. However, Lucia's 'mad scene' – her post-miscarriage trauma – is incredibly powerful, as is her eventual death scene, slitting her wrists in the bath.

Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) and Stephen Costello (Edgardo) © ROH | Stephen Cummiskey
Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) and Stephen Costello (Edgardo)
© ROH | Stephen Cummiskey

The role of Lucia is daunting. Exorcising the ghosts of Callas and Sutherland is difficult enough without the added pressure of being on stage throughout the opera, but Aleksandra Kurzak rose to the challenge magnificently. Her sun-blushed soprano ensured she was no china doll Lucia. Apart from an ever so slightly pinched quality to a few high notes, she hurdled the technical difficulties with ease. So much detail emerges in Kurzak's coloratura – extreme precision, carefully shaped trills – yet it's never at the expense of golden warmth. Vocally, she reminds me of Renata Scotto – she shares the same brilliance of tone and even the slight scoop between notes. Her mad scene was utterly gripping, each flutter or phrase perfectly matched to her movement, Philipp Marguerre's eerie glass harmonica providing ethereal support.

Peter Hoare (Normanno) and Artur Ruciński (Enrico) © ROH | Stephen Cummiskey
Peter Hoare (Normanno) and Artur Ruciński (Enrico)
© ROH | Stephen Cummiskey

Sparks flew between Kurzak and her fellow Pole Artur Ruciński as Lucia's manipulative brother, Enrico Ashton. Ruciński's virile baritone has tremendous brooding presence and he made such a fine job of his cabaletta “La pietade in suo favore”, including a fabulously held final note, that it made one regret the cuts inflicted on it. Enrico's encounter with Lucia where he forces her to accept the hand of Artuto had venomous power. Stephen Costello sang a mellifluous Edgardo; there is no great top to his tenor but the tone is lovely. He and Ruciński led a full-blooded account of the great Sextet. Matthew Rose lent gravitas and a fine bass to the role of the chaplain, Raimondo and David Junghoon Kim, a Jette Parker Young Artist, displayed much brightness of tone before Arturo's wedding night butchering. Conductor Daniel Oren continues to drag his feet through Donizetti's score.

With its stronger cast and tweaked staging – although still bloody – this was a welcome return to the crime scene.