This production at the San Carlo was an excellent, emotional Lucia di Lammermoor, welcomed with empathy by the audience, like an old companion. Indeed, Lucia must feel at home here in Naples, where it successfully premiered on 26th September 1835.

Maria Grazia Schiavo (Lucia) © Teatro di San Carlo | Luciano Romano
Maria Grazia Schiavo (Lucia)
© Teatro di San Carlo | Luciano Romano

After the debut, Gaetano Donizetti announced to his publisher the warm reception of his new opera with these words “Lucia di Lammermoor (…) has pleased and pleased very much, if I can believe the applause and the compliments I have received. I was called out many times, and a great many times the singers, too. (...) Every number was listened to in religious silence and spontaneously hailed with shouts of Evviva!”.

It has never stopped receiving cheers since, becoming a prototype of the Romantic drama, with its outstanding arias and celebrated ensembles, even if the primary factor for its popularity is Lucia's Mad Scene, with its coloratura double aria, a signature scene for the most famous sopranos. For the Mad Scene, this production used the glass harmonica of Donizetti's original version, played by Philipp Marguerre. Its eerie sound accompanied Lucia’s folly creating the supernatural, creepy atmosphere imagined by the composer.

This 2012 staging by Gianni Amelio was as discreet and respectful of the libretto as any opera staging should be. The costumes by Maurizio Millenotti, and the sets designed by Nicola Rubertelli gave an ominous Gothic tone to the drama. The production was revived by Michele Mangini Sorrentino, who allowed the singers far more movement and characterization than Amelio did, obtaining a deeper dramatic effect. Lucia is seen as a passive victim of male conservatism rather than as a self-determining heroine. When forced by her manipulative brother into marrying Arturo Bucklaw, at first she consents with timid submission, without resentment, then she murders the man, but as a result of pure madness, not out of rebellion.

Maria Grazia Schiavo (Lucia) and Saimir Pirgu (Edgardo) © Teatro di San Carlo | Luciano Romano
Maria Grazia Schiavo (Lucia) and Saimir Pirgu (Edgardo)
© Teatro di San Carlo | Luciano Romano

The director could count on a high-level vocal cast, the principals being young, but already established performers. In the title role was Maria Grazia Schiavo, whose agile and pignant voice was able to show off an impressive technique, from the impalpable whisper to generous fullness. Schiavo has all the essential qualities of this coloratura soprano (a full and warm middle register, an extensive range, graceful staccato and agile leaps and trills and an overall beauty of tone). Her “Regnava nel silenzio”, was full of lyricism and pathos, and her dramatic portrayal of Lucia increased progressively until the Mad Scene, where the Neapolitan soprano was wise in not exaggerating the vocal and dramatic tone, and was therefore able to render the different nuances of sensitivity and pain that make Lucia such a complex and fascinating character.

Saimir Pirgu's Edgardo was remarkable, as ardent lover and vengeful antagonist, leading to his heart-breaking suicide. He was impetuous at times, but always luminous and perfectly in tune, as he constantly sustained an even line of singing. With Schiavo, they made a gorgeous and charismatic pair of young singers. 

Maria Grazia Schiavo (Lucia) and Saimir Pirgu (Edgardo) © Teatro di San Carlo | Luciano Romano
Maria Grazia Schiavo (Lucia) and Saimir Pirgu (Edgardo)
© Teatro di San Carlo | Luciano Romano

Claudio Sgura was a great Enrico, with warm, rich tone and a solid scenic presence; his baritone sounded outstanding from start to finish. Riccardo Zanellato gave Raimondo a sound and somewhat noble interpretation. Francesco Pittari, Tonia Langella and Giuseppe Tommaso interpreted effectively, respectively, Normanno, Alisa and Arturo.

In the pit Stefano Ranzani conducted the orchestra and singers expertly, leading with an inspired hand, with right tempos and well balanced textures. The San Carlo Chorus did well as usual.