Opera Reviews
16 February 2019
Untitled Document
A polished Lucia di Lammermoor

by Catriona Graham

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
Opera Bohemia

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
August 2011

After last year's debut with La bohème, Opera Bohemia returns to the Fringe with a production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. And it is good to see that the company is keeping up standards.

Once again performing in St Andrew's and St George's Church, designer Magnus Popplewell has gone for a minimalist set - grey walls which can be moved on castors to form exteriors or interiors as required, a desk for the Great Hall, a grey, bare-limbed papier-mâché trees and a couple of gravestones.

The young cast forms a tight and effective ensemble. True, the kilts are a minor anachronism for the 17th century Lammermuirs, but the young men look very fetching in them, the Ashton contingent teaming them with big shirts and black weskits, whereas Edgardo wears the hairy tweed variety with a plaid. Lord Arturo Bucklaw, when he arrives, does so in tail-suit and red cravat.

While all the singing is good, Suzanne Shakespeare stands out as Lucia. Her voice is light and clear - although, later, in Act 2, she puts a darker shade into it. Her mad scene is excellent, the duet with the violin of Amira Bedrush-McDonald in particular. Her high notes are confident and, seemingly, effortless, her acting finely judged.

Alistair Digges, as Edgardo, is a good match vocally in their duets. He is clearly in love with Lucia, but perhaps a little in love too with his position as last of the line - one feels that, if he really were concerned about perpetuating his line, killing himself for love is not the most constructive way to go about it.

And that is one benefit of singers roughly the same age as the characters they are portraying - it opens up other possible interpretations of the piece. As Lucia's brother Enrico, Douglas Nairne highlights the absence of their parents. In the circumstances, he is doing the best he can for the family as he sees it; really he is just selfish and inconsiderate and barely coping with all his responsibilities, rather than being bad or evil. His distress, as he realises what he has done to Lucia, is endearing.

A nice touch is Christopher Nairne, as Normanno, sketching the wedding party as the quartet sung by Enrico, Edgardo, Lucia and Raimondo Bidebent the chaplain (James Arthur) morphs into a chorus. Stephen Chambers, singing Arturo, is blissfully unaware of the tensions and undercurrents, happy to take at face value to assurances of Enrico.

Director John Wilkie shows what is possible with a talented cast, singing with conviction and style, even with limited space and resources. The place of the orchestra is taken by Laura Baxter on piano and Amira Bedrush-McDonald on violin. That most of the cast are very recent graduates of RSAMD - to become the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on 1 September - makes the polish of this production all the greater.

Text: © Catriona Graham
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