Lucia Di Lammermoor
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Wed 16 May
For someone who hadn’t worked in Scotland since 1980 and whose experience in directing opera lags way behind his theatre work, John Doyle’s staging of a full-scale bel canto opera set in somewhat bleak Scottish moorland gave no hint at all of a director who is anything other than totally at ease with both territories. A 2006 Tony winner for Sweeney Todd and recently nominated again for Stephen Sondheim’s Company, Doyle brings a huge skill to his telling of Donizetti’s version of Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermuir.
The famous mad scene of Act 3 is an opera moment that is unsurpassable in 19th century coloratura repertoire. In soprano Sally Silver, Scottish Opera has found a bride for whom the psychological trauma of forced marriage and abandonment of true love is spellbindingly intense through her authoritative yet sensitive portrayal of Scott’s tragic heroine.
Atmospherically, the stage is almost timeless, dark and misty, with much use of water. Rivulets run down what might be standing stones, solid and ancient, with lines of chorus members filing past, their illumination coming from the candles they hold in front of them. Their singing is as sure as the monuments they circle, diction clear, dynamics and line immaculately controlled. Later, the men of the chorus appear as, possibly, Borders shepherds with little black hats and long sticks, another of Doyle’s touches that keep the piece in touch with nature and the landscape that gave us the tale in the first place.
Lucia di Lammermoor, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat 16, Wed 20 & Fri 22 Jun.