Jaoui Dessay Lucia

“Lucia di Lammermoor” is a tale of rival families, and poor Lucia is caught in the middle. Her brother, Lord Enrico Ashton, panicked that he has squandered the family holdings through his obsessive battling with the hated Ravenswood clan, wants Lucia to marry the wealthy Lord Arturo. But she has fallen for the Ravenswood heir, Edgardo, whose passion is in some ways as oppressive as her brother’s bullying. Lucia has become a fragile thing who keeps seeing a ghost of an ancestor who was killed by a jealous Ravenswood lover.

Ms. Zimmerman has done some miraculous work in the theater, including her adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” She is newer to opera, and her work here, though compelling, seems less confident. As she has said in recent interviews, “Lucia” is sometimes milked for psychological subtexts, sometimes treated as historical melodrama. A director could present Lucia’s ghostly visions as evidence of her shaky mental state or as a real part of the world Scott depicts.

Ms. Zimmerman opts to do a little of both these approaches, which could have been a recipe for disaster. Not here, for the most part. The sets deftly mix abstract and storybook imagery: in the first scene, for example, where a mossy mound of grass and brush sits atop shiny geometrical floorboards, with a background of leafless trees.

In trying to make the phantoms of the opera real, Ms. Zimmerman sometimes goes too far, as in Lucia’s first scene, when she appears at the fountain where she has met Edgardo and encountered the ghost. Ms. Dessay looked both striking and pitiable in her sensible walking dress, complete with hat and boots. But as Lucia tells her companion, Alisa, of the ghost she has seen, singing the alluring aria “Regnava nel silenzio,” we see the ghost, a haunted, pasty-faced young woman, who beckons Lucia.

Though a powerful image, it proved a distraction to Ms. Dessay’s lustrous singing. Sometimes in opera the music alone is the drama, especially when performed as vibrantly as it was here.

Ms. Zimmerman also seems to have been impatient with the dramatically static sextet in Act II, when the distraught Lucia, duped into thinking Edgardo unfaithful, marries Lord Arturo. Edgardo comes bursting into the wedding party, and everything stops as the justly famous sextet begins. Donizetti meant for the main characters to be frozen in place as they mull over their own thoughts. Nothing happens. That’s the point. The tension is internalized in the soaring and elegant music.

Instead Ms. Zimmerman invents an action: the wedding participants and guests are assembled by a photographer for a formal photo. Though the moment is beautifully directed, this staging device, again, overwhelmed the stirring performance.

But mostly Ms. Zimmerman has imaginative staging ideas and elicits nuanced portrayals from the cast. In Ms. Dessay’s first scene Lucia breaks into an ecstatic cabaletta to sing of her heady love for Edgardo. Racing about the stage as she sang, Ms. Dessay, in midphrase, skidded on a floorboard and fell down. Born actress that she is, she just kept singing, shrugging her shoulders as if to say, “What are you going to do?,” then finished the aria in triumph. Her response was actually in character for a young woman all giddy in love.

Staging and singing worked in tandem arrestingly during Lucia’s Mad Scene. The set was almost abstract, just a bare balcony and spiral staircase against a backdrop of blue night sky and moon. The crazed Lucia, having stabbed her husband to death on their wedding night, appears on the balcony to the terrified guests. With her huge, vacant eyes, just as in those posters all over town, and her bloodied dress, Ms. Dessay moved not with halting steps but in nervous spurts. When she recalled melodic phrases from the love duets, she sang in a voice by turns tremulous, pale, throbbing and unsettlingly brilliant.

Ms. Dessay’s Edgardo was the Italian tenor Marcello Giordani. His singing was not flawless. He sometimes bellowed and lacked pianissimo subtlety. Still, he has genuine Italianate style and an exciting, robust voice. Mariusz Kwiecien has emerged in recent seasons as a major baritone. This handsome and dynamic young Polish artist was a vocally impassioned Enrico, who made that sometimes flat character seem in ways as desperate as the sister he controls.

The commanding bass John Relyea brought rare dignity to the often cardboard role of Raimondo, the chaplain who advises Enrico, causing no end of trouble. An appealing young tenor, Stephen Costello, had a solid Met debut as the well-meaning Arturo.

Presiding over it all was Mr. Levine, who conducted with pliant bel canto grace while keeping the overall performance taut, crisp and articulate. This familiar score has seldom sounded so virile, sweeping and multilayered.

When Mr. Levine appeared for curtain calls, Ms. Dessay bowed and touched the stage floor in tribute. She probably thinks photographs of Mr. Levine should be plastered all over New York as well. She looks better and will sell more tickets, especially when word gets out.


Opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti; libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, after Sir Walter Scott’s novel “The Bride of Lammermoor”; conductor, James Levine; production by Mary Zimmerman; sets by Daniel Ostling; costumes by Mara Blumenfeld; lighting by T. J. Gerckens. At the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, through Oct. 25. Running time: 3 hours 25 minutes.

WITH: Natalie Dessay (Lucia), Marcello Giordani (Edgardo), Mariusz Kwiecien (Enrico), Stephen Costello (Arturo) and John Relyea (Raimondo).

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Natalie Dessay est une artiste lyrique soprano et une comédienne française.

Née en 1965 à Lyon, Natalie Dessay grandit à Bordeaux. Après s'être rêvée danseuse étoile, elle entame des études de chant, discipline dans laquelle elle se montre particulièrement douée. À vingt ans, elle quitte le Conservatoire avec un premier prix. Après un bref séjour au sein des chœurs du Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, elle intègre l'Ecole de l'Opéra de Paris à la fin des années 1980.

En 1992, sur la scène de l'opéra Bastille, elle interprète pour la première fois Olympia dans Les Contes d'Hoffmann de Jacques Offenbach, dans une mise en scène de Roman Polanski. L'année suivante, elle intègre le Staatsoper de Vienne pendant un an. C'est en 1994 que Natalie Dessay signe son premier contrat d'exclusivité avec EMI Classics. Cette même année, elle tient le rôle de la Reine de la Nuit dans La Flûte Enchantée , dirigée par William Christie et mise en scène par Robert Carsen. À travers le monde, le public la retrouve dans les plus grands rôles qu'elle interprète sous la direction de Pierre Boulez, Marc Minkowski, James Levine. Au fil des années, Natalie Dessay élargit sensiblement son répertoire et s'éloigne des rôles "légers" pour se rapprocher d'héroïnes plus tragiques. En 2001, elle atteint le but qu'elle s'était fixé quinze ans auparavant : interpréter Lucia di Lammermoor de Donizetti, et en 2012 elle chante _La Traviata_au Metropolitan Opera de New York.Natalie Dessay souhaite être davantage qu’une cantatrice etfaire de la mise en scène par exemple.En décembre 2012 elle sera la récitante dans La Petite Sirène à l’Opéra Comique à Paris.

Natalie Dessay a reçu en mars 2008 le prestigieux Laurence Olivier Award (dédié au théâtre) à Londres, pour son interprétation remarquable du rôle de La Fille du Régiment au Covent Garden de Londres en février 2007. Natalie Dessay a été six fois lauréate aux Victoires de la Musique Classique et a été nommée Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur en 2011. En octobre 2013, avec Michel Legrand, paraît son nouvel album Entre Elle et Lui, qui sera suivi d'une tournée internationale. En 2014, avec Hélèna Noguerra, Agnès Jaoui et Cohen Liat, elle collabore au disque Rio Paris.

Discographie (sélection)

  • Rio Paris, Erato, 2014

  • Debussy, Clair de Lune , Decca, 2012

  • Airs d'opéras français , EMI, 2011

  • Haendel, Cleopatra , Virgin Classics, 2011

  • Bach, Cantates , Virgin Classics, 2008

  • Airs d'opéras italiens , Virgin Classics, 2007

  • Haendel, Delirio , Virgin Classics, 2005

  • Richard Strauss, Amor , Virgin Classics, 2004

  • Vocalises , EMI, 1998

livres-CD en tant que récitante :

  • Jean de Brunhoff et Francis Poulenc : Histoire de Babar, le Petit Éléphant avec Shani Diluka, piano - illustrations originales de Jean de Brunhoff (Didier Jeunesse, 2012)
  • Hans Christian Andersen : La Petite Sirène - musique d'Edvard Grieg : Peer Gynt par l'ensemble Agora - illustrations Nathalie Novi (Didier Jeunesse, 2008, réédition 2012)
  • Claude Debussy et Rascal : La Boîte à Joujoux, avec l'ensemble Agora - illustrations Régis Lejonc (Didier Jeunesse, 2005)

Biographie rédigée par la Documentation de Radio France, juin 2014

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