Lyubov Petrova goes madly off in all directions in Lucia di Lammermoor
by Christine Lovelace
Ah, love and marriage. They go together like…
Unless, of course, you are tricked into marrying the wrong man and descend into madness — as happens in Lucia di Lammermoor, an opera about a wedding feast gone bad (and not because of awkward toasts from drunken friends and relatives).
Opera Lyra’s production of Donizetti’s tale of marriage madness will command the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall for four nights over the next week and a bit. And it boasts a veteran cast with the goods to deliver: soprano Lyubov Petrova is an experienced Lucia; Marc Hervieux is Lucia’s paramour Edgardo, a role that earned the tenor acclaim in l’Opéra de Québec’s 2010 production.
“This production makes sense to me,” Petrova says of Lucia. “It is about a young, innocent girl driven to go mad. It is real. It will speak to the audience.” She refers in particular to her character’s feeling of being “abandoned, betrayed and lied to by everyone. These things happen. That’s what we do to each other. We can destroy a beautiful soul by treating it with cruelty.”
Based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor — itself based on an incident that took place in 1669 in Lowland Scotland — Lucia di Lammermoor premiered in Naples in 1835, amid much European interest in Scottish culture. A bel canto masterpiece, the opera allows a soprano to make it her own — especially during the “mad” scene.
For Petrova, that means drawing on emotions she, like the audience, has experienced at some point in life. Her performance will tap into the universal themes captured by Salvatore Cammarano in his libretto — love, betrayal, duty, madness, death.
“Opera is not pretentious,” Petrova asserts, urging the uninitiated to give the theatrical form a try. “Or at least, when I perform, I do not want to be pretentious. Opera has everything: drama; theatre; music. If you open your heart and mind to it you’d be surprised what you find there. Opera can speak to us in a different way; it makes us better.”
You might even find yourself recognizing the opera’s Lucia Sextet, which was used in the film Scarface (just keep in mind, there will be no gangster murders allowed in the theatre). Even Bruce Willis, Opera Lyra’s artistic director Tyrone Paterson reminds us, is a fan of this opera. Remember the scene in The Fifth Element where Willis is watching the alien lady sing? That aria is from Lucia.
Petrova, meanwhile, need not be reminded of Lucia’s power. “Right now,” she says laughing, “I am very much into madness.” Or, at least, she will be come curtain time. The day of a demanding performance is somewhat calmer.
“I need quiet,” Petrova says. “It is an energy-saving day. I spend the day accumulating energy and emotions, and then I make sure I am warmed up — because singing is like a sport.”
Synopsis: Lucia has fallen in love with Edgardo Ravenswood, a member of a rival clan, infuriating her brother, Enrico. After Edgardo leaves for France, Enrico lies and betrays Lucia so she will wed Arturo, a union that will solidify the Lammermoor's political position. Just as Lucia signs the wedding pact, Edgardo returns and curses Lucia's faithlessness. Lucia snaps and murders Arturo. Then, in the famous mad scene, she appears blood-stained at the wedding festivities, believing she is about to marry Edgardo, and collapses.
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