A Shining, Brilliant Star Joins the Cast of Lucia at the Met

Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, NY. April 11, 2018–After a run of five performances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in which tenor Vittorio Grigolo far outshone the evening’s Lucia–the puzzlingly bad Olga Peretyatko–April 11th brought a welcome role debut at the Met in the person of Jessica Pratt. The 39-year-old British/Australian soprano has been lauded all over Europe for her bel canto roles and has sung Lucia in more than 20 productions.

Pratt is tall, good-looking, and sturdily built; she is conservative as an actress. She moves well but has, save for the Mad Scene, few places to go in Mary Zimmerman’s 11-year-old stodgily-placed Victorian setting, which features an actual ghost, and later asks for Lucia herself to act as ghost in the final scene with Edgardo in his family’s graveyard.  There is a proper grand staircase for the Mad Scene and a well-bloodied dress.

Pratt was vocally right on in her first scene but seemed uninvolved; by her scene with her dastardly brother, Enrico, she was enlivened with anger, fell apart nicely for the Wedding Scene catastrophe, and was splendid in her Mad Scene. The singing was flawless, with hints of June Anderson and–wait for it–Joan Sutherland, in her pinpoint accuracy, spectacular and huge D-flats, Ds, and E-flats (and even an F to close the tedious scene with the Family vicar, Raimondo), and absolute command of coloratura. Long phrases sung pianissimo and a high E-flat to cap the Mad Scene that went on seemingly forever were almost bonuses. If one was not moved to tears by Lucia’s madness–as the audience was at the opera’s premiere–well, only Natalie Dessay in living memory has come close. But what a performance: the audience, mostly never having heard her before, was thrilled.

Repeating his hyper-active and gloriously sung and acted Edgardo was everyone’s favorite tenor (lately), Vittorio Grigolo, singing with stunning, bright tone, and handsome phrasing. The fiercely dramatic scene at the start of Act 3 in which Enrico taunts Edgardo was sung by Grigolo and the unsubtle but exciting baritone Luca Salsi with thrilling energy and fine attention to the notes. If one wished for anything from these gentlemen it was an occasional phrase sung below mezzo-forte, but so much for wishing. Bass Vitalij Kowaljow made for a sonorous, serious Raimondo and Deborah Nansteel was a very impressive Alisa, quite a sinister figure in Zimmerman’s production. Mario Chang was the effective Arturo Bucklaw who arrives, sings, and then gets married and murdered.

Robert Abbado led the great Met Orchestra in a propulsive and exciting performance, and Friedrich Heinrich Kern’s eerie glass harmonica solo for the Mad Scene had its desired effect. I wish there had not been so many internal cuts, especially with such a strong cast. One hopes Jessica Pratt will return soon.