WORKS: Lucia di Lammermoor
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay, Piotr Becza√a, Ilya Bannik, Vladislav Sulimsky, Dmitry Voropaev, Zhanna Dombrovskaya, Sergei Skorokhodov; Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: Mariinsky MAR 0512
I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised at Valery Gergiev’s versatility, but I was taken aback to find him tackling Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. One scarcely thinks of the work as demanding much from a conductor – though Herbert von Karajan made an impressive job of it. Gergiev is hardly idiomatic, taking every opportunity to give the slender orchestral writing its head, so that there is a sense of over-projection, when all that is often required is sensitive accompaniment.
The main attraction is Natalie Dessay as Lucia, a part she can despatch without strain. She sings the mad scene with the accompaniment of a glass harmonica instead of a flute. The result is suitably eerie and now thought to be authentic.
Everything Dessay does is lovely, but there is a lack of the desperation which should pervade the role: Dessay doesn’t colour her voice to convey emotion. Her doomed beloved Edgardo is Piotr Beczała, a heartthrob tenor, and actually more moving and Italianate than Dessay. Still, as post-Maria Callas Lucias go, this is one of the best. Michael Tanner