WORKS: Lucia di Lammermoor
PERFORMER: Edita Gruberova, Neil Shicoff, Alexandru Agache, Bernard Lombardo, Alastair Miles, Diana Montague; Ambrosian Singers/LSO/Richard Bonynge
CATALOGUE NO: 9031 72306-2 DDD
Some 40 years ago a poll taken among the readers of Opera magazine for the work most overdue for revival at Covent Garden was headed overwhelmingly by Lucia di Lammermoor. Then came the famous Sutherland/Zeffirelli production, since when there have been enough Lucias to satisfy Emma Bovarys the world over. This latest issue offers a fine protagonist in Edita Gruberova, a high coloratura soprano, like the role’s creator (described by a contemporary as sounding like a celestial musical box), not the usual lirico spinto, who tends to give the music more weight than it will bear. The text is given complete, but with the traditional transpositions, even though Gruberova could have coped with the original pitches far better than Katya Ricciarelli on a recently deleted disc. Her decorations are tasteful, expressive and well calculated to show off a perfect, florid technique. A pity, however, that we are not spared the inauthentic cadenza with flute that threatens to reduce the mad scene to the level of a circus act.
Neil Shicoff’s Edgardo is rather monotonously desperate, his grief untransfigured in the final cabaletta. But there are strong performances from Alexandru Agache and Alistair Miles as the remaining principals. Richard Bonynge’s direction is sometimes unduly deliberate (‘larghetto’ is not the same as ‘adagio’) and his changes of tempo unsubtle; otherwise the score flows reasonably well. Nor are sound effects lacking: merry laughter during the ball, so horrendously interrupted, and what Richard Hannay would call ‘the father and mother of a storm’ to start the frequently omitted Wolf’s Crag scene. A cautious welcome, therefore. Julian Budden