Saturday, March 19, 2011

Met Live in HD Review; Natalie Dessay as Lucia--Hey we're not the bad guys!

Image from the Metropolitan Opera with Natalie Dessay as Lucia and Joseph Calleja as Edgardo.

In a review published in the New York Times on February 25, Zachary Woolfe found soprano Natalie Dessay's performance as Lucia "almost entirely blank." He wondered if part of the reason was that her gestures seemed directed at the HD audience rather than the audience in the Met itself.

The Live in HD production was not intrusive in the way that Woolfe feared. Those of us who find these productions engaging are not the villains.

The first act was simply dull. Even the carefully choreographed rhythms of the Live in HD machinery could not lift energy into it. Dessay seemed tired and her voice was rough. Her performance was significantly better in the second act and strengthened again in the third.

It was not just Dessay that weighed down Act One. The opening scene needed to express the deterioration of the Ravenswood Castle through edgy juxtapositions of marches, trios and that strange pastorale that the chorus sings in B-flat major. There was a stagnant somewhat sluggish quality in the transitions, and even though the singing was often quite engaging it was not enough to pull the drama together.

On the positive side this production included the scenes that are frequently cut--the interaction between Lucia and Raimondo, played by Kwangchul Youn, and the Wolf's Crag Scene at the opening of Act III, where we had yet another opportunity to be blown away by Joseph Calleja as Edgardo.

Calleja was particularly impressive in his Act III arias: “Fra poco a me ricovero" and "Tu che a spiegasti l’ali" where his grand style vowel colors and elaborate phrasing brought the opera to a powerful close.

Mary Zimmerman's production made ghosts visible. A dancer dressed all in white appeared during the fountain scene, and again at the opening of the second act. Lucia herself appeared as a ghost in act three, urging Eduardo, and then assisting him, to commit suicide. These ghosts were not high-tech, and like the rest of the production, they produced a quasi-Victorian impression.

By the time Dessay improvised her cadenza--without flute--she had completely drawn us back in. She was not vacant. Not even when she was a ghost.


  1. I agree completely with your review. The production in its totality was just brilliant. I believe some of the problem in the 1st act could be attributed to difficulty with the sound. But as you noted. The opera simply grew stronger with each succeeding act with the finale simply breathtaking. I do hope this production will be put out by the MET in DVD.

  2. The review is spot-on, Professor! Exactly as we experienced it on simulcast. One of the best productions of any opera we have evr seen, but it was a pity that Ms. Dessay was not quite well, and not her brilliant self in the first act. I do hope too that we will see a DVD appear soon.

  3. Dear Hans, Thank you kindly! I would stand in a long line to buy that DVD...lets hope it is released soon!

  4. This completely confirmed my feelings about what i was experiencing during the showing in Hawaii on HD. I saw Anna Netrebko as Lucia live, in 2004 @ LA Opera and she was nothing short of spellbinding. So I was disappointed with Dessay's performance and not looking effortless, but looked and sounded as is she was struggling..However, I know that when she is in top form, she is the TOP..Calleja belongs at the MET for centuries!!


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