Lucia' in the Madhouse in Music and Vision 6 aprile
'Lucia' in the Madhouse
GIUSEPPE PENNISI attends
a memorial to Luca Ronconi
Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor is one
of the world's most often performed operas. The reader may peruse the large number of reviews in this
magazine. Since 1835, the opera has never left the repertory of major as well as minor theatres. So why present a new production in Rome on 31 March 2015 as a 'gala evening' with the Head of State, the Minister of Economy and Finance, the Mayor and many other authorities as well as general audience (like me) filling the stalls, the boxes and the circles? The performance was a memorial to Luca Ronconi, a very well-known Italianstage
director of international repute. After a long illness, Ronconi died on 21 February 2015, just as he was about to start rehearsing for
Although he was a prolific opera director, this would have been his first staging of Donizetti's masterpiece. His longtime direct collaborators Ugo Tessitore (staging),
Gianni Mantovanini (lighting), Gabriele Mayer (costumes) and Margherita Palli (sets) completed Ronconi's work on the basis of the project he had
prepared. In a situation like this, it is always hard to say how much of
the dramaturgy of the production is Ronconi's brainchild, and how much is the
fruit of his collaborators.
The basic concept is Ronconi's: over the last
few years, he had turned from colossal mise
en scène to intimate, introspective drama. When Lucia
was a new opera, it was regarded as the apogee of high Romantic sensibilities. The clearplot, which trims away much of Walter Scott's details, possessed the stark tautness of a Poe horror tale. A clear
indication is that the French novelist Gustave Flaubert employed it as an important point of reference in the downward course of Madame Bovary, the
quintessential victim of Romantic illusion. The opera poses impervious vocal demands on the cast. Also, its orchestralwriting depicts the lakes, castles, parks, fountains and more
significantly the misty, foggy and stormy landscape of Scotland.
The basic idea of this production is that the protagonist is psychopathic from the very beginning and thus her pathology grows into making her a killer and then
into committing suicide. Black and white are the dominant colors. There are no lakes,
castles, parks, fountains or, more significantly, Scottish landscapes. The single set looks like a madhouse, where quite a
few crazy men and women are chained into cages. The fixtures and furniture look like the Swedish firm IKEA's mass production. This is a hard setting for the heart breaking duet Verranno a Te sull'Aure or for the Edgardo solos in D major
confronted with the funeral chorus in B major, and even more for the unusual but splendid moderatocabaletta. The acting left a lot to be desired. Nonetheless, the normally quite
conservative Roman audience acclaimed the production. I think it was mostly a
gesture of affection for Ronconi.
Luckily, the musical aspects were of quite high standard. Many 'cuts' had been opened up, in the role of Raimondo and also
in the 'madnessscene'. Roberto Abbado kept quite a good balance between pit and stage, even though in the first act he tended to
have the orchestral sections a bit slower than those featuring singers. The two protagonists — Jessica Pratt and Stefano Secco — are at the level of the mythical Fanny Tacchinardi-Persian and Gilbert Duprez.