On our way out of the Theater at half past one Saturday March 7, 2009, I asked Sara a rhetorical question, “Would you like to have lived back then?”
How frightening to think of being a woman – a mere piece of property. But how – how appalling to think of being a man. To have an ego so supreme – and yet so fragile that it can’t stand the slightest hint of “dishonor”.
Lucia doesn’t start out that way of course. In Act I it takes only a few notes to realize that Enrico is the villain of the piece and not much longer to cast Edgardo and Lucia as the hero and heroine. Since it is Grand Opera, you know it will have a tragic ending for them, but a small child-like part of you hopes that this-time-it-will-turn-out-differently-even-though-you-know-it-won’t.
In Act II the villain acts villainously, the heroine suffers beautifully, and the hero is mostly absent and only shows up 30 seconds too late. And that is when, in my not very humble opinion, Edgardo ceases to a hero and out-villainizes the villain.
He takes one look at the marriage contract and turns to the obviously distressed Lucia. Does he take her in his arms and say, “My darling. How could they make you do this? Did they waterboard you? I know you loved me too much to have signed this willingly.”? Not he. No, he shouts (excuse me, sings) “Did you sign this? Answer yes or no!” And when she sings a feeble “yes” he rips the rings from their fingers, throws her to the ground, and curses her.
A banal plot – nasty characters. Why do I get so involved in it? Why do I so look forward to seeing it again a week from Wednesday? The music. Ah, the music. And the acting. And the staging. And somehow, when everything comes together, the whole is so overwhelming that the components are no longer separable. It’s – – – OPERA.
And one thing more that MetHD provides: the interviews. Many of the questions are routine, but every once in a while one learns something helpful. The producer, Mary Zimmerman, talked about ghosts. In Act I, Lucia sees a ghost of a long-ago woman who died for love. Zimmerman said that many directors treated this ghost as a figment of Lucia’s imagination and a precursor to her eventual madness, but that she visualized Lucia as completely sane until the tragic events forced her into madness. Therefore, the ghost was real (as real as any of the other characters). This belief led her to stage the most dramatic final scene of the opera that I have ever seen. Don’t miss it.
Ciao – – Philip