Truly madly Lu­cia di Lam­mer­moor’s cast speaks


Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Michael Wade Simp­son


This is one of these roles that you dream about in school. I first started learn­ing the Mad Scene when I was twenty-three. I first went on when I was twen­tyeight. Dur­ing the Mad Scene there can be a lot of free­dom, depend­ing on the di­rec­tor. It can be very ex­cit­ing if you sur­prise ev­ery­one. Ron [Daniels, the di­rec­tor] gives me mark­ers but lets me fill in the de­tails. I love it.

It starts out a bit omi­nously. She en­coun­ters a ghost beck­on­ing her. A foun­tain ap­pears to be filled with blood. But she’s so in love with Edgardo that she doesn’t pay heed to the ghost’s warn­ing. “Ev­ery­thing seems all right when I’m in his arms.” Her fam­ily doesn’t lis­ten to her feel­ings. They use her as a pawn. She is torn be­tween two kinds of love — ro­man­tic love and fa­mil­ial love.

Some­times peo­ple think bel canto can be bor­ing, dra­mat­i­cally, but Donizetti sets the mood in a somber way. The glass har­mon­ica in the orches­tra dur­ing the Mad Scene cre­ates this other­worldly, spooky sound. You’re not used to the sound — you get the pic­ture, au­rally, that some­thing is re­ally wrong with Lu­cia.

You have to keep your voice free. There are mo­ments when I want to cry, but I know I have to be care­ful. You can only go there when you’re not singing.

Act­ing comes through your voice. Col­ors in your voice change depend­ing on the thoughts you have.


Donizetti is com­fort­able for singers. The three tenor roles in Lu­cia call for to­tally dif­fer­ent types of voices, but they are com­fort­able for ev­ery­one. I’ve sung all three. I’ve never heard any singer com­plain about this part or that note.

Edgardo and Lu­cia elope but keep it se­cret. When he tells her why their two fam­i­lies hate each other, she didn’t know. The whole story flies around that. They treat Lu­cia like an ob­ject just to main­tain sta­tus in their fam­ily. In the forced wed­ding to Ar­turo, Edgardo comes in and says, “I’m al­ready married to her.” That’s a huge mu­si­cal mo­ment — a sex­tet. The mu­sic is beau­ti­ful. There’s not much about what they say; it’s what the mu­sic says. In ev­ery line in the sex­tet, and af­ter, the mu­sic tells a lot — emo­tions, things the char­ac­ters can’t say. The orches­tra shows the ten­sion.

Brenda [Rae, who plays Lu­cia] and I sang these parts to­gether in Frank­furt. She was about six or seven months pregnant. In Frank­furt it was dark. The pro­duc­tion was lo­cated in a news­pa­per of­fice. They like to feel like they’re avant-garde. In this pro­duc­tion, ev­ery­thing makes sense; it’s close to the story. Ev­ery­thing helps to de­velop the drama; it helps the au­di­ence to feel what it is we’re trying to de­liver.

I had to get used to the al­ti­tude. The first high notes I tried when I got here, noth­ing came out. But I come from Gu­atemala, so it’s not that dif­fer­ent.


This is my first time, my de­but in this part. I’ve al­ways wanted to sink my teeth into this role. I’m a sucker for bel canto and for Donizetti. It’s my sec­ond time do­ing Donizetti with Cor­rrado [Ro­varis, the con­duc­tor]. The man knows his Donizetti. He’s from the same town. He grew up with that tra­di­tion. It’s the stylis­tic things, like tempi and ca­den­zas, that he re­ally has an in­sight on.

I orig­i­nally had the idea that En­rico was very an­gry, just a bad guy, from the on­set. Ron [Daniels, the di­rec­tor] and I talked about it at length at the first re­hearsal. He said, “You can play it that way, but it gets kind of bor­ing.” There needs to be an arc. I’m trying to play En­rico as a guy who has run out of op­tions in life. The only thing he can do is marry Lu­cia off to a pow­er­ful fam­ily. He doesn’t want to do it. He loves his sis­ter very much.

Be­fore the wed­ding scene, he has a con­fronta­tion with her, a duet, and there is a shift for him. He clearly changes. That’s when you see anger. “If you be­tray me, you do not want to see the other side of me. Even when I am dead, I will haunt you.” My coach and I call it ghost­ing. “I will ghost you.”

You can only get an­gry and up­set about some­one you care about deeply. There is a lot of meat on the bone for this guy. Find­ing nu­ances for my part in the score is a chal­lenge. Be­ing fiery for the whole opera can be too much for the au­di­ence’s ears. I feel like I’m a baby go­ing into this, be­cause it’s all new.

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