Truly madly Lucia di Lammermoor’s cast speaks
TALKING WITH THE CAST OF LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
BRENDA RAE ON LUCIA
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.
MARIO CHANG ON EDGARDO
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.
ZACHARY NELSON ON ENRICO
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.