Without an excellent chorus, "Lucia Di Lammermoor" cannot be an effective opera. At the Benedum Center Saturday, the Pittsburgh Opera's staging of the production was extraordinary.
The chorus, under the direction of Mark Trawka, was indeed extraordinary because its cast, selected by artistic director Christopher Hahn, was phenomenal. Edgardo as sung by David Lomeli and the Lucia sung by Laura Claycomb, and without the quality of these singers the Pittsburgh Opera's "Lucia" would not have been as phenomenal as it was.
When "Lucia" was brought back to the stage in the 1950s and 1960s by Maria Callas and Dame Joan Sutherland, world interest was renewed in the bel canto style. Artistic director Hahn dedicated these performances to the late Dame Joan Sutherland.
Native Texan Laura Claycomb sang in Pittsburgh Opera performances here as Giuletta in the "Capulets" and the "Montagues" in 2009 and Gilda in "Rigoletto" in 2005, which was well-received by Pittsburgh audiences. Claycomb is an international opera star with appearances at La Scala in Milan, Italy, the Paris Bastile, the Salzburg Festival in Austria and other important opera houses.
David Lomeli as Edgardo was born in Mexico City and makes his Pittsburgh Opera debut in these "Lucia Di Lammermoor" appearances. Lomeli was a prizewinner in the 2006 Placido Domingo Opera competition.
Kristen Gatch, assistant to Hahn, gave an informative introduction to Lucia and played excerpts from Donnizetti's opera. Thanks to the opera translation above the stage, the audience followed the story and the Italian translation easily.
"Lucia" is famed for the second act sextette "What Restrains Me" ("Chi Mi Frena,") and most older opera enthusiasts would remember the first "Lucia" recording was the Caruso and Galli-Curci recording on Victor. This recording has never been out of the record label's catalog.
The first act - aria of Edgardo - "Sul Aura Palida" ("Loves Palid Sighs") will stay with the listener.
Bruno Cheroni, who performed as Enrico Ashton, Lucia's brother, returns to Pittsburgh after his performance as Rigoletto in 2005. Caproni has sung many of the great baritone roles in the world's important opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the Vienna Staats Opera, La Scala in Milan, Italy, Covent Garden in London, England, and others. Caproni was born in Northern Ireland of Italian parents and received grants from Covent Garden and The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
James Flora, who sang as Arther Bucklaw, is a second-year Pittsburgh Opera resident and will be seen in "Turandot" and "Don Giovanni" next season.
Rick Mikon as Normanno is a Pittsburgh-area native and has been a member of the chorus for 26 years since graduating from Carnegie Mellon University.
Dennis Sedov as Raimondo Bidebent has had a varied career in Europe, including at major opera houses and singing with leading orchestras in Italy, Spain, France and England.
Lindsay Amman as Alisa is a second-year Pittsburgh Opera resident in the 2010-11 season. In addition to her role as Alisa she will appear in "Rinaldo." In 2008-09 she sang as Olga in "Eugene Onegin" and Mistress Quickly in "Falstaff."
Arthur Walker has conducted at the Pittsburgh Opera for five years and has extended his tenure for 2010-11. He soon will make his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera.
For information, call (412) 281-0912 or log onto www.pittsburghopera.org.
(Creegan is opera critic for Weekender.)