There's a lot to say about tonight's prima of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera; unfortunately, I don't have time to work through my feelings about it in any great depth. The performance, in short, was hit or miss -- many things felt unsettled. Natalie Dessay provided a bold, athletic and characterful presence, gamely enacting everything she was called upon her to do, and even righting herself after a scary tumble down the raked stage without missing a beat. (She had a chuckle about that during her final curtain call.) Dessay's singing was characteristically high-flying if not especially rich. But when you factored in her exceptional intelligence and agility, the result was a satisfying performance.
Marcello Giordani, as Edgardo -- a role that doesn't entirely suit his strengths -- took a while to warm up, but was in reliably heroic form by the all-important final act. Marius Kwiecien sang Enrico powerfully, though he occasionally seemed a bit uncontrolled. John Relyea provided typically sturdy support as Raimondo. The most secure singing came from debutant Stephen Costello in the small role of Arturo, his tone bright and hardy, with a strip of metal down the center. The orchestra sounded good, if not on top form; James Levine's tempos were usually broad and sometimes breathless, but never cause for alarm.
No doubt some of the patchier spots in the performance will settle down as the run progresses. The same can't be said for Mary Zimmerman's staging: it is what it is, and what it is offers no real improvement on the Met's previous production. The sets were drab, and spare to no apparent effect; special effects seemed obvious at best and laughable at worst. Direction of crowd scenes sometimes lapsed into parody, a pity since the chorus was in good voice.
Not unexpectedly, Dessay made the most of the mad scene, and the use of a real glass armonica was an outstanding touch -- too bad that it had to end in a reaction-milking production number. (The audience, I should note, participated eagerly.) The staging of the Wolf's Crag scene packed all the intensity of a Charlie Rose episode. And the ghostly visitation in the final scene... just no.
You'll no doubt be reading and hearing a lot more about Lucia over the next few days. (Good grief, Alex already has photos from the plaza.) Not me, though: I'm heading to JFK in about six hours for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and a long-awaited rendezvous with Dr. LP, and I'll basically be traveling entirely unplugged. Blogging will almost certainly be limited, so I'll catch up with you in a few weeks.