A sparse but very enthusiastic audience greeted Miami Lyric Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor on Saturday night at Gusman Center in downtown Miami. After numerous performance at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater, the company’s new home on Flagler Street proved near ideal for director Raffaele Cardone’s small scale productions. The ornate, somewhat faded grandeur and ample stage come close to the ambience of an opera house and the acoustics reflect voices with plenty of bloom and presence.
In pre-performance remarks, Cardone stated that he puts musical values first above theatrical presentation. Like previous MLO offerings, the production was rather sketchy and thrown together. Musically there was much to admire; yet this Lucia failed to deliver an effective protagonist.
Above all Donizetti’s operatic version of Sir Walter Scott’s tale of doomed lovers from feuding Scottish clans is a vehicle for a gifted singing actress with effortless coloratura. Karin White, a soprano who has sung numerous roles with small companies in the Midwest, lacked both the vocal and dramatic stature for the heroine felled by madness. While White’s light voice is attractive, she tended to stray from pitch, particularly in the early scenes. This Lucia seemed deranged from the beginning, wandering the stage in a daze. White was at her best in the famous Mad Scene, singing the high trills and coloratura leaps accurately but her acting verged on caricature. In a role that requires a dominant vocal personality, White offered merely a conscientious effort.
The major male roles, however, were all impressively sung. In the late 1980s and early 90s, Jorge Antonio Pita sang regularly at the Vienna State Opera and major European houses. Although he took some time to warm up, Pita still has charisma and real Italianate ring and squillo. He was a passionate Edgardo, singing the final scene with heart rending fervor.
In a costume of gold and black, Nelson Martinez was a regal Lord Enrico Ashton. Martinez’s dark baritone elegantly spun the bel canto lines and he managed to bring some sympathy to Lucia’s conniving brother, avoiding villainous clichés.
Diego Baner’s deep bass was more Germanic sounding than Italianate but he brought authority to the priest Raimondo (too bad the scene between Lucia and Raimondo was omitted). As the short lived bridegroom Arturo, Jesse Vargas sang his cavatina in a fine, well-schooled lyric tenor. With the strong male voices and White hitting her stride, the famous Sextet in Act II was robust and vociferous, stopping the show to prolonged applause.
The 29-piece orchestra often sounded ragged with several wrong entrances but the crucial flute and harp solos were capably played. Despite the chorus being out of sync with the pit at the opening of the wedding scene in Act II, Beverly Coulter adroitly paced the performance, revealing an affinity for the ebb and flow of Donizetti’s melodic lines.