Lucia Di Lammermoor CD Review
Edita Gruberova’s Early Lucia Performance Is Another Example of Her Vocal GeniusBy Francisco Salazar
Throughout the years Edita Gruberova has been recognized as one of the leading Bel canto interpreters of her generation and in the opera world. Her interpretations are considered definitive versions and in the case of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” it is one of the quintessential interpretations of her generation. Throughout the years three commercial recordings have been released documenting her evolution in the role. This year Orfeo has released a fourth recording, which comes from a live performance in 1978 from the Vienna State Opera and one that should be a solid addition to all Bel canto lovers and Gruberova lovers’ collections.
Orfeo has done a wonderful job in its remastering as the quality of the recording is impeccable and one can hear the expressive qualities of each voice, especially Gruberova’s interpretation. While the technique is not as crisp or perfect and the diction suffers a little, Gruberova’s renditions shows glimpses of what was to come and for those seeking incredible high notes, here was a soprano who could easily hold out a High C#, D, and E Flat at seemingly any moment.
For one, her Mad Scene transfixes with her use of pianissimos and flawless crescendos. Her stratospheric cadenza is another wonder as she floats the notes with ease and the coloratura line is flawless. Each note rings and imitates the flute accompaniment to perfection, while her thrills are a work of virtuoso power. Her final E Flat in the first part of the scene rings with clarity and with a sort of desperation. But Gruberova was never one to sing for the sake of singing. She is an artist who produces an expressive quality like no other and in this early interpretation of the role, one could hear the suffering of her Lucia. Her “Spargi d’Amaro” may be a display of coloratura antics but Gruberova converts each coloratura into a lament with each of her dynamic changes or rapid-fire trills.
That expressive quality is also displayed in her duet with Mateo Manguerra “Soffriva nel pianto.” Without the use of vocal fireworks, Gruberova is able to use her lyrical qualities to express the suffering of her character. Gruberova begins her line with a soft piano before crescendoing to a forte sound that she eventually diminuendos. Her voice also melds with Manguerra’s sturdy and gorgeous baritone to make for a heartbreaking scene. In “Regnava nel silenzio,” Gruberova easily gives her Lucia a nostalgic vocal quality that foreshadows her downfall. Even in the more joyful “Quando Rapito in estasi,” Gruberova gives the aria a darker tone that showcases the lack of happiness that Lucia has endured. It is somewhat of a revealing interpretation and one that showcases a different side to the character.
Peter Dvorský is also a highlight of the recording. At the time of the performance, the tenor was only 27 and he showed an expressive quality that was unflinching and uncompromising. His Edgardo was clearly impulsive, which is best exemplified in the final scene. If Gruberova provided a highlight with her mad scene, Dvorský threatened to steal the show with “Tombe degli avi miei” as it is brilliantly sung with a gorgeous legato line and an ardent tone that is revealing in the way he fines raw emotions. Equally stellar is his first duet “Verranno a te” with Gruberova. The duet is filled with intensity and tenderness, each bringing their voices to their limits and creating a show-stopping climax to the end of the first act. Also noteworthy is Dvorský’s expressive outbursts in the sextet as he sings wth stylistic brilliance wrapped in intense passion.
Mateo Manguerra is spotless in the role of Enrico, providing a baritone sound that one doesn’t hear much in this repertoire anymore. His opening aria is sung with resonance and authority and that makes it clear who is in control and who has power. Siegfried Vogel is also noteworthy as Raimondo, particularly in his Act three aria and Thomas Moser is satisfying as Arturo.
But one can not get the whole experience of the recording without a look at Guiseppe Patané’s masterful conducting. The Italian conductor keeps the momentum driving in each of the selections from the slower cavatinas to the strettas and he does that by emphasizing each rhythm with clear articulation and clear dynamic changes.
But for all its pros the recording is not perfect. If you’re looking for a complete recording of the opera sung by the great soprano, you will have to look at Gruberova’s other three recordings. Since it is a live performance many of the traditional cuts are in place. Raimondo’s scene with Lucia is cut, as was customary of the time. A number of codas, coloraturas runs and repeats are also excised from the performance. Some of the recording is also hindered by applause. Some might enjoy getting a sense of what it was like on the evening, while others, myself included, might find it somewhat bothersome and interruptive to the flow of the music. There is also movement heard from a distance but that is not something out of the ordinary considering it is a live performance.
But these negatives should not detract from the recording. If anything this should be a must buy for any Gruberova fan or Bel canto fan. It is a historical performance which captures the essence of beautiful singing and of Donizetti’s dramatic intentions.