May 13, 2004
Deutsche Oper Berlin

Attention Edita!

Edita Gruberova sings Lucia di Lammermoor at Deutsche Oper Berlin


Gaetano Donizetti
Lucia di Lammermoor


Deutsche Oper Berlin
Conductor: Stefano Ranzani
Director, Stage designer, costume designer: Filippo Sanjust
Chorus Master: Hellwart Matthiesen

Enrico: Boaz Daniel
Lucia: Edita Gruberova
Edgardo: Ramon Vargas
Arturo: Yosep Kang
Raimondo: Reinhard Hagen
Alisa: Karin Hamnøy
Normanno: Volker Horn

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Attention Edita!

Edita Gruberova sings Lucia di Lammermoor at Deutsche Oper Berlin

By Heiko Schon / Photos: Bernd Uhlig / Translation: Andrej Huesener

Lucia di Lammermoor: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

Edita Gruberova is living proof that they still exist: opera divas whose appearances are eagerly awaited months before they step onto the stage, who are talked about even when they've just checked into their hotels and rehearsals are beginning. And indeed, one can sense the air of anticipation throughout the Deutsche Oper building: Gruberova has arrived. The Slovak singer is a prime example of a nearly extinct archetype of opera singer, of a type of diva embodied by Joan Sutherland or Renata Scotto. She spreads her appearances thinly through the year, not just to protect her voice and her stage presence, but also in order not to focus entirely on building her career through commercial marketing. Artistic directors of all leading opera houses are mad about her, and it is thanks to Ioan Holender, Artistic Director of Vienna State Opera, formerly Gruberova's agent and currently artistic consultant at Deutsche Oper, that after a long absence Gruberova returned to this house to star in one of her signature roles.

Filippo Sanjust's 1980 production is right up the star's street. Gruberova has always made clear that she is not particularly fond of today's "Regietheater". And so we witness an evening at the opera which feels - at least aesthetically - as if time has stood still: this includes elaborate costumes (which would be unaffordable today), singers singing mostly from the front of the stage and cardboard designs appropriate to the action, even if they have to be lit carefully so that their age does not show. The acting in this Scottish picture postcard scenery is limited to helpless wringing of hands, walking up and down the stage and the occasional falling-down-on-stage in despair.

But let's not focus on aesthetic subtleties-this production is about one thing only. Edita Gruberova has been singing the part of Lucia for 25 years in nearly 200 performances. Gruberova knows the part inside out - in fact, she IS Lucia. Her incredible youthful voice, immaculate phrasing and perfect breathing are as spellbinding as they have always been. Gruberova creates the character of Lucia mainly through vocal powers: she ornaments phrases or slows them down, uses different dynamic patterns and moves with ease from one coloratura to the next. Even the endless vocal lines, which seemingly come out of nowhere only to be shot upwards, are unsurpassed. Gruberova's dramatic expression created a tour de force of belcanto singing culminating in the mad scene. Her singing partners deserve equal mention. Ramon Vargas played Edgardo with explosive temperament. His voice is particularly seductive and melting in the medium range, and he showed off his powerful yet lyrical vocal powers in the difficult final aria. Boaz Daniel's egotistic Enrico convinced with charisma and a mighty baritone voice, even if he was occasionally off or came in too early. Karin Hamnøy was a solid Alisa, and Reinhard Hagen gave a superb larger-than-life Raimondo. Yosep Kang, in the short role of Arturo, was just as convincing. In the two seasons he has been with Deutsche Oper, Kang - a likable talent with a clear and pleasant voice - has proved himself in small parts and seems ready to take on a bigger role. The ensemble was let down only by Volker Horn's Normanno. He did himself no favours by straining his ageing voice through loud singing, nor was his acting up to the ensemble's standards.

Lucia di Lammermoor: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

The orchestra, conducted by Stefano Ranzani, played more focused than they have in a long time. Ranzani's Donizetti was precise with much attention to detail, yet also powerful where appropriate. The orchestra and the singers on stage were in complete unison.

All in all, a glorious night at the opera for which the audience showed their appreciation with ovations throughout and a number of curtain calls at the end.