So some reason I failed to get this up after Jennifer, Patty and I went to go see Houston Grand Opera’s newest production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Better late than never, right?!
Lucia, as it’s generally referred to in the biz, is one of those TOP 10 shows that companies around the world can always pull out and sell out. In short, Lucia is in love with some dude but her brother has promised her to another dude for money and stuff. She is forced to marry dude #2 and on their wedding night goes buh-crazy, murders him and attends their reception in a blood covered wedding dress (this is known appropriately enough as Lucia’s “Mad Scene.” Basically it’s what people come to the opera to see—and do a little judging of the soprano in the process). Oh… and dude #1 kills himself in the end. Who said opera was boring??? There’s not a typhoid infected lead in the bunch!
“Ummm ma’am, you got a little something on your blouse there…” (Projection from the HGO lobby)
I was actually very excited for this particular production because it was directed by John Doyle, who spearheaded the productions of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Company in which the actors were the orchestra (Patti LuPone playing the tuba anyone?) Too bad he couldn’t seem to elicit the same kind of biting performances on the operatic stage.
I can’t help but watch Lucia’s mad scene without thinking of the The Fifth Element where the Diva performs (the “opera” portion before all that crazy 27 octave techno cacophony in the movie is a portion of the longer mad scene). One of the first mixed CD’s I ever received had the movie version on it, the irony being that my friend who made the CD, Jamie, introduced it thusly: “Now, I know you don’t like opera but….”
I was reminded I hadn’t put any of this up yet when a co-worker (whose daughter is an undergrad music student at the University of Houston) said she had seen Lucia at HGO and kept chuckling all throughout the stunning sextet because all she could think about was Disney’s Willie the Whale Who Wanted to Sing Opera. I had never even heard of it so of course I went and watched it on my break. The plot line is pretty self-explanitory: So there’s this whale who wants to sing opera… Nelson Eddy, operetta star of the highest order, IS the entire cast. He reads as the narrator, voices each character, and sings all of the music (which, in addition to the the Lucia sextet, also includes Boito, Rossini and Wagner!!!) Certainly opera and cartoons have been paired before, most notably What’s Opera, Doc? and The Bugs Bunny Opera, but how on earth did I miss this one?!
Artist: Gary Jules/ Album: Donnie Darko
I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t include any “actual” clips from the opera, so if you have about 20 minutes to spare, PLEASE watch Natalie Dessay perform the mad scene. I try to refrain from putting up too many opera clips because I understand a lot of you may not even watch them. Dessay—who for my money is one of the most stunning operatic actresses out there—gives an amazing performance (A French translation of an Italian opera set in Scotland!!) of an amazing aria. Just consider it your culture for the week, and if you can only muster just the first half then I’ll give you a pass.
Enter crazy, stage left: (Oh, and I guess I need to slap a NSFW label on clip 2/2 due to the bewb action at 4:55)