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Sarasota Opera rises to occasion with 'Lucia di Lammermoor'

Donizetti's tale of star-crossed lovers features multifaceted roles and beautiful bel canto-era music.

Christopher Oglesby plays Sir Edgar and  Ashley Milanese plays Lucia in Sarasota Opera's production of "Lucia di Lammermoor."
Christopher Oglesby plays Sir Edgar and Ashley Milanese plays Lucia in Sarasota Opera's production of "Lucia di Lammermoor."
Image courtesy of Rod Millington
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Sarasota Opera launched another new blockbuster production Feb. 24 with the opening night of Gaetano Donizetti’s "Lucia di Lammermoor." Donizetti's tragic tale of star-crossed lovers amid family feuds and jealousy is the vehicle for some of the most beautiful music of the bel canto era, and the Sarasota Opera cast met the considerable demands of their multifaceted roles with considerable skill.

The show belongs to Lucia, the young woman in love with her brother’s mortal enemy, yet betrayed and manipulated to satisfy her brother’s ambitions for her to marry another. 

It’s an iconic role that demands considerable technical prowess and dramatic intensity, both of which were generously displayed by Ashley Milanese in her company debut.

With a light agility, Milanese easily sings rapid runs, leaps and fanciful ornamentation emphasizing Lucia’s innocence in love while sharing a story in the garden, "Regnava nel silenzio" (Silence reigned over), with her lady, Alisa (Alianis Lozada).

When her lover, Edgardo of Ravenswood, arrives, Milanese and tenor Christopher Oglesby blend well together with lyric beauty and depth in "Verranno a te sull'aure" (They will come to you on the breeze). The singers match each other in both lyric beauty and emotional intensity.

And then there is the famous “Mad Scene,” a coloratura’s tour de force in the third act. Having killed the husband forced upon her, Lucia descends into delusions of her one true love. The scene spans a series of arias beginning with "Il dolce suono" (The sweet sound) and accompanied by an otherworldly flute solo.

Milanese had the audience hanging on her every note, unable to look away, as she leapt from one extreme to another. Could she have been more deranged? Perhaps, but for a bloody tragedy, the music is overwhelmingly beautiful.

From the moment we meet the antagonist brother, Enrico Ashton (Jean Carlos Rodriguez), we are struck with his callous disregard as he plots with his guard, Normanno (Jeremy Brauner). Later, when he challenges and meets with Edgardo after Lucia’s death, we might see some nuances of regret, yet Rodriguez leaned more into his anger.

Bass-baritone Young Bok Kim brought his familiar gravitas and sonority to the role of Raimondo, the family chaplain. He urges Lucia to relent to her brother and then later brings news of murder in the bridal chamber. We feel his regret about his role in this tragedy in "Al ben de' tuoi qual vittima" (As a victim to your welfare). Kim masterfully conveys a complexity of emotions in the depth of his voice.

Edgardo’s final scene, "Tombe degli avi miei" (Tomb of my ancestors), focuses the tragedy with a blend of great musical beauty, all the more so with Oglesby’s smooth voice and aching pathos.

So many other elements add to this production’s success, including tenor Nicholas Huff as the unlucky bridegroom, Arturo Bucklaw, and the strong Sarasota Opera chorus. 

The second act sextet, "Chi mi frena in tal momento" (What restrains me at this moment), with the complex emotions of Enrico, Lucia, Edgardo, Arturo, Raimondo and Alisa, interwoven in complex counterpoint and harmonies, is a notably memorable narrative climax.

One cannot forget the importance of the orchestra tucked out of sight, with the exception of conductor Jesse Martin’s baton barely visible from the back of the house. The standouts in Donizetti's score are significant solo spotlights for harp, flute oboe and horns. Bravo tutti!

With the excellent scene design of Teven Kemp, costume design of Howard Tvsi Kaplan and lighting design of Ken Yunker, stage director Mark Freiman has the materials to work with the outstanding cast to create a superb production. 

No doubt this cast will dial up the intensity during the production's run through March 23, but from the start, this "Lucia di Lammermoor" has everything it needs to be another hit of this season.



Gayle Williams

Gayle Williams is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music in Ohio. She was the principal flute of the Venice Symphony for 17 seasons and has performed with the Florida West Coast Symphony, Sarasota Pops and Cleveland German Orchestra. Williams has been writing concert reviews since 2001, most recently at the Herald Tribune Media Group, from 2002-2023.

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