#1 The Singers
– You will get a chance to see the young coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova who in February, 2014 dazzled La Scala audiences with her fiery performance as Lucia. In fact, the audience was so moved that they gave Albina, the first Russian soprano to sing Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the legendary opera house, a 20 minute standing ovation. A sure sign that the role is for the young soprano to own? It may very well be. The Met just recently announced that she will return to the company on March 16, 2015, to headline its revival of Lucia. Below are video trailers of the LA Opera and La Scala performances:
A proud alumna of the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) Studio, Albina sang her first Lucia in a new production by John Doyle at HGO. She first came to international attention when she won the Gold Medal in the 2007 Tchaikovsky Competition for singers between 19 and 32 years of age. A series of opera debuts at the world’s great opera houses soon followed. Today she is considered the reigning “Queen of the Night” in Mozart’s Magic Flute, the vehicle for her LA Opera debut in 2008. Hailed by Opera News as “a phenomenon that must be heard to be believed” and booked for many future seasons, she has added the most celebrated heroines of nineteenth century opera to her repertoire, all to great acclaim, e.g., Verdi’s Violetta in La Traviata and Gilda in Rigoletto, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don GIovanni and Ludmila in Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila She has also appeared with the world’s leading orchestras in a diverse concert repertoire.
Born in Tashkent (former USSR) to a family of lawyers who supported her early musical interests, she began performing publicly to her father’s accordion accompaniment at the age of five. She studied choral conducting at Kazan Music College and Kazan State Conservatory of Music, and graduated with honors and a doctoral degree from the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. In 2012 she won the 23rd Russian National Theatrical Golden Mask Award in the Best Opera Actress category for her portrayal of the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. She continues to study with Dmitry Vdovin in Moscow and Renata Scotto in New York.
Shagimuratova is joined by the handsome, outstanding young Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu, who returns to LA Opera by way of Zurich Opera where he won rave reviews for his performance in Rigoletto. He debuted with LA Opera as Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (2008), returning in 2011 as Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. The 32-year old tenor is one of the fastest-rising artists on the operatic and concert stage, in a career that spans less than a decade and has taken him to the Met, Royal Opera House / Covent Garden, Salzburg Festival, and the Staatsoper in Vienna, Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, among others. With a voice of uncommon beauty, his convincing and communicative portrayals of the most popular roles in the lyric repertoire have received universal acclaim. In addition to the roles already mentioned, his growing repertoire includes: Mozart’s Idomeneo and Don Ottavio (in Don Giovanni), Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Tebaldo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Verdi’s Alfredo in La Traviata and Fenton in Falstaff, Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème, Massenet’s De Grieux in Manon and Werther, Romèo in Gounod’s Romèo et Juliette.
A passionate ambassador for his country, Saimir began his journey to the world of opera in the town of his birth, Elbasan, where he studied music at age seven at the Liceo d’Arte and later at the Conservatorio in Tirana, the Albanian capital where Communist authorities dictated that his instrument of choice would be the violin. But it was The Three Tenors’ live TV broadcast from Rome that would shape his future. At age nineteen, he left Albania to study at the Conservatorio Monteverdi in Bolzano, Italy where his unique vocal talent was discovered and nurtured by Vito Brunetti, who remains his coach to this day. He completed his training there in only two years. In 2001, he won the Best Singer Prize at the Umberto Saccchetti Competition in Bologna. The next year he won the Enrico Caruso competition in Milan and the Tito Schipa Competition in Lecce. His breakthrough year was 2004 when Claudio Abbado chose him to sing at the Teatro Comunales of Ferrara, Emilia Romagna and Modena. It was on this tour, in the role of the ardent Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte that Saimir – fittingly disguised as an Albanian – made his international debut.
Of the character Edgardo, Saimir has this to say:
“[I]t is a role where he suffers throughout. The work needs a strong director who can bring out all of the drama inherent in this character onto the stage. Vocally speaking, Edgardo is one of the most difficult roles for lyric tenors. His character, more perhaps than many of the other bel canto roles, needs not only a singer with an excellent vocal technique, but also one who can bring to it a musical interpretation worthy of its full drama. I can tell you that it is a role that provides a great deal of satisfaction to me.”
#2 The Music
– Thanks to the many movies and television shows that have referenced Lucia including classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, the science fiction inspired action of “The Fifth Element” (see video clip below) and the nail-biting drama of “The Departed”, even those who have never heard of or are new to Lucia will be familiar with Donizetti’s music.
Is this an effective way of bringing opera to the consciousness of the general public?
#3 The Production
– LA Opera’s ALL NEW production, created by the production designer of “The Stigmatized,” is filled with breathtakingly beautiful imagery, enveloping the entire stage with an effect that draws the audience right into Lucia’s increasingly maddening world. Below, a video of LA Opera’s Senior Director for Artistic Planning Joshua Winograde and the opera’s stage director Elkanah Pulitzer talking about the new production.
#4 The Experience
– With tickets as low as $19 for every performance, everyone can experience the beauty, romance and madness of Lucia di Lammermoor.
To this we would add
#5 Donizetti’s Original Score
– As originally scored, the music featured the glass harmonica in the famous “mad scene” – enough to entice the curious to dig into the history of rare musical instruments who on doing so will soon learn more about the quirky genius of Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers who, like most polymaths, dabbled in music. The instrument’s hauntingly ethereal “sound of madness” is played by Thomas Bloch, today’s leading glass harmonica artist.
Watch videos of Bloch discussing and playing the instrument at LA Opera’s “March Madness” media event.
Below, see the magic that happened at Thomas Bloch’s first meeting with Albina Shagimuratova. The coloratura and the glass harmonica – what resonance! It will be a mad scene to look forward to.
NOTE: The great coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland of course set the vocal gold standard for Lucia di Lammermoor, against which all modern Lucias will be compared for years to come. Visit FanFaire’s DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND pages.
If acclaimed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade is correct (and there is no reason to doubt her) – that there are golden voices among today’s generation of opera singers, one of today’s sopranos will rise to the challenge. Albina Shagimuratova, with many years of singing to look forward to, is an obvious candidate. Below an audio recording of Albina singing the aria from the mad scene.
The acclaimed French soprano, Natalie Dessay, was thought by some to be THE Lucia of her generation, until she decided to quit the operatic stage in 2012, at least through 2015.
The superstar Russian soprano Anna Netrebko also made several stabs at Lucia, the vehicle for her acclaimed LA Opera debut. Below, a video of her Lucia at the Metropolitan Opera in 2009.