Lucia Review – And a Special Extra Treat at West Bay Opera

The curtain comes down on the fourth and final performance of WBO’s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoorwith tumultuous applause drowning out the last few chords of the orchestra.  After the usual back-stage maneuvering it rises to show the magnificent chorus, and a few of us in the audience begin standing to show our appreciation of the whole brilliant production.  The supernumeraries step forward for a quick bow and scamper off; the dozen women chorus members step forward for their bow, followed by an equal number of men; they all step back to make room for the seven soloists in the usual reverse order:

Three “minor” roles

Enrico’s Lieutenant Normanno (Nadav Hart) and Lucia’s maid (Alisa) enter together, take separate brief bows, and step back to the sides.  They are immediately followed by Lucia’s bridegroom Arturo (Delmar McComb).

Male “supporting” roles

The Ravenswood family chaplain, Raimondo (Isaiah Musik-Ayala)is next to take his bow.  Several smiling cries of “boo” from the audience accompanied the bow of Lucia’s brother, Enrico (Krassen Karagiozov) along with the usual shouts of “bravo”.  The former, of course referred to the despicable character he played; the latter to his fine baritone voice.

Edgardo (Delmar McComb)

I felt that Edgardo (Delmar McComb) deserved the same mixed treatment for the brutal way he treated Lucia in the second Act: throwing down his ring and yanking the one from her hand without giving her a chance to reveal the treachery which had forced her signature, but I could only detect “bravo”  from the audience.

Lucia (Rochelle Bard)

As each principal had taken a bow a few more of the audience joined the standees, but when Lucia (Rochelle Bard) came on the applause level doubled and nearly everyone was standing.


Conductor & Director

The full cast took a bow, then Ms Bard went to the wing to lead in Conductor Michel Singher and Director Donald Ostwald. The Conductor gestured to the orchestra pit and we all applauded their fine performance.  Then he made a second gesture to a specific chair in the  pit and, since even the standing audience couldn’t really see into the deep pit, he mimed playing a flute to be sure we knew he was singling out Tyra Gilb for her outstanding performance in the duet with Lucia during the mad scene.

All perfectly normal for the final curtain call, and why-am-I-spending-so-much-time-detailing-it, right?  RIGHT!  A few more bows, solo or en-masse, the curtain comes down, the house lights go on, and we all go home, right?  WRONG! 

At this point General Director Jose Luis Moscovich walks on stage with a serious expression on his face to announce, “We interrupt these proceedings to bring you a special announcement which will be made by the Town Crier.”  A tall young man wearing a long yellow robe and a mask totally concealing his face walks on stage, unrolls a scroll he was carrying and reads it in stentorian tones.  I don’t recall the exact words which were flowery and archaic, but the gist of it was that on this day, February 24, 2013, Paul Kyle announces that he is deeply in love with Rochelle Bard and wants to spend the rest of his life with her.  He then casts off the robe and mask, kneels before her and holds up a ring box, saying, “Rochelle, will you marry me?”  I couldn’t hear her answer, but it was obvious from the way her face expressed surprise, love, happiness,  and a sense of can-this-be-happening-to-me?, that it was affirmative. 

As normal programming was resumed there was a glow in my heart, a warm lump in my throat and a bit of moisture in my eye – all due to vicarious pleasure at being allowed this intimate glimpse into two young lives.


Joan Sutherland as Lucia in 1961; photo by Louis Melancon/Metropolitan Opera

“Okay, Opera Nut, you’ve told us a nice human-interest story, now tell us about the Opera.”  Okay, let’s – or rather let’s talk about Lucia, the troubled heroine of the tragic opera.  I have seen six or seven different productions of the opera, most of them in the past 8 years, but starting with Joan Sutherland at the Lyric Opera of Chicago way back in 1961.  I must confess I remember none of the details – I only remember having been impressed by the fact that I was seeing one of the great stars of mid-twentieth century opera.

Neither do I  have any memory of performances by Des Moines Metropolitan Opera and Minnesota Opera in the 1980’s.  But starting in 2005 I’ve seen a different Lucia every two years:
            West Bay Opera in 2005 with Marnie Breckenridge
         Opera San Jose
in 2007 with Rochelle Bard
HD in 2009 with Anna Netrebko
HD in 2011 with Natalie Desai
A drawback to seeing so many operas is that my memories of individual performances don’t always last very long.  The  only specific thing I remember of those first two is that at the time I was very favorably impressed by both of the young sopranos.  But I wrote a review of the MetHD performances which I can reread to capture my impressions.  Rather than rehash that review, I invite you to click here and see for yourself.


Rochelle Bard as Lucia (C) with Enrico (L) and the Chaplain (R) together with about half the chorus

Which brings us back to Rochelle Bard, the young lady whose betrothal was the first story in this review.  She is an amazingly versatile singer and actress.



The three faces of Stella (Rochelle Bard)

Of course I already knew this from her outstanding performance in Tales of Hoffmann which I reviewed last fall.  But Lucia is a far more complex character than any of Hoffmann’s loves and different from all of them.  Whether in solos such as the famous Mad Scene or as one-seventh of the beautiful Septet, Ms Bard was superb.


Lucia sings duets with her lover Edgardo (L), the chaplain Raimundo (UR), and her brother Enrico (LR)

She also excelled in my favorite operatic art-form, the Duet.  Whether it be with the sweet tenor of Vincent Chambers as her lover Edgardo, the strong baritone of Krassen Karagiozov as  her brother Enrico, or the resonant bass-baritone of Isaiah Musik-Ayala as the chaplain, Raimondo, her soprano voice blended perfectly with his in delightful exchanges and exquisite harmonies.


The many faces of Lucia (Rochelle Bard)

One final reason why I am in love with Rochelle Bard (for Heaven’s sake, Paul Kyle, don’t be like Edgardo!  My love is purely Platonic and Grandfatherly).  Her mobile face that always fit the music and the mood.  Ecstatic when Edgardo proclaims his love for her in Act I, but tinged with sorrow when he has to leave.  Basically sad in Act II ranging from defiant to utter misery and resignation.  And wildly leaping from joy to horror to sorrow to befuddlement as her mind (and singing!) conjured up different imaginings during the Mad Scene.

 ‘Nuff said.  My apologies to all for not writing this review in time to urge you to see it for yourselves – I was ill and had to miss the first weekend.  But I remind you that you’ll have one more chance to experience this wonderful small opera company: over the two weekends of May 24 – June 2 they will present their production of Verdi’s Otello.  Don’t miss it.


WEST BAY OPERA           221 Lambert Avenue

Lucie Stern Theatre         1305 Middlefield Road

Palo Alto  CA
  94306       650.424.9999

Except as noted otherwise, all photos by Otak Jump – arrangement and cropping by Philip Hodge.

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