Lucia Di Lammermoor. A Story for Our Times


We review the English National Opera first night of this dramatic Donizetti masterpiece and say that – in the “MeToo” current world,  this is a production you have to see.

There are academic articles and opinions of the role of women and heroines and Prima Donnas in Opera, into which the creation of “Lucia” as an Opera, is designed to play a part.  This comment is not one of those. If you “get” that the fusion of music, and drama, is the key entry into deeper areas of  our soul – then the standout performance of Sarah Tynan as “Lucia” is one of the most phenomenal performances I have ever seen in all my years of watching opera.  This is a performance that you have to see, and you must say to your grandchildren that “you were there”.

How so?

Because Sarah’s interpretation rises above the protagonists around her, the wall of never decreasing orchestral and chorus support. It is a tour de force because right from the start, there was never any gentle introduction. There is angst even from the first scene. There was never going to be a happy ending.

This feeling of tragic helplessness, is enhanced by the oversized dimensions of the staging, with Lucia deliberately petite, vulnerable.

This “Lucia di Lamermoor” is drama supported by music. In many ways, the music never reaches the heights of melody of Mozart – or better insight into human nature of say Puccini, or Berlioz – and at times I just wished there was a melody that I could remember on the tube train back to my hotel. The music frequently pauses and moves into one aria after another, but it is not until the last Act does Lucia’s aria steal the show, so to say.

But this misses the point.

This production, particularly with Eleazar Rodriguez complementing Sarah with visible chemistry, is about drama and human emotion. It is riveting. At no point does the intensity ever stop, and at no time does audience appreciation ever waver. 

If you asked random people in the street, who would be their favourite composer – the name of Donizetti would hardly figure. And this is a pity. “Lucia” portrays humanity and the female situation, in a way that has hardly changed even now. I am going back to see this again – and so should you.

DOES DOING NOTHING – ACTUALLY WORK?

At a time when employers have only recently discovered that offering unpaid internships is bordering on the immoral – we ask; are there times when doing things for free – actually work?

The surprising answer is – actually yes it might. But there have to be clear reasons and clear benefits that you can touch and feel. So, – having started at the end of this piece, let’s go back to the beginning.

The timing of this article is set to coincide with the new wave of young hopefuls who graduate from our universities every year, and who are unprepared for life’s work experience. It’s not to say they themselves have not been working. But this time, we are talking about earning a living. Its a different sort of work, less idealistic, more practical, and it can be where we get our first dose of cynical reality.

This is the launchpad of this article. The lack of experience on the part of our young people leaves them open to accepting “work” that is neither paid nor even useful, and can be seriously demotivating. But it does not have to be like that, and as said above, there are options that make doing things “for free” do work out. So the question is; how do you know?

We have set out a GuideLine that sets out the options, and there are basically three choices:

1. Working as unpaid internment. Absolutely never, on any account, accept this sort of nonsense. The key thing to remember in Life is that you have a value, and not just a spiritual value. Your “employer” is making use of your services, and they are a business, not a charity. Likewise, so are you. Your value is what people are prepared to pay in real money. Disregard, and walk away, from any company that gives the bullshit of “good experience”, “working with your peers”, and so on. We have found at every stage in our business and corporate relationsships, that if a company wants you, they will put money on the table. Please be arrogant, you are worth it.

2. Minimum salary first placement. Yes this can work, as long as you can actually afford to live. This is where both parties accept they are taking a risk – yours is you don’t know if your skills fit the work; and in essence the same for the employer. If the salary means you cannot afford to even rent a place, anywhere – then think again. But on the flip side – be realistic; living with Mum and Dad is not so bad, as a short term solution if it gets you on the ladder of your chosen career or enables you to decide you never wanted that career in the first place. 90% of all graduates quit their first job within the first year of work.

3. Make a clear choice that doing work for nothing for someone – can get you somewhere you want to be, – let’s say industry recognition, or even the dreaded “experience”. But absolutely make sure that this option costs you no money whatsoever. Feel free to give your time, as your investment in the process. Just be clear – you are making an Investment, and there has to be a Return on that Investment.

We at ProfoMedia every now and then write articles to support companies we believe in, for free, because we too gain from a greater good.

But let’s get back to reality. As a rule of thumb, never forget that you and your work are worth something, and that “something” is what pays your food bill every month.

A FANTASTIC BUZZ AT ENO’S LATEST “MARRIAGE OF FIGARO”!

We review the latest Figaro production at the London Coliseum

Mozart operas at ENO always have fantastic and clever beginnings. If the word “tangential “ applies to probably every ENO production and approach, then last night’s Figaro did not disappoint.

The imagery of a bumble bee trapped inside a harpsichord syncing into the rapid overture, sets the scene, and with a driving orchestra and some standout ensemble and solo performances, especially from Rhian Lois, making her role debut as Susanna, this was a performance that whilst taking just a little time to really get going – absolutely left its audience spellbound. I have always said that, for newcomers to opera, make sure you go to an ENO Mozart performance – then this production (and it was the second time I have seen it) – came alive. You got to go.

So why a difference? You could argue that Figaro of all operas, is the easiest to get along with. Nobody does a bad Figaro. And that misses the point, because yes indeed you can do a boring Figaro. The real trick is to engage with the audience, and this takes subtlety, exquisite direction, timing of humour and of music and dramatic art – all of which this performance has in spades. And it plays to mature opera-goers as well as newbies; my colleagues alongside me were humming along to the melodies, that everyone knows – but we all wanted to hear. The timing particularly of Lucy Crowe, debuting as the Countess, excelled in her “dove sono i bei momenti” aria.

What is there to love?

Sure, the visual complexity of the revolving stage creates the confusion and the rapid movement of players as the drama speeds along, compounds that – but the secret sauce of this production is the speed of the orchestra, that forces the pace.

This in turn forces the key protagonists, particularly in the close ensembles, to be rock solid in timing and harmony – and they belt out their parts. Each player has a point to make. nobody takes any prisoners in this performance but surprisingly, the performance is actually funny! I found myself LOL at the absurdity of it all, and how many times have I seen this opera?

Whilst every singer/performer absolutely does justice to their respective roles – the standout performance that is the glue that links the others – has to be Rhian Lois who has nothing to fear in commanding the big Coliseum stage. Rhian is a Harewood Artist and she reminds me of Mary Bevan in her role in Cosi Fan Tutte.

The ENO bars are closed by the time the performance finished, which is a pity. I took a glass of wine at the adjacent St Martins Hotel hidden gin bar. At times like this, you need to raise your glass.

ENO SCORE ANOTHER HIT!

We look in wonderment at one of ENO’s best productions yet of this classic modern masterpiece.

Alexander Soddy strides into the orchestra pit, waves and encourages his team, and then there is silence for a full five seconds. And then we are off! And its a strange, curious, beginning…

This is redolent of the performance of Wagner’s ”The Mastersingers” a few years earlier; the feeling somehow that this will be the epic performance – when everything goes right. That night, at the end of five hours, all the orchestra hugged each other at the finale. And so it was last night. From whatever opera or music background you come from, this is a performance you have to see.

The secret sauce of this production is the fluidity, sensibility, and sheer forcefulness and continuation of the orchestra – which allows the drama to experiment, to be funny, aggressive, romantic, and convey sincere emotion – without ever losing sight of the fact that essentially, this opera is a dream.

The whole stage is one giant bed. The production relies on the singers/actors/actresses hopping from bed to stage, from awake to asleep, from fantasy to reality. The melodic lines of the music never give away anything you can hum along to, no nice chord progressions and cadences; there is this sense of being suspended somewhere and indeed the third act is precisely that – the three beds suspended in mid air.

And then there is the humour which is less rather than more, – subtle at its best. My standout performance was Eleanor Dennis as Helena, very similar to Mary Bevan some years earlier, also a former Harewood Artist.

But this is to be picky; all of the singing, the characterisation, the direction, was spot on, an integrated whole. Sometimes, particularly at the end of the second act, the drama and clever direction took your breath away

The humour reached its peak at the finale. This was the nearest we got to traditional Shakespeare productions and slapstick humour. It reminded me of the last time I saw this, in Devon – just a couple of years ago.

The difference here – is that the music adds the extra dimension, at times searing, to force the drama.

And then Puck wraps it up… we are back to the original Shakespeare lines…

Was I dreaming? I have no idea. But I am still rubbing my eyes. I can’t believe it.

Friendship is a Wonderful Thing

We look at the English National Opera friendship programme, and ask; why did it take us so long to find this?

As concepts go, – friendship is a valued treasure. Apparently, we only have no more than five “real” friends, in our entire life. The people that put up with us, the people where we feel comfortable. It’s an overused term.

There was this girl I used to know, who wanted me to become her “friend” on Facebook. Why sure – I said – tell you what; “ “give me your number and we can have a chat”. “Oh no”, she said; “I only give my number to my friends”.

You could say that friendship, is hard to find. In that case, the ENO Friends Programme, ticks that box. It takes at least six clicks to even start the process of becoming a Member, and that’s assuming you actually know where to start.

But when you get there – it is the best value for money we have found in London. Nowhere else can you have a face to face chat with a West End star, listen to them talk about their work, and get a glass of wine, for no more than a few quid.

It’s an irony because Opera per se has an image of being elitist and rarefied – and yet here I am sitting in my jeans, with other people who are both elegantly dressed and equally laid-back, and we talk and share experience because we value the opportunity to share that experience. It is part of the ENO philosophy of reaching out across cultural boundaries, but it does so in a non-political way. If you value what it does, then you will take the trouble to find it.

The ENO Friends Programme in essence is a meeting of minds. Who needs Facebook anyway?