The sweet, operatic sounds of  love & other madnesses
Tenor Arthur Espiritu (as Edgardo di Ravenswood) and soprano Melody Louledjian (as Lucia Ashton) perform during the press presentation of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which will be staged on Jan. 31, Friday, 8 p.m., with a matinee show on Feb. 2, Sunday, at 3 p.m., at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).
JUN MENDOZA
The sweet, operatic sounds of love & other madnesses
Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2020 - 12:00am

‘Lucia Di Lammermoor’ at the CCP

Madness doesn’t fall from the sky, says French-Armenian soprano Melody Louledjian. She talks about portraying Lucia, the bride of Lammermoor. And the most challenging aspect is to “make Lucia true.”

In the three-act opera, Lucia Ashton is a Scottish maiden who falls in love with Edgardo, the leader of the Ashtons’ political enemies. But the woman is forced by her brother Enrico to marry another nobleman named Arturo. Believing her brother’s lie that Edgardo has betrayed her, Lucia is so gripped with devastation and grief that she begins to lose her sanity. The character’s predicament becomes too big and daunting that her mind and her sensibility cannot handle the series of events.

Louledjian amplifies, “At the end (of the opera), during the mad scene, I don’t want to (merely) present (Lucia’s) craziness. The challenge is not just (portray craziness in the psychiatric sense), but to bring to the audience something true.”

Opera lovers are in for a treat as the compelling yet tragic tale of Lucia comes to the Philippine stage as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Rustan Group of Companies, the Filipinas Opera Society Foundation Inc., and the Embassy of Italy in Manila present Lucia di Lammermoor on Jan. 31, (Friday), 8 p.m., with matinee show on Feb. 2, (Sunday), at 3 p.m., at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Maestro Alessandro Palumbo

From the genius of Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, with libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, the opera was first performed in Naples in 1835, the Donizetti opera has since become a favorite among opera lovers, with its vivid heroine, beautiful orchestration, gothic story and psychologically realistic portrayal of a woman on the brink of collapse. It is best known for its arias including Il Dolce Suono and Regnavanelsilenzio, among others.

The aforementioned heart-stopping mad scene has become one of the most famous moments in all opera.

“There was madness in the beginning when we were trying to put the opera together,” says Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco, Rustan Group of Companies chairman and CEO, with a laugh.

“Lucia di Lammermoor is not just a challenging opera to perform, but also very expensive. We are very excited to bring it to the Philippines. It has been challenging for us to find the best opera singer who would fit the role of Lucia — since it is one of the greatest bel canto roles in all the operas — and I’m so glad we found the right person in Melody Louledjian.”

For its Philippine premiere, Louledjian brings to life Lucia’s plight and descent into madness, while  tenor Arthur Espiritu portrays Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood, the man she loves but couldn’t marry. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) provides live orchestral accompaniment, under the baton of Maestro Alessandro Palumbo. 

Palumbo has a sentimental attachment to the opera, since he first worked on Lucia di Lammermoor in 2010 as a répétiteur (the master has a degree in piano). “My approach then was as a pianist, now (as the conductor) finally, I can give my own ideas. I had to look much deeper into the score. And to know exactly what Donizetti wanted — from text to expression, from music to orchestra, from everyone.” Another thing that the maestro finds remarkable is how the opera is situated between Classicism and Romanticism. “The concept, of course, is still classical. But it is very modern and romantic for its time.”

The maestro agrees on how demanding this opera is. “The score is not easy, especially for the soprano. It’s difficult for the singers, difficult for the orchestra — as the conductor, I have to make the story flow from beginning to the end.”

Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Giorgio Guglielmino and Rustan’s chairman and CEO Nedy Tantoco

An how the tale unfurls. Baritone Byeong In Park takes on the role of Lord Enrico Ashton, Lord of Lammermoor and Lucia’s brother, while tenor Ivan Nery plays Lord Arturo Bucklaw, Lucia’s bridegroom. Completing the opera cast are bass Shi Zong as Raimondo Bidebent, a Calvinist chaplain; mezzo-soprano Camille Lopez-Molina as Alisa, Lucia's handmaid; tenor Nomher Nival as Normanno, a huntsman and retainer of Enrico.

Choral group Viva Voce Voice Lab — with guest singers from the various music schools in Manila and Iloilo — joins the ensemble.

Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini directs the opera and designs the set and costumes, with Ravivaddhana Monipong Sisowath as assistant director, Giovanni Pirandello as lighting director and Giampaolo Lomi Ormanni as creative project coordinator.

  Opera has still something to say (even in this day and age of Marvel blockbusters and movie streaming platforms), stresses Maestro Palumbo. “We are accustomed to play opera from the old period — Verdi, Donizetti, Wagner, Strauss, Puccini. I hope that someday, the opera will present new stories. And that people will attend the opera and be surprised. That’s my wish.”

“The challenge in staging an opera (such as Lucia di Lammermoor),” says Travaglini, “is to do something special, something emotionally touching, something unrepeatable.”     

The cast, directorial team and catalysts of the opera: Camille Lopez-Molina (as Alisa), Byeong In Park (as Lord Enrico Ashton), CCP president Nick Lizaso, Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino, Arthur Espiritu, Melody Louledjian, Nedy Tantoco, director Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini, and assistant director Prince Ravivaddhana Monipong Sisowath

* * *

The opera performances will benefit the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra Society Inc. (PPOSI) and the Philippine-Italian Association (PIA) Endowment Fund.

Lucia di Lammermoor is presented in cooperation with Hilton Manila, SSI Group Inc., East West Bank, San Miguel Corporation, LCS Group of Companies.  The opera is made possible also through the help of the following Supporters of art and culture: Hermes, Danny Dolor, Ambassador and Mrs. Antonio M. Lagdameo, Rustan Coffee Corporation, and Advanced Foundation Construction Systems Corporation.  MAC Cosmetics Philippines is the official make-up sponsor.

Tickets are priced at P5,000 (gala)/P2,500 (matinee) for orchestra center; P3,000/P1,500 for orchestra sides, P1,500/P800 for Balcony I Center; and P1,000/P500 for Balcony I Sides. 

For tickets, call the CCP Box Office at 8832-3704, or TicketWorld at 8891-9999. For information, visit www.culturalcenter.gov.ph.

 

LUCIA ASHTON MELODY LOULEDJIAN
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