With three down and one to go, it’s not premature to say that the Fort Worth Opera has a winning season. Even if Of Mice and Men slips — and there’s no reason to think it will — the company has marshaled impressive resources for its first three operas: Angels in America, Turandot and Lucia di Lammermoor.
(It should be remembered that Fort Worth is doing them in alternation as a festival. There’s still time to see them all.)
Lucia di Lammermoor is the latest entry, debuting on Sunday afternoon in Bass Performance Hall.
All you would have had to do to know that things were going well would have been to sit in on the Act 2 sextet, the most famous number in the opera after Lucia’s mad scene. Instead of two or three lead singers dominating lesser artists, this one was firing on all six cylinders. It was quite a musical ride, and one more indication of how the Fort Worth company has matured in recent seasons.
Although Lucia is an opera with several strong characters, Lucia and Edgardo as the two ill-fated lovers are first among not-quite-equals. Fort Worth has cast the roles strongly, with both Elizabeth Futral and Stephen Costello producing subtle, pleasant and powerful sounds and (a decided plus) looking like the attractive pair they should be. Lucia’s mad scene was a small-scale drama, a little understated rather than over the top, and therefore more moving.
Michael Todd Simpson as Enrico, Derrick Parker as Raimondo, Alissa Anderson as Alisa and Jonathan Blalock as Normanno each gave vivid performances. Christian Reinert was more a background figure, but then Arturo is one of opera’s unfortunate wimpish roles (his most dramatic moment comes offstage, when he is stabbed to death).
Steven Wilson led solid, dramatic performances by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Fort Worth Opera Chorus.
Except for the drunken orgy preceding Lucia’s mad scene (she didn’t participate, of course), David Gately’s direction was generally an enhancement. The solid-looking, stony sets by Thomas Unfrid and superb costumes by Peter J. Hall (on loan from Cincinnati and Dallas, respectively) reinforced the drama and sense of historical period. As in Turandot, Chad R. Jung’s lighting was a strong positive.
The fourth opera of Fort Worth’s festival, Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, will debut Saturday night in Bass Hall. (Note to fans of the Met’s live theater broadcasts: Anthony Dean Griffey, who sang the title role in the recent outstanding Peter Grimes, will be Lennie in Fort Worth.)
The company has also announced three operas for its 2009 festival: Bizet’s Carmen, Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.