|Elizabeth Futral as Lucia in Portland Opera's Lucia di|
Lammermoor. © Ken Howard / Portland Opera
Though sparse, the atmosphere in the lobby of the Keller was decided buoyant, with people dressed mostly in business casual plus sturdy footwear. One Portland Opera staffer was managing the ticket booth all by herself until the company’s general director, Christopher Mattliano, and the director of production, Laura Hassell, came to the rescue.
As I found my seat on the main floor, I took note of the low attendance and then noticed one thing that was strikingly absent: there was no sound from the musicians in the orchestra pit warming up. That made me get up and walk down to take a look. Ah! There was no on in the orchestra pit, except for one man sitting at a grand piano and looking over a score. That’s when I took this photo of the audience.
Within the next few minutes, Mattaliano came to the front of the curtain and explained that since the members of the orchestra come from all around the Portland metro area, they were unable to get to the auditorium because of the inclement weather. He invited everyone in attendance to come forward and fill the front area as much as possible. The principals were ready to go and they would be flying out of Portland to their next gig the next day… weather permitting. He also said that chocolates would be handed out gratis in the lobby during intermission.
After the reassembling ourselves closer to the stage, the lights went down, conductor George Manahan appeared in the opera pit and took a bow, and the production was underway with chorus master Nicholas Fox at the keyboard. For anyone who has read this far but doesn’t know the story of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” here’s a brief synopsis. Lucia is a noblewoman whose brother, Enrico, wants her to marry a wealthy man, Arturo, who she does not love. She loves, instead, Edgardo, the rival of Enrico. But some years beforehand, Enrico killed Edgardo’s father and usurped his family’s land to boot. Using a forged letter, Enrico convinces Lucia that Edgardo is unfaithful. So she reluctantly signs the wedding contract, but on her wedding night, she goes mad, murders Arturo, and then dies. Crushed by the news of Lucia’s death, Edgardo takes his own life. The action takes place in 17th Century Scotland and was inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s “The Bride of Lammermoor,” which was loosely based on a real tragedy between two families in Scotland.
|Carl Halvorson as Normanno, Elizabeth Futral as Lucia,|
Weston Hurt as Enrico in Portland Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor. © Ken
Howard / Portland Opera
The chorus, which seemed to be missing a fair number of women, more than held its own, and Manahan kept the enterprise afloat with spot-on gestures and a wonderful pace that worked well on all sides. But the real hero of the day was Fox, who, with his agile and evocative playing, represented an entire orchestra. I went down to the orchestra pit during intermission and saw him looking over the score with the utmost concentration. I’m not sure that he had much warning that he would be the accompanist that evening. In any case, he really saved the day.
|Scott Ramsay as Edgardo, Weston Hurt as Enrico in|
Portland Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor. © Ken Howard / Portland Opera
Another high point of this production was the wonderful use of lighting, designed by Scott Zielinski and recreated by Scott Bolman, from the front of the stage. It projected ominous shadows of the principals on the huge walls in the background.
Everyone in the production seemed to be giving 150 percent, and that made this “Lucia” a rewarding experience. Before the start of the second act, Mattaliano announced that Tri-Met had stopped the Max lines. So it was no wonder that as the cast came out for its bows, the chorus didn’t appear. They had already gone home.
Here's a photo of opera patrons at the chocolate table.