March 06, 2019

Lyric’s Lucia Stars Superb Slavic Singers

In a Glorious Italian Opera Based on a Scottish Novel

Lyric audiences are in for vocal fireworks galore when Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova and Polish tenor Piotr Beczała portray doomed Scottish lovers Lucy of Lammermoor and Edgar of Ravenswood, aka Lucia and Edgardo, in this brilliant Italian opera. Both bring tremendous experience to their roles, having sung these star-crossed characters in several productions — although never together.

Albina sang her first Lucia at Houston Grand Opera in 2011 (while Anthony Freud was still general director there, before coming to Lyric), and has since portrayed the lovesick lass in Berlin, Moscow, Milan, Los Angeles, New York, and St. Petersburg. She’s racked up incredible accolades all along the way: 

Plácido Domingo (artistic director, LA Opera) calls her “the perfect Lucia. Albina has a phenomenal vocal technique that reminds [one] of the golden age of bel canto. Her voice is placed high, bright and very agile, but it also has great size and presence."

Plácido Domingo (artistic director, LA Opera) calls her “the perfect Lucia. Albina has a phenomenal vocal technique that reminds [one] of the golden age of bel canto. Her voice is placed high, bright and very agile, but it also has great size and presence."

Los Angeles Times declared her Lucia “a dominant force, first among a cast of equals, as she reined in her power to skillfully delineate Lucia’s increasing isolation and mental decline, seeming as fresh vocally in her climactic 16-minute mad scene as she was at the beginning of the opera. Perhaps she could have gone on for another virtuosic quarter-hour. She earned the thunderous ovation she got at its end.”

The New York Times has praised her “virtuosic runs, leaps and trills” and her ability to navigate “a ferociously difficult showstopper that also requires a delicate balancing with the orchestral part.”  In her first title role at the Met, she “reached Lucia’s highest notes with crystalline ease.” She’s “technically flawless, luscious-toned and chilling.” In her role debut at HGO she was “a riveting Lucia, her flighty mad scene the stuff of nightmares.” 

The Times of London says “every note is luminescent, star-bright and perfectly placed in the constellation.” The Chicago Tribune noted that in Albina’s Lyic debut as Gilda/Rigoletto in 2013, “the company has found a shining star indeed….Not for nothing did the soprano receive a rapturous standing ovation on opening night.”

Opera News noted that her first Lucia “confirmed that soprano Albina Shagimuratova is a phenomenon that must be heard to be believed: she demonstrated total but seemingly effortless control of pitch over her vast range, a rich and vibrant sound no matter how high the pitch, and the most delicate of soft notes. And then there was her extraordinary trill; a particularly long one enticingly gained its momentum very slowly and, once at full speed, faded just as slowly into silence. Nor did her singing come at the expense of her acting: convincingly crazed during the Act III mad scene, Shagimuratova twirled atop a banquet table, lasciviously caressed a horrified wedding guest and squirmed on her back while pouring out bel canto embellishments.”

Piotr Beczała made his role debut as Edgardo in Zurich  (2007), and has since sung the role at the Met; in Hamburg, Vienna, St. Petersburg, San Francisco, and on a Met tour to Japan.

The New York Times praised his “impassioned singing [which] had poignant colorings and virile intensity, that ping that opera buffs call squillo….The audience loved him.”

The San Francisco Chronicle declared that “Beczała in particular…gave a riveting performance as Edgardo, full of vocal heft and romantic ardor. Each time Beczała came onstage — whether to pledge his love to Lucia in Act 1, to grapple with what he considers her betrayal in Act 2, or to bring the opera to a close with a brilliant account of the demanding final ‘Wolf-Crag’ scene — everything seemed to take on a new air of consequentiality. His singing was rich and full of color, with a superb combination of weight and agility.”

The Mercury News declared that “Piotr Beczała sang heroically as Edgardo, Lucia's lover. The Polish tenor's impassioned performance was an asset in the Act I duet, ‘Verranno a te sull'aure,’… and his desperate Act III aria, "Fra poco a me ricovero," was one of the evening's dramatic high points.”

An Opera News profile described him like this: “Tall, trim and handsome, with a Hollywood smile, he also emits some of the most beautiful sounds to be heard on the current opera stage. Beczała works like a method actor; his entire body is an instrument of expression; he moves differently from character to character, and he generates real heat in his love scenes, without sacrificing vocal splendor. The idea of operatic romance seldom includes sex. There is a kind of playing at the carnal side of love; kisses are chaste, if the characters even end up in a lip-lock. However, when Beczała is the leading man, it’s clear that his Lucia has already made a few trips to the nuptial bed…”

Clearly, this is a must-see, must-hear pair of superstars — even if things don’t go so well for the characters they’ll so brilliantly portray in Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric this fall. 

Lyric Opera presentation of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor generously made possible by

Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson

Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel

Scenery realized by the Foundation of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Photos: Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera, Pavel Vaan & Leonid Semenyuk