“I Puritani” @ Lyric Opera of Chicago

2.5 out of 4 stars

 

A ludicrous plot is matched by ludicrous staging in Lyric Opera’s dusty revival of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani. Set in Cromwell’s England, Lord Arturo Talbot jilts her bride-to-be Elvira to save the widow of the executed King Charles I, who has been captured by the Puritans. Elvira goes mad, Arturo goes underground but all turns out implausibly well by the end of Act 3. In a letter to librettist Carlo Pepoli, Bellini insisted: “Carve into your head in adamantine letters: The Opera must draw tears, terrify people, make them die through singing.” Sadly, this 42-year-old production drew giggles, bored people and (judging by the snoring that could be heard through the second half of Act 2) made some die through torpor. If the period costumes by Peter Hall suggest a Rembrandt painting executed by lesser painter, the impossibly dull sets by Ming Choo Lee and static staging suggest cobwebs gathered over millennia in a place of tedium. Mercifully, soprano Albina Shagimuratova and tenor Lawrence Brownlee transcend this faded wasteland with a vocal brilliance that is timeless and luminous. Brownlee in particular redeemed the whole evening when he hit an F above high C in the final act in a display of bel canto sprazzatura. Enrique Mazzola conducts.

Héctor Álvarez is a writer, actor and director from Spain based in Chicago. He has studied non-Western theater traditions in China, Japan and Indonesia, and in 2008 received aWatson Fellowship to research community-based performance in Latin America. He has a BA in Theater from Macalester College and an MA in Modern English Literature form University College London. As an actor, he has trained and studied with Georges Bigot, Augusto Boal, Peter Schumann, Malte Lambrecht and Guillermo Heras and has performed in more than 20 productions. He is a member of Theatre Y’s ensemble since 2015.