TAMPA —Opera careers are unpredictable, but I think that some years from now, there will be a good chance that people who attended Opera Tampa's staging of Lucia di Lammermoor this weekend are going to be able to brag that they were there when Elizabeth de Trejo made her debut in the title role.
Those opera fans will also be able to say — or maybe they will have managed to forget — that they experienced the "virtual theater" design of director Joachim Schamberger that uses projected videos in place of a physical set to fill the stage of Morsani Hall. The verdict on that aspect of the production is decidedly more mixed than for the fine singing in Donizetti's bel canto melodrama set in late 17th century Scotland.
De Trejo (the married name of the soprano formerly known as Rachel Watkins) was excellent as the prima donna in previous productions here of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette and Faust. But she seems to have grown in dramatic presence in performing the flamboyant coloratura passagework of the woman who kills her husband on their wedding night.
Lucia contains a number of scenes topped off by the soaring high notes that opera fans thrill to. On Friday, de Trejo delivered with accuracy and flair the high D in Lucia's Act 2 duet with her brother Enrico (baritone Michael Corvino) and the high E flat in her mad scene. The soprano's madness in Lucia's bloodstained tour de force was perhaps more theoretical than emotionally and psychologically profound, but her voice had a lovely bloom. The scene was sensitively paced under conductor Anton Coppola.
As Edgardo, the laird of Ravenswood and Lucia's true love, tenor Gregory Schmidt sang beautifully in his aria over her coffin. Bass Stephan Kirchgraber was especially impressive as the Calvinist cleric Raimondo.
Schamberger's projections sometimes worked well, as with the striking lighting (by Joseph P. Oshry) of the singers and video of a black and gold hall for the famous sextet. But the hall looked more Italian or Spanish than what you'd find in the Scottish border country.
The projections were distracting in Lucia's aria Regnava nel silenzio (Enveloped in silence) when she sees the ghostly face of a murdered girl in the Lammermoor fountain. The eerie video, complete with a red blob to suggest blood in the water, was like an outtake from The Shining. In Act 2, the direction was terrible when Enrico and Raimondo had to walk behind a video screen to enter and exit a room instead of just going through a doorway.
Under the sure hand of Coppola, the orchestra was suitably rambunctious in the Donizetti score, but some solos lacked panache. The harp solo in Act 1 sounded tinny, and the flute in Lucia's mad scene had scant feel for the singer's ornamentation. The chorus, including a couple of greyhounds, was terrific. The only tartan was on four Highland dancers who could've used the help of a choreographer.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.