Kathleen Kim gives a beautifully well-groomed performance in her debut in the title role of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at Sarasota Opera. The young soprano has obviously thought through every last phrase and gesture in her portrayal of the madwoman of the Scottish moors, and she brings remarkable ease and accuracy to its high-flying coloratura. At times, though, her Lucia seems too careful on this wedding night gone very wrong.
The daunting Mad Scene is the mountain to climb for any Lucia, and Kim holds the stage convincingly, from her appearance at the top of the stairs in blood-soaked white to her collapse to the ballroom floor after 20 minutes of pyrotechnic trills, delicate ornamentation and splashy runs, with excellent accompaniment by principal flute Marie Tachouet. In her first time around in the role, I wouldn't say that Kim truly inhabits the victimized diva in a dramatic sense, but musically she has it all. Along with a flexible, secure upper register, she brings a fine legato line to Lucia's Act 1 aria at the Ravenswood fountain, and her voice fits nicely into the famous sextet.
Because the Korean-American Kim is so diminutive, the husky male principals — Enrico (Lee Poulis), Edgardo (Joshua Kohl) and Arturo (James Chamberlain) — tower over Lucia like the Giants in Wagner's Das Rheingold. Kohl's performance of the final Tomb Scene for the tenor — moving, yes, but oddly beside the point considering the lurid tragedy that leads up to it — is strongly sung if a bit labored. Sarasota regular Young-Bok Kim is a booming bass presence as the chaplain Raimondo.
Conductor Anthony Barrese and the orchestra take a rather soft-edged approach, which is apt in sections like the hushed, funereal prelude, but often shortchanges the frenzied urgency of Donizetti's melodramatic score.
Lucia di Lammermoor has five performances through March 23. $45-$125. (941) 328-1300; sarasotaopera.org.
Four musicals top the lineup of freeFall Theatre's 2012-13 season, including the first Tampa Bay area production of Spring Awakening, the Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater creation that married a 19th century German play by Frank Wedekind with rock 'n' roll. Also on the agenda, musically speaking: John & Jen, a two-person show by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald; and Bernarda Alba by Michael John LaChiusa, based on Federico García Lorca's 1936 play The House of Bernarda Alba.
Artistic director Eric Davis is bringing back A Christmas Carol, Bruce Greer and Keith Ferguson's musical take on Charles Dickens that premiered over the holidays this season. Freefall, in its third season in its St. Petersburg home, will continue to stage Shakespeare, with a production of Romeo and Juliet. Other plays on the schedule are An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf by Michael Hollinger (Opus); and Speech and Debate, a dark comedy by Stephen Karam.
There's an interesting production at the USF School of Theatre and Dance. Body Stories, presented as part of the BRIT (as in British International Theatre) program, is a collaboration between students and Britain's Filter Theatre on a script worked up during rehearsals from cast members' accounts of their own bodies. 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Theatre 2 on the Tampa campus. $8-$15. (813) 974-2323; theatreanddance.arts.usf.edu.
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.