I'm kinda in a Donizetti mood at the moment (due to all the recent uploads from "L'elisir" and "Don Pasquale"), so I decided to upload something that I wanted to post quite a while back but never really gotten around to doing: Joan Sutherland's first studio recording of Lucia's opening scene from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" (mind you, the scene, not the whole opera).
I'm very attracted to the voice of the young Joan Sutherland, as most of my related uploads are bound to tell you. But if one would decide to choose her best recording, the choice would be obvious: her first recorded recital with Nello Santi, "Operatic Arias", hailing from 28-30 April, 1959. Recorded after the triumph at Covent Garden, this is one of the only recordings to feature Joan Sutherland being all-around ideal: fresh, light, beautiful in tone, clear (meaning: diction), dramatical... Everything one could wish. Well, some of the readers are bound to have heard the renditions of Lucia's Mad Scene and Linda's opening cavatina which are taken from the very same disk. I'm not saying that everything else wasn't as good, but this recital certainly did set a very high plank.
"Regnava nel silenvio" isn't exactly an obscure aria, quite the contrary, it has been tackled by most sopranos who can manage it: in spite of its dramatical potency, it's still a very difficult aria with very taxing coloratura passages which must be sung as though they are a part of one's regular speech. I'll just try to, as usual, to provide my own thoughts on the aria and its dramatical opportunities.
I decided to post the whole scene, rather than only the aria itself, to include the rather wonderful harp solo at the very beginning and the arresting recitative which flows straight into the aria. The harp solo is one of Donizetti's most inspired: for me, it primarily symbolizes the fountains pleasant streams which set the scene for Lucia's fervent account of the ghost story. The recitative is remarkable for its beauty of line, rather than dramatics: Lucia's very first phrase is especially wondrous. The dramatics, in my opinion, are rather slim: the ghost is mentioned just too fast for it too be truly effective. The cantabile section of Lucia's aria contrast well the high soprano voice with the dark, foreboding musical landscape on which it is heard. An interesting touch is the final section as Lucia trills on the words "and the water turned red as blood", a link to the harp solo mimicking the fountain? The cantabile really amounts to Lucia's account of the ghost story to Alisa.
The rather dark tone of the aria, especially when compared to the subsequent cabaletta, has given rise to a view that Lucia is set apart from other such characters by the fact that she is mad from the very beginning. I would actually disagree with this opinion: I can't really imagine Edgardo falling in love with a loon singing songs of ghosts to herself. The thing that sets Lucia's descent into madness for me is the fact that we actually see it happen before our very eyes. The young girl (about 14 - 16) is broken down first by her brother, than by her tutor and, finally, by her lover. Arturo's advances must have been the last straw for the poor girl who is just unprepared for that kind of abuse... and she goes mad. Returning to the ghost story, I would actually downplay its supposed importance by saying that it is just that: a story told by a young, impressionable girl to her close companion. At least, that's my opinion.
Anyway, as the scene is rather large, I'm posting the cabaletta separately to avoid any confusion :)! Enjoy ;)!