At the start of Pittsburgh Opera’s run of Lucia di Lammermoor on November 13, general director Christopher Hahn walked on to the Benedum Center stage to announce that his three main principals had been suffering from colds, most recently the Lucia herself, Laura Claycomb. They would all go on, but would the audience take into consideration that they were not feeling their best.

True, throughout the first two acts (performed without intermission) the energy level was a bit low at times. Claycomb vocalized her entrance scena nicely but sounded cautious in her duets with Edgardo (David Lomeli), Enrico (Bruno Caproni) and Raimondo (Denis Sedov). She didn’t dominate the climaxes of the sextet and finale that followed, but she had no trouble with the high notes and managed small nuances that created a character of spunk and individuality. There was compensation in the vigorous choral singing, well prepared by Mark Trawka.

It was in the final act, the famous mad scene, that Claycomb came into her own. Here, she was in total control of her resources. She sang superbly, but it was no mere vocal exercise. With a sound more lyric than coloratura, she used every roulade, every trill, every high note to delineate an aspect of the heroine’s state of mind. It was the work of a highly intelligent singing actress who managed to embody a character that was not so clearly drawn by the composer and librettist. Claycomb ingeniously filled in most of the gaps.

-Robert Croan

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