The Celestial Opera Company, founded by Judith Townsend and under the direction of John Dennehy Jr., presented a great favorite of the bel canto repertoire on Sunday evening, May 5, at the Woman’s Club of South Pasadena: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Conducting a chamber ensemble which included strings, winds and French horns, musical director Joshua Heaphey built the musical suspense from the very start of the composer’s prelude, immediately creating the atmosphere that would carry the audience through the tortured drama.
The star of the show in name, presence and voice, was soprano Keiko Clark. From her first entrance as a naïve young girl to her final scene as a lunatic murderess (just before falling dead on the floor), Ms. Clark appeared completely at ease with her role, singing the fiery coloratura effortlessly, hitting and holding the high D’s every time. She also acted the part well, seeming to occupy her own universe when she went mad, unaware of the friends and family that surrounded her, or of her own savage actions toward her new husband, Arturo.
Terry James Wellborn did a terrific job as the domineering and manipulative brother, Enrico. Turning a deaf ear to Lucia’s pleas in their Act II duet, “Soffriva nel pianto”, his voice had a ringing edge that could be heard out in the street, matching Lucia’s clear lyric tones with his powerful, clearly enunciated baritone.
Kudos to mezzo soprano Yilin Hsu Wentlandt, who made a fine impression in the role of Alisa, her warm, rich mezzo soprano cutting through the orchestra while she realistically acted the part of Lucia’s close friend and companion. Tenor Joseph Michels gave an impassioned performance as Lucia’s dearly beloved Edgardo, especially in the duet from Act I, “Verrano a te sull’aure” and in his final aria, “Tue che a Dio spiegasti l’ali”.
Michael Margulies as Raimondo and Bruce Anderson as Normanno rounded out an excellent cast with solid performances. Anderson was also the chorusmaster, and his troupe was large and enthusiastic, filling the small stage and creating appropriate festivities or furor as they were called for. Costumes were colorful, further supporting the feeling of another era. Supertitles projected above the stage gave the audience an English translation of the libretto.
Ljiljana Lukic-Panic, flutist, performed beautifully in the Act III duet with Lucia, “Ardon gli incensi”, particularly in the cadenza, where she matched Ms. Clark perfectly, note-for-note, delivering her own arpeggios fluidly and with excellent intonation.
It was an evening well-spent, in enjoyment of one of the most difficult and beloved bel canto operas ever written.
— Barbara Frey
Community Reviewer for Lauri’s List