What: Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor 
Company: Cape Town Opera
Director: Angelo Gobbato
When: June 14- 23, 2024
Where: Artscape Opera House
Bookings: Webtickets or call Artscape Box Office on 021 4217695
Age restriction: No under 16s  

Cape Town Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor is Grand Opera. This is an epic, expansive production of with Fleur du Cap Theatre Award winning Brittany Smith and company in exceptional form. Directed by Angelo Gobbato, with Elisabeth Manduell as assistant director, this production marks the 25th birthday of Cape Town Opera. This magnificent production is accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kamal Khan. (Daniel Keet will conduct the season in Johannesburg).

Angelo Gobbato (the co-founder of CTO) directed this production 25 years ago and it is emblematic of the opera’s embrace of the past, present and future that he is at the helm again. Lucia di Lammermoor is a hectically tragic story. It is an Italian opera, which takes place on the moors in Scotland and is a flip-flop of Romeo and Juliet, the iconic British tragic romantic drama positioned in Italy. 

Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel, The Bride of Lammermoor, inspired the Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, set to Donizetti’s wondrous operatic score. No matter, the sources and trajectory of the story, Lucia di Lammermoor is a dark and intensely tragic story, where a lot of people die and women are subject to being currency and objects of desire and transaction by men. I am not going to rehash the story as we all know the narrative of the lovers who are doomed because of family, politics and society. It is the same old story of love, glory, hatred, death, betrayal and men behaving in disgusting ways to hold on to power, position and wealth .

This 25th anniversary production by Cape Town Opera of Lucia di Lammermoor is as I say epic and expansive. It is beautiful opera, full on grandeur. Brittany Smith wows as Lucia. This is a performance which I am sure will go down as another milestone in the diverse career of soprano Smith. Her accolades include Fleur du Cap Theatre awards for musical theatre and for opera. In addition to vocal artistry, she is a consummate actress and this evidenced on her impassioned performance in The Bride of Lammermoor, where there is a seamless synthesis between voice and theatricality. Smith’s performance received a series of bravos throughout the opera in a breath taking performance. Ahh Lucia’s mad scene – magnificent. Lukhanyo Moyake as Edgardo and Conroy Scott are outstanding, as are the rest of the company. The award winning Cape Town Opera Chorus is phenomenal.

In terms of the staging, I wasn’t crazy for the riffing of period setting with contemporary mobile phones and social media memes. I didn’t get this mashing up of periods. I am not a huge fan of audio visuals and found the AV flicking across the screens, to be disruptive and very busy, detracting from the magnificent choral spectacle in front of us. This is a personal thing but this is my take. I loved the movement direction/choreography by Kirsten Isenberg and would have liked more in this production. The Cape Town Philharmonic, with conductor Kamal Kahn is fabulous but I did find the pitch of the music too loud at times, in relation to the voices.

Bravo to Cape Town Opera for its quarter of century on the opera boards. Bravo to our magnificent opera company in Africa and for this proudly South African opulent, grand Lucia di Lammermoor.

Epic tragedy: Cape Town Opera’s 2024 production of Lucia di Lammermoor, directed by Angelo Gobbato, celebrating the CTO’s 25th birthday. Photo by Nicky Elliot. Supplied.

✳ Featured image by Fiona MacPherson. Supplied.