Chances to see Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" in Salt Lake City come around once a decade, even though it's one of the most listenable operas in the canon, with a story that is easy to follow (albeit grim). Utah Opera's recently opened production is well worth checking out not just for the novelty, but also because the singing and production values are uniformly strong.
Soprano Abigail Rethwisch made the biggest splash on opening night. Because Nicole Haslett, who was originally cast in the role of Lucia, fell ill and won't be able to perform until Wednesday at the earliest, Rethwisch a participant in the company's Resident Artist training program stepped in. She connected solidly with the character and her stratospherically high, dazzlingly florid music. The famous mad scene, which follows Lucia's (spoiler) fatal stabbing of the man her brother forces her to marry, electrified Saturday's crowd.
Baritone James Westman was vocally and physically imposing in the role of Enrico, the brother who sees Lucia's marriage to another nobleman as the only way to save the family fortune. Though the character is hardly sympathetic, Westman clearly portrayed the desperation driving Enrico's actions.