A scan of Google results suggests that people were dumping tickets for today's performance of Lucia di Lammermoor--either the stage version at the Met or the HD simulcasts at theaters around the country, including here in Palookaville. Hard to tell whether this wave of unloadings came from the absence of Rolando Villazón,who had to bail after highly public display of cracks and coughings a couple of weeks back at the opening--or because of the somewhat-south-of-iffy reviews of the performance itself.
Either way, the sellers might have been missing a bet. At least from the cheap seats at the HD, today's show may not have ranked as entirely magical, but it was a perfectly acceptable piece of work--balanced, appreciative and tightly integrated. For Piotre Beczala Villazón's replacement as Edgardo, this had to be a kind of a Judy Garland moment, though at 42 he is not exactly a newbie (he sang the Duke in Rigoletto a couple of years back). But you can't buy the kind of attention you get when you show up on short notice. I'd say he rose to the occasion: his performance wasn't as fully thought out as it might have been with more practice, but he has a good feel for the language and the drama and he engaged remarkably well with his leading lady. It might be also that he doesn't project quite well enough in enough in the big house.
The leading lady herself--that would be Anna Netbrebko, still fresh back from maternaty leave, has a full, rich merlot-y sort of voice, although she may not have recovered quite all of her electricity just yet. But I'd say the palm goes to the villain of the piece, Mariusz Kwiecien (another Pole) who starts out as your ordinary case of tragic responsibility and then quickly turns nasty when things don't go his way. Or if not Kweicien, I'd say the conductor Marco Armiliato, who made it clear that he loves this score and the orchestra he gets to perform it with. Unfortunately, if you failed to notice him, it was not for the Met's lack of trying: somebody in production turned up the volume on the orchestra to a point where (perhaps particularly with Beczala) it had an unfortunate tendency to trump the vocals.
Mary Zimmerman's set took a lot of flac at the opening. I don't know whether or how much she may have changed it since then but I must say I didn't mind; perhaps some things work better in HD than they do on stage. The Met's in-house publicity bills the presentation as "a Victorian ghost story." I think that may be a bit too kind; the opera itself is surely a bit more in the nature of neo-Gothic and the production, as things tend to be, is somethiing of a melange.
Perhaps I have tipped my hand here: Lucia has never been at the top of my list of favorite opera war horses. It certainly has one of the great coloratura show pieces, and as a whole, there really isn't anything wrong with it. For my money, there isn't quite as much right with it as one might wish, but it's a perfectly pleasant way to while away an afternoon (or midday, in HD), and this presentation, even given its improvisational touches, is nothing to be ashamed of.