Not many 19th-century Italian operas feature a chorus of men pointing rifles at the audience in the first five minutes. But Donizetti's enduring masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor pulls few punches, and it delivers plenty of melodrama, blood and betrayal in its tragic tale of a Scottish woman in love with her brother's enemy. Coloratura soprano Elizabeth Futral, who previously performed the role at the Metropolitan Opera, is Lucia, and she sings circles round the rest of the cast. That's not to say the others fail to deliver on the rousing libretto, but the power of Futral's voice makes your eardrums buzz. Peter Volpe has a nice turn as the chaplain Raimondo, a role that showcases his rich bass voice, and conductor George Manahan makes great use of Will Reno's timpani. The other bright spot in this Portland Opera production is lighting designer Scott Zielinski's commanding use of light and shadow, which helps salvage the otherwise puzzling production design: The backdrops resemble two gigantic Ruffles potato chips, rotated in each scene and eventually accompanied by a moon, portrayed by an anemic neon doughnut. But any criticism is forgotten by the third and final act, when Futral smears blood on a window with a zeal that would impress Dario Argento and then delivers the famous "Mad Scene," her voice soaring and her expressive face recalling Sissy Spacek in Carrie. As Lucia loses all reason, we likewise surrender ourselves to her blood-soaked lunacy.
SEE IT: Lucia di Lammermoor is at the Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 241-1802. 7:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 6, and Saturday, Feb. 8. $20-$160.