Lucia in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR - Seattle Opera, October 2010
My wife's first Lucia was Sutherland, mine was Sills. So you can imagine our astonishment at being left breathless by seattle opera's new Bride of Lammermoor, Aleksandra Kurzak (October 20). Like Sutherland, Donizetti's coloratura held few terrors for her, and every run and trill had a Sills-like emotional connection and expressivity. At times Kurzak's comely physical grace and detailed vocal inflection even evoked memories of the legendary Callas. At times I wished Kurzak would hold back, especially when tackling every possible interpolation, until the last E flat sounded more exhausted than ecstatic. But you can argue that Lucia in her delirium is also at energy's end, and I am loath to quibble at Kurzak's mesmerizing portrayal. Yet it was his (Tomer Zvulun) work with Kurzak in the Mad Scene-every run, trill, abrupt shift and subito piano underlined with chilling detail-that silenced criticism ... and the audience itself. It was as if the heady days of the Bel Canto Revival, with Sills, Sutherland and Callas, were back again, eerie and unforgettable.
Opera Magazine - Theodore Deacon
Making her debut in the challenging role of Lucia, Polish coloratura Aleksandra Kurzak acted the rest of the cast off the stage. Kurzak's mad scene made those of most current Luciainterpreters look quite tame. And for the most part, Kurzak's voice and vocal technique were equal to the bel canto challenge. She delivered some deliciously long trills toward the end of "Regnava nel silenzio," and though she sang the "Egli e luce" section a little cautiously, she colored the lead up to the climax with thrilling ornamentation and took the final high note cleanly....her performance was a musical and dramatic tour de force.
Opera News - John F. Hulcoop
Aleksandra Kurzak, in her first time as Lucia, scored the kind of triumph one seldom gets to witness - and not just for her singing. Oh yes, she has a gorgeous, warm, large, and perfectly controlled voice, with all the musicianship one could wish for. Her high E-flats were absolutely confident and so well-focused that, without great volume, they could easily be heard over the entire chorus and orchestra at full bore. And she has a real trill (rare these days) and accurate coloratura to burn. But it was her acting in every scene that made this show unforgettable. It didn't hurt that she is also very pretty. She moved with athletic skill, even making me think at first that her balancing act on the rim of the ancient well was actually dangerous. And she did this while executing difficult runs and trills! But the tour de force, of course, was the famous mad scene. Here she pushed acting and athletic moves to the extreme, rolling across the stage, singing a la Netrebko with her head hanging upside down on the stairs, threatening choristers with huge lunges with a big knife, among other feats. During these, her singing never showed the slightest compromise or fault. In fact, she made me feel that, while she showed incredible daring, taking risks at every opportunity, she was having a ball! The audience went nuts, giving her the most enthusiastic ovation I have ever heard at Seattle Opera. What a way to debut a new role! Remember the name of this Polish soprano: Aleksandra Kurzak.
SGN - Rod Parke
In true bel canto fashion, the singers convey the characters' feelings through their voices, even when Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak is showcasing her technical prowess in the stratosphere as Lucia. When I saw the production on Oct. 23, Kurzak and the Saturday cast were on fire. In her Seattle Opera debut, Kurzak blew the audience away with her beautiful, dramatic voice that has a top as fearless as her physicality. Unlike some Lucias, Kurzak's eventual mental meltdown was presaged as early as her first scene with Edguardo, in her acute anxiety over his pending departure into exile. More foreshadowing came in the form of a ghost, an apt addition to the Seattle production. The opera's famous Mad Scene is a marathon test of a soprano's ability to convey Lucia's insanity and grief, all while displaying prodigious technique. Kurzak was truly crazed, ripping apart flowers, rolling on the floor, mistaking wedding guests for her lover Edguardo, slicing her wrists. I'm seldom completely convinced by an opera's Mad Scene, but Kurzak's was one of the best pieces of acting I've seen, operatic or otherwise.
Quenn Anne News - Maggie Larrick
You would have to travel a very long distance to find another production of Lucia di Lammermoor as good as the one that Seattle Opera delivered on Wednesday evening (October 20) at McCaw Hall. Led by Aleksandra Kurzak in the title role, this performance was a complete package in which the singing, acting, orchestra, lighting, scenery, combined like a five-star meal to create a vivid portrayal of Lucia’s tragic story. To top things off, Kurzak’s jaw-dropping, foot-stomping performance with Seattle Opera was only the second time that she had ever performed Lucia (her debut was on opening night, October 16). It’s a sure bet that other opera companies are lining up to schedule this talented Polish soprano as Lucia in the near future. In every which way, Kurzak embodied a teenager who is swept up in the throes of forbidden love. At one point in the first act, she impulsively jumped up on the rim of a courtyard fountain and tiptoed along its edge while singing of her love for Edgardo (sung by William Burden) in the aria “Quando rapito in estasi” (“When, lost in ecstasy”). During the mad scene in the second act, Kurzak plucked all of the petals from her bouquet while wandering all over the stage in a haphazard, yet disturbing way: at one moment imagining a retainer to be Edgardo and then pulling out a knife to slit the veins in her arms. No matter what Kurzak did, she sang ravishingly with resonant low notes, thrilling high notes, through fast passages and slow ones. Her high E flat (above high C) just before Lucia collapses at the end of the mad scene was radiant and wonderfully extended, and it caused the audience to erupt with applause.
Oregon Music News - James Bash
An impresario as smart as Seattle Opera’s Speight Jenkins does not bother to present Lucia di Lammermoor unless he has a dynamite Lucia. This time, Jenkins took a chance on the Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, whom he chose despite the fact that she would be undertaking the role for the first time. He knew she had the high-flying coloratura, the emotional intensity, and the sheer presence to make a great Lucia. Kurzak did not disappoint. Operaphiles in the house for her Seattle performances couldn’t believe this was her first Lucia – not with the utter assurance and verve with which she sang and acted. It’s rare to see a singer so totally inhabit this role, while simultaneously making the harrowing vocal demands sound almost easy. Kurzak’s voice is smooth and creamy throughout the register, with an evenness extending upward to the high E-flats. The notes above the staff were thrillingly and accurately produced, never scrawny or screechy (and often sung while Kurzak was on the floor, on her knees, or in full flight across the stage). This also is a singer who really knows how to establish an almost electric connection with an audience. Operagoers leaned forward in their seats to hear and see what this Lucia would do next. Gasps were heard when Kurzak and her Edgardo, William Burden, rose to an unexpected high E-flat/high C climax to their Act I duet.
The Classical Review - Melinda Bargreen
Sometimes a singer bursts onto the scene like an unexpected comet, with a burst of energy that lights up the opera stage as if it were the night sky. That is the case with soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, who made her Seattle Opera debut with her first-ever performances of the title role in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” No one who heard and saw Kurzak could have believed she had never done this before: she displayed both complete command and total abandon as Lucia. A compelling actress, Kurzak demonstrated Lucia’s harrowing descent from the love-struck girl of Act I to the broken, possessed creature of the famous Mad Scene – all her sparkle gone, replaced by flights of frenzy in which she poured out coloratura roulades from every conceivable position on the stage. You could practically hear the seats creak as the audience leaned forward, waiting to see and hear what Kurzak would do next. Her performance was an uncanny mixture of the utterly polished and the completely spontaneous. Her voice, supple and accurate and beautiful at both ends of her considerable register, ascends to the top E-flats with an easy assurance that completely dispelled the usual “will she make it” worries...He (Burdon) and Kurzak sang extraordinarily well together, rising to a startling high C/high E-flat culmination of their first-act duet.
Classical KING FM - Melinda Bargreen
Their production of "Lucia di Lammermoor" is lucid, lush and hypnotic with fine performances from the singers, both vocally and dramatically, And, for this production, we are blessed with the presence of two young, attractive, modern performers: the familiar face of tenor William Burden as Edgardo and the exciting debut of Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak as Lucia. Both were excellent in their roles and performances, with special attention paid to Ms Kurzak and her commanding and assured work in the acclaimed "mad" scene in Scene 1 of the third act. It was a mesmerizing and powerful piece of singing AND acting. She is a major find and must be invited back to work on the stages of Seattle Opera. Ms Kurzak and Mr Burden are appealing personalities and they make a handsome couple; it's exciting watching their romance develop and tragic when the relationship is doomed to failure. Because you believe in the possibility of their attraction, they are relatable and appealing to the audience. "Is the Mad Scene" any good?" And the answer is a resounding yes. Aleksandra Kursak gives a nuanced but heartbreakingly anguished performance in the scene. She is definitely "mad" and gone off the deep end, but the singer never overplays it or goes too broad. It's a dramatic performance and a powerful performance but it's never unhinged and it's very finely controlled and precise without feeling contrived. I knew it was coming, and I was looking forward to it and knew what to expect, but her passionate performance still left me with chills. And, Ms Kursak was only enhanced by the beautiful, beautiful sublime work of flutist Scott Goff as both Ms Kursak's voice and Mr Goff's musicianship entwined to create a duet of exquisite clarity in the most heart wrenching moments of the aria. Very, very fine work from both artists. "Is the Mad Scene" any good?" And the answer is a resounding yes. Aleksandra Kursak gives a nuanced but heartbreakingly anguished performance in the scene. She is definitely "mad" and gone off the deep end, but the singer never overplays it or goes too broad. It's a dramatic performance and a powerful performance but it's never unhinged and it's very finely controlled and precise without feeling contrived. I knew it was coming, and I was looking forward to it and knew what to expect, but her passionate performance still left me with chills. And, Ms Kursak was only enhanced by the beautiful, beautiful sublime work of flutist Scott Goff as both Ms Kursak's voice and Mr Goff's musicianship entwined to create a duet of exquisite clarity in the most heart wrenching moments of the aria. Very, very fine work from both artists. "Is the Mad Scene" any good?" And the answer is a resounding yes. Aleksandra Kursak gives a nuanced but heartbreakingly anguished performance in the scene. She is definitely "mad" and gone off the deep end, but the singer never overplays it or goes too broad. It's a dramatic performance and a powerful performance but it's never unhinged and it's very finely controlled and precise without feeling contrived. I knew it was coming, and I was looking forward to it and knew what to expect, but her passionate performance still left me with chills. And, Ms Kursak was only enhanced by the beautiful, beautiful sublime work of flutist Scott Goff as both Ms Kursak's voice and Mr Goff's musicianship entwined to create a duet of exquisite clarity in the most heart wrenching moments of the aria. Very, very fine work from both artists.
Seattle Gay Scene - Michael Strangeways
...soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, in the title role, subtly and skillfully aged from the susceptible girl of Act 1 to a woman pushed to the edge, ready to avenge her imminent forced marriage by stabbing her husband...Her singing up to that point raised expectations too—easy and flexible...When that mad scene comes, in Act 3, Kurzak attacks it fearlessly, not only theatrically (even cutting her forearms in time to the music!), but vocally. She delivers what coloratura singing ought to be, yet not often is: more than mere notes, rests, and barlines, but a sonic analogue to what's going on in the character's mind.
Seattle weekly - Gavin Borcherd
The first of several heart-stopping moments in Seattle Opera's dazzling new production of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor comes in the first act. Lucia, sung with crystalline brilliance by the Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak...you can't help but fall in love with the singers...Then, in the third act, comes the hair-curling mad scene, which could be nothing but coloratura flash. With the right performers (Maria Callas, Dame Joan Sutherland), it becomes a gut-wrenching tour de force. (The opening night performance was dedicated to Sutherland's memory.) Kurzak is technically perfect and emotionally convincing...Kurzak, an immensely talented and accomplished lyric soprano whose roles to date have stopped just short of madness, sings her first Lucia. She's entirely credible as a teenage Lucia (clowning around a fountain) who quickly gets in over her head as a pawn in the story's medieval Scottish politics. She lands the thrilling high notes but she's almost too cute for her hysteria to be absorbed as tragedy...o when Kurzak's Lucia descends the staircase of Dahlstrom's Piranesi-inspired set clutching the bloody veil of her wedding gown, she's no longer a little girl overwhelmed by family politics, she's no longer a "canary," but a woman with spectacular vocal gifts. Her madness, transcending demented confusion, becomes an expression of victory, of moral clarity.
cornichon.org - Ronald Holden
Aleksandra Kurzak sang the role Saturday night at McCaw. Not only was she making her house debut but also her debut in the role. The Polish soprano is a determined young woman of considerable talent and calm nerves. Undoubtedly her portrayal will deepen with time, but at the present it is remarkably acute and telling. There is much to admire. She has plenty of technical resources, which are required for the role, and a top that flourishes and blooms. The voice does not have the fullness for which Sutherland was so celebrated but it has amplitude and focus that carried well into the house. She is a small woman which seemed to reinforce Lucia’s frail nature, not only psychologically but physically. The Mad Scene is the high point of the opera, along with some other glorious moments like the sextet. Kurzak made the most of it, not only vocally but theatrically. She did more than descend the stairs, with blood staining her dress, and singing all those vocal flourishes. She actually seemed demented: terrorizing the wedding guests, throwing flowers, brandishing a knife, slashing her wrists, straddling her brother on the floor. All this was done realistically with few hints of melodrama.
The Gathering Note - R.M. Campbell
...But it was Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, making her company and role debut as Lucia, that set the theater alight both vocally and dramatically. She made me believe she really was Lucia.
The Seattle Times - Bernard Jacobson
New Polish soprano Kurzak astounds in Lucia di Lammermoor... I had never left an Opera saying I want to go back tomorrow... I can no longer say that with any honesty after being stunned by Lucia di Lammermoor at the Settle Opera. It wasn’t all to do with the incredible debut of Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak - not quite all because a very able supporting cast rose to the challenge of performing with the lady the Guardian calls ‘a superstar in the making’... But it would only be proper to start of any review of this show with Aleksandra singing the title role of Lucia Ashton. As a Seattle Opera insider told me before the show, the SO likes to emphasise acting ability as well as singing in his its selection of cast. With Kurzak, (as well as Burden and Puskaric) they reached out and grabbed the best of both worlds. Aleksandra’s delivery of some incredibly difficult solos was pitch perfect. This was true of her opener but never was it more so than in her ‘mad scene’ which deserves to be one of the most talked about artistic performances of Seattle’s 2010 arts season. Aleksandra’s mad scene was spellbinding, astonishing, captivating and will remain in my memory for a long time. She controlled every note while simultaneously controlling every body part as she went dementedly insane on stage, cleverly using the other static performers as props. She confused members of Enrico’s guard as Edgardo bouncing from one to another, portraying uncontrollable sadness with perfectly controlled acting and singing. In one absolutely memorable moment, she even approaches her conspiring brother, seeing Edgardo in him. Burden handled that perfectly too, and we could see the shame beginning to well up inside him, which he did without seeking to remove the attention from Lucia. Superb direction too there. I also saw a new phenomenon which had never occurred to me at a show. Picture this. The curtain falls and the audience bursts into an ovation greater than any I had heard at the opera. We knew we had seen magic. As the penultimate performer came out to receive his, audiences who were already standing applauded then resumed their seats. Why? They wanted to be able to rise again when Kurzak came on stage. It was a mark of unbelievable respect delivered by an enthralled audience eager not to disrespect her co-performers and one must say delivered gracefully by the audience. Others were sitting perched just off their seats, ready to rise when she walked on. It was that good. The smiles on the faces of Puskaric and Burden recognised too that they had not been slighted in any way. Audience and colleagues were as one in responding to Kurzak in that dramatic moment... Of course, Aleksandra Kurzak stole it, but there was plenty worth stealing... Prior to the performance Speight Jenkins stood on stage and in as emotional a voice as I have ever witnessed him, dedicated the performance to the memory of Dame Joan Sutherland... In that respect, Aleksandra Kurzak’s performance serves as a fitting tribute.
examiner.com - Steve Clare