Opera: Behind the Nervous Curtain

To open its 80th season, the Metropolitan Opera last week mounted a lavish new production of an old operatic warhorse, Lucia di Lammermoor. Designer Attilio Colonello created massive settings of gnarled, Sequoia-size trees and great Scottish castles. Costumes were dazzlingly extravagant. The male leads, swathed in layer upon layer of brocades, silks and laces, looked like overweight peacocks, but dashingly so.

The staging was stodgy, consisting mainly of pose striking.

But no matter. Opening-night audiences at the Met are notorious for their detachment from the proceedings on stage. Milling in the corridors,...

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