Friday, November 5, 2010

SHARED EXPERIENCES: Neil Low

At the recent City Arts-sponsored Fireside Chat centering on Lucia di Lammermoor, we had the good fortune to meet Neil Low, a captain with the Seattle Police Department, and author, who has often dealt professionally with real-life incarnations of the violence and crime that Lucia makes into fiction and music. We're grateful to Neil for sharing his perspective on this show and story today.

"I am a 42-year Seattle Police veteran, and as a captain I have commanded the department’s Internal Affairs, Ethics, Advanced Training, Homicide and Violent Crimes, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and now the Metropolitan Special Response sections. I have written three murder mysteries set in the Seattle of the 1940s, where I expose, rather than glamorize, corruption, murder, and the cruelty of reality, the latter two being themes Speight Jenkins and I addressed during our panel discussion on Myth, Absinthe, Murder, Insanity, and the Opera at the Sorrento Hotel on October 21st."

The Sorrento Hotel was an appropriately film noir-ish setting for a discussion of the madness and murder in Lucia.


"My published novels include: Thick as Thieves, Sign of the Dragon, and Unreasonable Persuasion. I also lead the Seattle Murder Mystery Tour through Pioneer Square when time, weather, and opportunity move me. Given the theme of my stories and the era I write about, I'm also a Romantic: a perfect candidate to fall in love with opera. I'm especially drawn to operas that share the compelling themes I know so well, such as family cruelty, domestic violence, and murder, which are central to Lucia. From my work and life experiences I understand murders, domestic violence, and the stressors that can contribute to violent acts and crimes of passion like those in this opera. What could be more entertaining for a writer than Lucia di Lammermoor?"

Speight Jenkins and Neil Low discuss Lucia over a glass of absinthe at the Sorrento.


"Lucia presents a straightforward murder, following Lucia’s compelled wedding to the seemingly well-meaning Arturo. It would not require a modern, well-equipped CSI team, armed with DNA swabs and luminal testing kits to study blood splatter patterns to determine the probable murder suspect in this scene. Lucia’s stunning performance as a fragile soul driven mad by her family’s self-serving manipulation should be sufficient evidence (res gestae) to prove her culpability, but of course Lucia’s defense council would be wise to argue against her guilt, claiming temporary insanity or non compos mentis. There were plenty of witnesses to her post-event behavior to substantiate that Lucia was not acting rationally.

The ensuing tragedy is that no one steps forward to help save Lucia from her madness, her grief, and herself, which is similarly the case for the very distraught Edgardo. Perhaps it was more convenient for the families if the two would-be lovers did the “honorable thing” and ended their desperate lives on their own. This climax is great for passion and great for the opera, but not great for two humans caught in a crisis."

Low and Jenkins.


"This was a marvelous opera, and my wife, my publisher, and I all had a memorable night that we will always cherish. My compliments to Speight Jenkins for this astonishing production. The highlights of the night were of course the arias of the entire cast, most notably Alesksandra Kurzak, William Burden, Arthur Woodley, and Andrew Stenson. I also caught myself saying, “Wow!” as the raising of the curtains revealed Robert Dahlstrom’s stunning set. Kudos also to the conductor Bruno Cinquerani for a flawless performance."

Neil Low is a captain with the Seattle Police Department and is currently the Commander of Advance Training. Other areas he has commanded include: Homicide and Violent Crimes, Internal Affairs, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Ethics and Professional Responsibility Section. He is a Vietnam veteran and a cum laude graduate of the University of Washington’s Bothell campus, where he also wrote for the school’s weekly newspaper, The UW Bothell Commons. A Seattle native, he now lives in Everett with his wife and three daughters.

Photos by Alan Alabastro.

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