opera in three acts
Music: Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano after Sir Walter Scott`s novel The Bride of Lammermoor
Performed in ItalianLucia di Lammermoor
is a dramma tragico (tragic opera) in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvatore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. Very successful from creation, today it remains one of the leading bel canto operas.
The opera premiered on September 26, 1835 at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Donizetti revised the score for a French version which debuted on August 6, 1839 at the Theatre de la Renaissance in Paris.
The best-known pieces in Lucia di Lammermoor are the sextet at the end of Act II and Lucia's "Mad Scene" in Act III. The "Mad Scene," "Il dolce suono...Spargi d'amaro pianto," has historically been a vehicle for several coloratura sopranos (providing a breakthrough for Dame Joan Sutherland) and is a technically and expressively demanding piece.
Some sopranos, most notably Maria Callas, have performed the role in a relatively come scritto ("as written") fashion, adding minimal ornamentation to their interpretations. Most sopranos, however, add ornamentation to demonstrate their technical ability, as was the tradition in the bel canto period. This involves the addition and interpolation of trills, mordents, turns, runs and cadenzas. Almost all sopranos (most famously Joan Sutherland) append cadenzas to the end of the "Mad Scene", sometimes ending them on a high E-flat. Maria Callas often opted not to sing the E-flat; however, under the baton of Serafin, the Greek soprano ended the mad scene with an E-flat.
Some sopranos (most notoriously, Ruth Welting) have sung the mad scene in Donizetti's original F major key, ending it with a high F natural instead of transposing it one step down to the E-flat major key.
For decades Lucia was considered to be a mere showpiece for coloratura sopranos and was a little-known part of the operatic repertory. However, after World War II, a small number of technically-able sopranos, the most notable of whom were Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, revived the opera in all of its original tragic glory. Sutherland's performances in the role at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1959 and repeated in 1960 established Lucia as her calling card.
Since its revival, Lucia di Lammermoor has become a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, and appears as number thirteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America
Lucie de Lammermoor
The French version of Lucia di Lammermoor was commissioned for the Theatre de la Renaissance in Paris and opened on August 6, 1839. The libretto, written by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaez, is not simply a translation, as Donizetti altered some of the scenes and characters. One of the more notable changes is the disappearance of Alisa, Lucia's friend. This allows the French version to isolate Lucia and to leave a stronger emotional impact than that left by the original. Furthermore, Lucia loses most of Raimondo's support; his role is dramatically diminished while Arturo gets a bigger part. Donizetti creates a new character, Gilbert, who is loosely based on the huntsman in the Italian version. However, Gilbert is a more developed figure and serves both Edgardo and Enrico, divulging their secrets to the other for money.
The French version is not performed as often as the Italian, but it was revived to great acclaim by Natalie Dessay and Roberto Alagna at the Opera de Lyon in 2002. It was also co-produced by the Boston Lyric Opera and the Glimmerglass Opera in 2004.
The plot of Sir Walter Scott's original novel is based on an actual incident that took place in 1669 in the Lammermuir Hills area of Lowland Scotland. The real family involved were the Dalrymples. While the libretto retains much of Scott's basic intrigue, it also contains very substantial changes in terms of characters and events.
The story concerns a feud between two families, the Ashtons and the Ravenswoods. When the opera begins, the Ashtons are in the ascendancy and have taken possession of Ravenswood Castle, the ancestral home of their rivals. Edgardo (Sir Edgar), Master of Ravenswood and last surviving member of his family, has been forced to live in a lonely tower by the sea, known as the Wolf's Crag. The Ashtons, despite their success, are threatened by changing political and religious forces. Enrico (Lord Henry Ashton) hopes to gain the protection of the important Arturo (Lord Arthur Bucklaw) to whom he intends to marry his sister Lucia (Lucy). Act 1Scene 1: The gardens of Ravenswood Castle
Normanno (Norman), captain of the castle guard, and other retainers are searching for an intruder. He tells Enrico that he believes that the man is Edgardo, and that he comes to the castle to meet Lucia. It is confirmed that Edgardo is indeed the intruder. Enrico reaffirms his hatred for the family and his determination to end the relationship.Scene 2: By a fountain at the entrance to the park, beside the castle
Lucia waits for Edgardo. In her famous aria Regnava nel Silenzio, Lucia tells her maid Alisa (Alice) that she has seen the ghost of a girl killed on the very same spot by a jealous Ravenswood ancestor. Alisa tells Lucia that the apparition is a warning and that she must give up her love for Edgardo. Edgardo enters. For political reasons, he must leave immediately for France. He hopes to make his peace with Enrico and marry Lucia. Lucia tells him this is impossible, and instead they take a sworn vow of marriage and exchange rings. Edgardo leaves. Act 2Scene 1: Lord Ashton's apartments in Ravenswood Castle
Preparations have been made for the imminent wedding of Lucia to Arturo. Enrico worries about whether Lucia will really submit to the wedding. He shows his sister a forged letter seemingly proving that Edgardo has forgotten her and taken a new lover. Enrico leaves Lucia to further persuasion this time by Raimondo (Raymond), Lucia's chaplain and tutor, that she should renounce her vow to Edgardo, for the good of the family, and marry Arturo.Scene 2: A hall in the castle
Arturo arrives for the marriage. Lucia acts strangely, but Enrico explains that this is due to the death of her mother. Arturo signs the marriage contract, followed reluctantly by Lucia. At that point Edgardo suddenly appears in the hall. Raimondo prevents a fight, but he shows Lucia's signature on the marriage contract to Edgardo. He curses her, demanding that they return their rings to each other. He tramples his ring on the ground, before being forced out of the castle. Act 3Scene 1: The Wolf's Crag
Enrico visits Edgardo to challenge him to a duel. He tells him that Lucia is already enjoying her bridal bed. Edgardo agrees to fight him. They will meet later by the graveyard of the Ravenswoods, near the Wolf's Crag.Scene 2: A Hall in Ravenswood castle
Raimondo interrupts the marriage celebrations to tell the guests that Lucia has gone mad and killed her bridegroom. Lucia enters. In the aria 'Il dolce suono' she imagines being with Edgardo, soon to be happily married. Enrico enters and at first threatens Lucia but later softens when he realizes her condition. Lucia collapses. Raimondo blames Normanno for precipitating the whole tragedy.
Set design for iii.3 by Francesco Bagnara, ca 1844 (Civica Raccolta Stampe Bertarelli Milan)Scene 3: The graveyard of the Ravenswood family
Edgardo is resolved to kill himself on Enrico's sword. He learns that Lucia is dying and then Raimondo comes to tell him that she has already died. Edgardo stabs himself with a dagger, hoping to be re-unified with Lucia in heaven.© Photo by "Pattihio Theater of Limassol"
© Photo by "Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera"