Lucia di Lammermoor
Opera in three acts
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
Deceit leads to murder and madness, in Donizetti's masterpiece, based on Sir Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor. To save his family's fortunes, Enrico Ashton has promised his sister Lucia's hand to a Scottish nobleman, instead of Edgardo, the man she loves, and a member of a rival family. The ensuing drama is excitingly captured in Donizetti's beautifully romantic music, with many well-known operatic highlights including Lucia's famous mad scene.
February | 24 - March | 23
With Translations In:
Cast & Staff
Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood
Feb 24, 27, 29
Mar 3, 6, 10, 16, 23
Lord Enrico Ashton
Jean Carlos Rodríguez
Feb 24, 27, 29
Mar 3, 6, 10, 16, 23
Young Bok Kim
Feb 24, 27, 29
Mar 3, 6, 10, 16, 23
Hair & Make-Up Designer
BACKGROUND on Opera
Gaetano Donizetti, a prolific and inspired composer, wrote more than 70 operas, but none more popular than Lucia di Lammermoor. With its tight libretto and peerless score, it is the very model of Romantic melodrama. However, the drama of the opera is also heightened by the Gothic horror of dark castles, ruins, the Ravenswood graveyard with its tombs, and the haunted fountain, where specters rise out of the gloom. The third critical element in Lucia di Lammermoor is historical truth, because the real history of Scotland, with its bloody clan feuds, contributes its power to the story.
Donizetti was born in 1797 to a poor family in Bergamo, a northern Italian city with a rich musical tradition. At fourteen, he was known as “the Little Composer” who could write music “as fast as lighting.” After years of study, he launched his first successful opera, Zoraide di Granata, which had its premiere in Rome in 1822. He soon emerged as the most promising man in his field; and within a few years, he was a celebrity, a revered composer in Europe and abroad. Above all, Donizetti was a skilled professional; he accepted commissions, delivered his work on time, and raised few problems in the opera houses where he worked. In fact, his output is simply astonishing. A generous, decent, affectionate, and lovable man, he was nevertheless lonely and sad, because his only child and his beloved wife both died while he was young, leaving him to suffer years of profound grief.
The Creation of the Opera and the World Premiere
As a working musician, Donizetti was constantly on the prowl for plots he could use for his operas. In May 1835, seeking a subject for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, he chose The Bride of Lammermoor, a Romantic novel by Sir Walter Scott. One of the most famous writers of his time, Scott published Scottish ballads, folk tales, and local history from all regions of his country, and he wrote – among other works – the Waverly novels, which were enormously popular in Italy. Donizetti was but one of many Italian artists who saw Scott as a kindred spirit and seized upon his works for inspiration.
In Naples, as a practical matter, the production of Lucia di Lammermoor was delayed by several months, in part because of the censors – the most repressive on the Italian peninsula. From Donizetti’s correspondence of May 1835, we learn that he threatened to cancel his contract, because the opera management had failed to get their approval on time. Finally the matter was settled. As his librettist, the composer had chosen Salvadore Cammarano, a knowledgeable jack-of-all-trades who had worked in the San Carlo and other theatres in the city. Cammarano later wrote librettos for other composers, among them Giuseppe Verdi. It was his sure hand that kept the libretto of Lucia so neat and trim, so free of the overblown theatrical mannerisms that swamp so many operas. He also filled it with what Donizetti demanded: “love, without which operas are cold, violent love.” The two men worked very rapidly, with composition probably begun in the week of May 18-25, and finished in less than two months. At that point, though, the management’s financial problems meant a further postponement of the production. As Donizetti complained, the soprano Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani had not been paid, and she refused to go on with the rehearsals. Nor did the composer know when he would get paid!
Donizetti was very fortunate, though, in his cast, for that year Alessandro Lanari, “the Napoleon of Impresarios,” was in charge in Naples. Lanari had contracts with some of the greatest singers of the time, Tacchinardi-Persiani among them, and he put Lucia in her hands. A brilliant coloratura soprano, this purebred theatrical animal was the daughter of a celebrated tenor and the wife of a respected composer. Moreover, she was a fine actress with a range from B below middle C to F above high C. In a word, she could sing anything Donizetti wrote for her and could sing anything Donizetti wrote for her and could act the roles convincingly. Over the course of her career, Tacchinardi-Persiani sang many of his works and, to her great credit, made hits out of some of them, including Lucia, which became her signature piece. The first Edgardo was Gilbert Duprez, a star of great magnitude in the operatic sky, while Domenico Cosselli sang Enrico, Lucia’s brother.
The world premiere of Lucia di Lammermoor took place on September 26, 1835. William Ashbrook, author of Donizetti, the definitive biography of the composer, described it as “one of the greatest triumphs ever to take place at the San Carlo. Throughout the evening, most of the audience was dissolved in tears.”
In this opera, Donizetti achieved a superb balance of characters, atmosphere, and orchestral effect, making Lucia his most frequently performed work and the most polished example of its genre.
MARY JANE PHILLIPS-MATZ was the author of “Verdi, A Biography” (1993) and “Puccini, A Biography” (2002). She is co-founder and executive board member of the American Institute for Verdi Studies at New York University.
The action takes place in Scotland towards the end of the 17th Century.
Scene One – The Garden
At Lammermoor Castle, Lord Enrico Ashton has decided to solve his family’s financial and political crisis by forcing his sister, Lucia, to marry Lord Arturo Bucklaw, a rich and influential nobleman. Lucia staunchly refuses, but Raimondo, her tutor, suggests that her reluctance to marry is due to her mother’s recent death. However, Normanno, one of Enrico’s followers, informs his lord that Lucia has been secretly meeting with a man who saved her from danger. The man is Edgardo of Ravenswood, Enrico’s greatest enemy.
Scene Two – A park
Late at night, Lucia enters a park to meet Edgardo. She tells her companion, Alisa, about a girl who was stabbed by her jealous lover, and that she has seen the girl’s ghost. Edgardo arrives with the news that he must leave for a political mission in France. He tells Lucia that he wants peace with Enrico in exchange for Lucia’s hand in marriage. Lucia, knowing of her brother’s disapproval, asks that their love remain secret, and Edgardo agrees. Pledging themselves to each other, Lucia and Edgardo exchange rings.
Scene One – A room in Lord Ashton’s apartments
Some time has passed since Edgardo left for France. Scheming to separate the lovers, Enrico has intercepted their correspondence and has prepared a forged letter from Edgardo that claims he has found another lover. Persuaded by her brother, Lucia reluctantly agrees to marry Arturo.
Scene Two – Lammermoor Castle’s Great Hall
Relatives, friends, and noble members of Enrico’s household gather for the wedding celebration. When Arturo asks for the absent Lucia, Enrico explains that she still cries over her mother’s recent death. Lucia arrives on the arms of Raimondo and Alisa. As they sign the marriage contract, Edgardo storms into the room. Lucia is overcome, and Arturo, Enrico and Edgardo draw swords. Seeing the contract, Edgardo gives his ring back to Lucia, raging that she has betrayed their love.
Scene One – Lammermoor Castle’s Great Hall
Lucia and Arturo have left for the bridal chamber, while the guests continue their celebration. Raimondo enters the wedding hall to inform the guests that Lucia has stabbed Arturo. Driven mad by the extraordinary events, Lucia comes into the room imagining she is with Edgardo. She reveals that her brother forced her to sign the marriage contract, but that she loves only Edgardo.
Scene Two – The Burial Ground of the Ravenswood
Edgardo, ignorant of the entire story of Lucia’s madness, vows to throw himself on his enemy’s sword. A group of men enter and tell him what has occurred. When he learns of Lucia’s death, he stabs himself.