Tuesday September 10th, 7:30 p.m.
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
An opera in three acts
by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
after the novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
Premiered on 26 September 1835 at the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples
A 2016 production from Covent Garden, London
Direction by Katie Mitchell
Set and Costume Design by Vicki Mortimer
Lighting Design by John Clark
The Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Conducted by Daniel Oren
Scene 1 The Forest of Ravenswood
In the grounds of Ravenswood Castle, Normanno and his followers search for a mysterious trespasser. Enrico suspects that this person is none other than Edgardo, risking his life to woo Lucia.
Enrico rages at Lucia’s refusal to marry Arturo, and swears vengeance on the lovers.
Scene 2 The Fountain
At a ruined fountain Lucia awaits Edgardo, and tells her confidant, Alisa, of the maiden’s ghost which haunts the fountain, and which has prophesied a tragic end to her love for Edgardo.
Although Alisa implores her to take care, Lucia cannot restrain her love.
Edgardo arrives and explains that he must go to France on a political mission.
The lovers exchange rings and bid each other an impassioned farewell.
Scene 1 The Marriage Contract
In an anteroom of the castle, Enrico confronts Lucia with a forged letter, supposedly from Edgardo, proving him pledged to another woman.
Crushed, Lucia longs for death, and Enrico insists that her marriage to Arturo take place as soon as possible. Raimondo comforts Lucia, but asks that she respect the desperate family situation.
Scene 2 The Signing
In the great hall of Ravenswood the guests hail the impending union of two important families, and Arturo pledges to restore Enrico’s prestige.
As soon as Lucia has been forced to sign the marriage contract Edgardo bursts into the hall.
Seeing Lucia’s signature on the contract he believes her to be unfaithful, and after returning her ring, and demanding his own, he curses her and rushes from the hall. Lucia collapses.
Scene 1 Wolf’s Crag
In a ruined tower of Wolf’s Glen later in the same evening, during a violent storm, Edgardo is confronted by Enrico, who tells him that Lucia has already gone to her bridal couch. The two men challenge each other to a duel, to take place at the break of day.
Scene 2 The Feast
In the great hall the wedding festivities are halted when Raimondo enters to announce that Lucia has gone mad and stabbed and killed Arturo.
Dishevelled and unaware of what she has done, Lucia wanders in, recalling her meetings with Edgardo at the fountain and imagining her wedding to him.
Enrico rushes in only to be silenced by the sight of his sister’s pitiful condition.
Believing herself to be in heaven, Lucia collapses dying.
Scene 3 The Tombs at Ravenswood
Among the tombs of his ancestors, Edgardo laments Lucia’s supposed infidelity. While waiting for Enrico, he anticipates an end to his own life, which is empty and miserable without his beloved.
Guests leaving Ravenswood Castle pass by and tell Edgardo that Lucia has been calling his name. As Edgardo is about to rush to her side, a funeral bell is heard and Raimondo arrives to confirm Lucia’s death. Resolving to join Lucia in heaven, Edgardo stabs himself and dies.
"Mortimer's set divided the stage into two and each scene had two visions; for the opening scene it was the church-yard and Lucia's dressing room."
- Robert Hugill on Planet Hugill
Click here to see director Katie Mitchell
and designer Vicki Mortimer speak about their approach to this production
On the eve of the first performance of this production, Catherine Duault in Opera Online looked at the origins, the history and the significance of the work:
Widely considered Donizetti's masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor has enjoyed an "extraordinary triumph" since its creation at the Teatro San Carlo di Napoli in 1835, thanks to an inspired musical score and a simple and effective libretto, but also thanks to the many singers who have taken the leading role, amongst them Diana Damrau. She assumes the role (with which she is particularly familiar) alongside Charles Castronovo and Ludovic Tézier at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in a new production, announced as "violent and mature".
As interpreted by the director Katie Mitchell who wants to take a very feminist view of the work, the production is set in 1830, the era when the Brontë sisters and Mary Anning established the foundations of women's rights. Katie Mitchell focuses "100% on the female roles", Lucia and Alisa, principally to explain Lucia's actions and to give an understanding of her "so-called insanity".
The most-anticipated scene is the one in the great hall of Ravenswood Castle, amid the guests at her wedding, where Lucia appears like a sleepwalker, talking to herself. She is now beyond the reach of the destructive power of men. This so-called “mad scene” is one of the most famous in the entire opera repertory, one of the most difficult but also most impressive, both vocally and theatrically. Donizetti’s genius lay in completely moulding the music to the text, to reflect the inner shuddering of Lucia’s soul. Now that the barriers of society and reason have fallen, Lucia experiences a sort of intoxication that culminates in these mad notes. She uses every ounce of her strength as she addresses Edgardo, assuring him that she will pray for him in the Great Beyond where she is heading, reaching a very sharp B that is the sign of death.
It is worth noting that Lucia was with Donizetti when he himself died on 8 April 1848. Taken back to his home town of Bergamo after he was stricken with cerebral palsy, he lay on his deathbed when an organ grinder struck up the finale to Lucia di Lammermoor under his windows. The dying man’s eyes lit up, and he was heard to murmur “Ah! my Lucia” just before drawing his final breath.
NEXT MEETING: Tuesday October 8th
MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Puccini)
La Scala, 2016
We advised you to have a box of tissues with you for our screening of Lucia di Lammermoor this month. You'll need another box next month when we screen what is often called "The Handkerchief Opera".
"Tears are always guaranteed by the time we get to the always shocking finale, but Puccini is surely justified in provoking them."