Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
based on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor
February 12, 14, 18, 20, 2015, at 8 pm
Matinée February 22 at 2:30 pm
In Italian with English Surtitles
Pre-performance talk 1 hour before curtain
In the brooding Scottish lowlands, it is men who call the shots. Clan rivalries, political maneuvering, and ancient vendettas leave no place for a woman who falls in love with the wrong man.
Lucia is caught in the brutal web of her brother's manipulation, her lover's jealous rage, and the implacable enmity between their two clans. When she is bullied into an arranged marriage, her fragile spirit is shattered.
In the most celebrated mad scene in all of opera, Donizetti's entrancing melodic lines entwine round Lucia's unraveling coloratura. This is the archetype of romantic bel canto opera ... tempestuous passions, murder, madness, and doom, spun out in glorious song.
Laura Lavin interviews Canadian coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl as she chops potatoes for dinner. Tracy has performed in the greatest opera houses in the world – but she fell into opera almost by accident.
Andrea Peacock previews the opera and interviews Timothy Vernon.
Tragedies are always very satisfying, because they're all dead and we can get up and go home ... It's the cathartic element of great drama that it takes you to the darker places while preserving your own safety.
As the opera begins, the Scottish families of Ravenswood and Lammermoor are engaged in a long-standing political feud. For the moment, Enrico (Lord Henry Ashton) of Lammermoor has prevailed; he has taken over the Ravenswood estates and installed himself and his sister Lucia in Ravenswood Castle. Edgardo, the last of the Ravenswoods, now lives at Wolf's Crag, a gloomy, semi-ruined tower by the sea.
However, Enrico's financial and political situation is now so desperate that he sees only one way out – Lucia must marry the influential nobleman, Lord Arturo Bucklaw.
Act 1, Scene 1. The Grounds of Ravenswood Castle
As his men hunt the grounds for an intruder, Enrico complains that Lucia has refused to even consider marrying Lord Bucklaw. Raimondo, the chaplain, counsels patience: the girl is still in mourning for her mother and isn't ready to think of love. Normanno, captain of the guard, contends that, on the contrary, Lucia has fallen passionately in love with a stranger. Normanno is sure this man, who meets her secretly, is none other than Edgardo, the sworn enemy of the Lammermoor family.
Enrico flies into a rage (Cruda, funesta smania), which intensifies when his men return to report they have sighted the intruder, who is indeed Edgardo. As Raimondo tries to calm him, Enrico swears vengeance on both his sister and her lover.
Act 1, Scene 2. By a Stream In the Park
Lucia, accompanied by Alisa, waits nervously for Edgardo. She tells Alisa that she never sees the stream without shivering, for legend has it that a jealous Ravenswood killed his sweetheart on this very spot. Lucia recalls that the spectre of the murdered girl once appeared to her (Ragnava nel silenzio) and the waters turned to blood. Alisa warns Lucia that this is a dangerous omen and urges her to give up Edgardo. But Lucia rhapsodizes about her lover – he brings light to her days, and being with him is heaven on earth (Quando rapito in estasi).
Edgardo arrives, explaining that he has asked for this one last meeting because he is about to leave on a political mission to France. He wants to make peace with Enrico and ask him for Lucia's hand in marriage. Lucia tells him that is impossible and begs him to keep their love secret. Edgardo responds bitterly that Enrico has robbed him of his father and his heritage, yet there seems no end to his hatred. He reminds Lucia that when his father died, he swore vengeance against Enrico (Sulla tomba che rinserra). Despite his love for Lucia, he has not forgotten that vow. Lucia begs him to think only of love.
Edgardo decides that they should exchange marriage vows then and there. He and Lucia exchange rings and call on heaven to witness their pledges of eternal love. As they say farewell, they sing of how painful their time apart will be (Verranno a te sull'aure).
Act 2, Scene 1. Enrico's study, two months later
Determined to salvage his political fortunes, Enrico has arranged for Arturo Bucklaw to marry Lucia, but Lucia's persistent refusal has him worried. Normanno reassures him: the letters between Edgardo and Lucia have been intercepted, and Normanno has forged a letter to prove that Edgardo is involved with another woman. The wedding guests are gathering, and Normanno leaves to escort Arturo to the castle.
Lucia enters; she is pale and anguished, but still defiant. She tells Enrico she cannot marry Arturo, for she has made a solemn promise to another. When Enrico shows her the forged letter, she is so devastated that she longs only for death. Enrico exhorts her to agree to the marriage – his honour and his very life are at stake, and he will haunt her forever if she betrays him.
As he leaves, Lucia is left seeking the counsel of her trusted priest, Raimondo. Pointing out that her vow to Edgardo is meaningless because it was not blessed by a clergyman, Raimondo urges Lucia to marry Arturo for the sake of her family and her mother's memory. Her resistance to the marriage finally crumbles.
Act 2, Scene 2. The Grand Hall of the Castle
As the wedding ceremony begins, Enrico explains to Arturo that if Lucia seems despondent, it is only because she is still mourning her mother. Enrico orders Lucia to sign the marriage contract. At the moment she finally does so, Edgardo bursts into the hall.
In the sextet that follows, the characters express their emotional turmoil: Edgardo is torn between rage and love; Enrico is stricken with remorse as he sees Lucia's profound distress; Raimondo, Arturo, Alisa, and the chorus are horrified and moved by her plight: Like a withered rose she stands between death and life! Anyone who does not feel for her has a tiger's heart in his breast.
Enrico and Arturo demand that Edgardo leave at once or be killed. Raimondo intervenes and shows Edgardo the marriage contract. Edgardo throws his ring at Lucia, demands hers back, and then, cursing her, leaves in a fury.
Act 3, Scene 1. The Wolf's Crag
Later that stormy night, Enrico follows Edgardo and taunts him with the news that Lucia and Arturo are married, and challenges him to a duel. They agree to meet at dawn in the graveyard at Ravenswood.
Act 3, Scene 2. The Great Hall
The wedding celebrations are in full swing when Raimondo enters with terrible news: Lucia has lost her mind and stabbed her new husband to death. Amid the wedding guests' expressions of horror and grief, Lucia enters.
She recalls falling in love with Edgardo (Il dolce suono) and imagines that they are about to be married. For a moment she hallucinates that the ghost of the girl who was killed by the fountain comes between them. As Lucia breathes in the fragrance of incense (Ardon gl'incensi), she rejoices that she and Edgardo will be together. Give me your hand...Oh, happy day! At last I am yours, you are mine!
Enrico enters, and his anger quickly turns to remorse as Lucia agonizes over her memory of Edgardo's rage at her apparent betrayal. She swears that Enrico forced her to sign the wedding contract and that she always loved Edgardo. She ends with a final prayer (Spargi d'amaro pianto), begging him to scatter his tears of anguish over her earthly remains and promising to pray for him: Only when you join me will Heaven be beautiful for me!
Act 3, Scene 3. The Graveyard of the Ravenswood Family
Surrounded by the graves of his ancestors, Edgardo awaits Enrico, lamenting Lucia's faithlessness and hoping he will be killed in the duel (Fra poco a me ricovero). A group of wedding guests approach and tell him what has happened. Lucia is dying and calling out his name. As Edgardo is about to rush to see her one last time, Raimondo arrives to say she is dead. Realizing now that she has loved him all along, Edgardo vows to meet her in heaven (Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali) and stabs himself as the horrified mourners pray for God to forgive him.
Lucia di Lammermoor
POV Newsletter on Lucia di Lammermoor.
Libretto of the Opera CD booklet from the Chandos Opera in English series, using a translation by David Parry (begins on p.98)
Libretto of the Opera a PDF of the Italian libretto can be downloaded here.
Piano/Vocal Score of the Opera in Italian and English. Note this is a very large (34MB) pdf file and may take some time to download.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Wikipedia article on the opera, including some discussion of the music in popular culture.
Gaetano Donizetti: Wikipedia article on the composer of Lucia di Lammermoor
Lucia di Lammermoor's mad tragedy in Donizetti's mad life: Roger Parker of The Guardian discusses the meaning and music of Lucia's final scene, including the "crazy cadenzas and exotic old instrument" that help make it so appealing, as well as the sad parallel with Donizetti who himself died in a state of mental derangement due to neurosyphilis.
Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, and The Bride of Baldoon
The Bride of Lammermoor: Wikipedia article with a synopsis of the novel and a discussion of the story that inspired the novel.
The Bride of Lammermoor: Text of the novel by Walter Scott on which Donizetti's opera is based. The introduction by the author tells the source of his story.
Miss Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the first Lord Stair and Dame Margaret Ross, had engaged herself without the knowledge of her parents to the Lord Rutherford, who was not acceptable to them either on account of his political principles or his want of fortune...Shortly after, a suitor who was favoured by Lord Stair, and still more so by his lady, paid his addresses to Miss Dalrymple. The young lady refused the proposal, and being pressed on the subject, confessed her secret engagement. Lady Stair, a woman accustomed to universal submission, for even her husband did not dare to contradict her, treated this objection as a trifle, and insisted upon her daughter yielding her consent to marry the new suitor, David Dunbar.While Donizetti has Lucia bullied into marriage by her brother, Scott tells us that the most intense pressure for the girl to marry came from her formidable mother. Janet succumbed to her mother's pressure and married David Dunbar of Baldoon Castle. On the wedding night horrible screaming was heard from the couple's bedroom, where the groom lay stabbed and bleeding. Scott goes on to recount what happened next:
The bride ... was found grinning at them, mopping and mowing, as I heard the expression used; in a word, absolutely insane. The only words she spoke were, "Tak up your bonny bridegroom." She survived this horrible scene little more than a fortnight, having been married on the 24th of August, and dying on the 12th of September 1669.Unlike Arturo Bucklaw in Donizetti's opera, David Dunbar did recover from his wounds, but refused to ever speak of what happened. He died 13 years later in a fall from a horse.
To this day no one knows for certain what had happened, although rumours flew. Many believed Janet had gone mad and stabbed her new husband. Some claimed that Rutherford had slipped into the castle and done the deed. Some blamed Satan himself; others witchcraft (Janet's mother, Margaret Ross, was actually nicknamed the Witch of Endor and popularly believed to have made a pact with the devil that ensured her family's great prosperity and led to the tragedy that befell her daughter).
The Real Bride of Lammermoor: The true story of Janet Dalrymple, The Bride of Baldoon : An engaging exploration of the story of Janet Dalrymple and her ill-fated marriage to David Dunbar, with an account of the families of all involved (including their present-day descendants), even a facsimile of "The Fatal Deed," the original marriage contract between Janet Dalrymple and David Dunbar. The author is strikingly sympathetic toward Margaret Ross, the mother, but does mention that she was known as the Witch of Endor. This essay was written by Rosemary Bythell and published on behalf of the Wigtown Heritage Group. Wigtown is situated only a few miles from Baldoon Castle where Janet Dalrymple died.
TAKE THE OPERA BUS: to the Sunday Matinée. Bus runs from the Saanich Peninsula and Up-Island.