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
The performance is approximately 150 minutes, including one intermission
Above: Scenes from Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Lucia di Lammermoor, with Tracy Dahl, Ernesto Ramírez, James Westman, Giles Tomkins, Owen McCausland, Josh Lovell, Michèle Bogdanowicz. Timothy Vernon conducts the Victoria Symphony. With Director Glynis Leyshon, Set and Costume Designer Christina Poddubiuk, Lighting Designer Guy Simard, Choreographer Jacques Lemay, Chorus Master Giuseppe Pietraroia, and the Pacific Opera Victoria Chorus.
Elizabeth Paterson reviews the production
Dahl must be at the height of her powers...it is the depth and range of control and the finely judged nuance that produced such an extraordinarily deep and affecting performance ... combined with a sensitive musical intelligence, alive to every change in Donizetti's dynamics and tempo...
Finally, the orchestra under Timothy Vernon could hardly have played more beautifully or been more attuned to the singers and their emotional journey.
Adrian Chamberlain's review of the production
The great Canadian coloratura Tracy Dahl ... not only navigates the most treacherous high notes and florid passages with aplomb [but] absolutely convinces us she is Lucia, the young girl who is torn to pieces by brother Enrico's heartless political ambition and her do-or-die love for Edgardo ... She looked like a lost little girl,a mad angel ...
This production ... is worth seeking out. You'll enjoy its thoughtfulness, tastefulness and intelligence – and you'll just adore Tracy Dahl.
Adrian Chamberlain of the Times Colonist interviews soprano Tracy Dahl
The four-foot-11 vocalist is ... admired for her ability to expertly navigate all turns and trills. Dahl is also an actor – she launched her career as a professional stage actor. She knows the role of Lucia well, having sung it in five other productions.
Jayden Grieve of Camosun College's NEXUS Newspaper talks with director Glynis Leyshon and with Ernesto Ramírez, who plays Edgardo.
Leyshon says the show promises to be an exciting piece for everyone. "Everyone who loves opera and loves singing will respond to this show," she says.
"But this is also a terrific intro piece for people who may not be very familiar with opera. It's a strong story and the music is very engaging and grabs you, so, for such a sad opera, it's a terrific date opera."
Coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl speaks with CBC's Robert Rowat about the ups and downs of life as an opera singer – with audio excerpts.
My first opera job was singing Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro for Manitoba Opera. I had no clue what was expected, having come from the theatre side of performing. It was life-changing for me. That first time singing with an orchestra was definitely one I will always remember. I sometimes wonder if that's what it feels like the first time a hockey player scores a goal.
Laura Lavin interviews 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.
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.
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.
A prolific composer of some 66 operas, Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848) is best known for just a handful: L'elisir d'amore (1832), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), Don Pasquale (1843), and La fille du régiment (1840). But in the last half century there has been a Donizetti renaissance of sorts as more and more of his works – and their coloratura delights – are revived.
The romantic exoticism of British stories and locales found its way into nine of Donizetti's operas. The most famous of course is Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), based on Walter Scott's gothic romance, The Bride of Lammermoor, and set in the Lammermuir Hills of Scotland. But Donizetti was intrigued with British history and literature as a starting point for opera as early as 1823 with Alfredo il grande (Alfred the Great) – a spectacular failure that flopped after a single performance.
By 1830, Donizetti's international reputation was established with the Milan première of Anna Bolena, the first of his 'Three Queens' trilogy; it tells of the last days of Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII, mother of Elizabeth I, and heroine of one of Donizetti's many mad scenes). The second in this Tudor mini-series is Maria Stuarda, with its riveting, though fictional, meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Finally, Roberto Devereux (1837) is a May-December romance between Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. All three operas (spoiler alert!) end with the execution of the title character; none can be relied on for sober historical accuracy – in fact Roberto Devereux ends with Queen Elizabeth going mad and abdicating.
Donizetti's mashups of British history also included Il castello di Kenilworth, another Walter Scott vehicle and yet another Elizabeth - Leicester love triangle; L'assedio di Calais, a fictionalization of the 1346 siege of Calais; and Rosmonda d'Inghilterra, a murderous royal triangle about Henry II, his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the Other Woman, Fair Rosamund – also veering toward the libellous, as, contrary to Donizetti's opera and persistent legends, there is no historical evidence that Eleanor killed her rival (in fact Rosamund eventually retired to a nunnery).
Finally, there is the opera that was rescued from utter obscurity by proud Liverpudlians. This is Emilia di Liverpool, set improbably in an alpine hermitage a short distance from London. It premiered in Naples in 1824, with only modest success. Donizetti had great hopes for it, and after revisions it re-emerged in 1828 as L'Eremitaggio Di Liwerpool [sic].
Alas, it continued to languish, receiving brief revivals in Naples in 1838 and 1871 . . . and then nothing for nearly a century, until June 1957 when Fritz Spiegl, principal flautist of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and founder of the Liverpool Music Group, rediscovered the opera and came up with the bright idea of presenting a concert performance of Emilia di Liverpool to celebrate Liverpool's 750th birthday. Three months later, a shortened version was broadcast by the BBC, this time with a young Joan Sutherland in the title role. The opera popped up yet again in 2008 to mark Liverpool's status as European Capital of Culture.
– And yes, you can hear it on Youtube! Here's a sample of Joan Sutherland's 1957 performance of Emilia's rondo finale, "Confusa è l'alma mia", from Emilia di Liverpool. Make sure to listen through to the end; it's a tour de force of vocal pyrotechnics.
Lucia di Lammermoor
POV Newsletter on Lucia di Lammermoor.
POV Guide to 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.
Emilia di Liverpool and L'Eremitaggio Di Liwerpool (pdf)
Can't get enough Donizetti? Peruse the CD Booklet from an Opera Rara recording of both versions of Donizetti's Liverpudlian opus, with copious notes, photos, and both libretti.
If you'd like to savour the charming music from this early work of Donizetti, you can listen to most of the historic 1957 Liverpool broadcast on Youtube. If you decide to follow along with the libretto, be warned that although this performance was billed as Emilia di Liverpool, it was actually the 1828 revision, L'eremitaggio di Liwerpool; the libretto begins on page 204 of the CD booklet.
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.
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Above: Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani as Lucia in the 1838 London première of the opera. She originally performed the role at the 1835 world première in Naples. She also created the title roles in two other Donizetti operas: Rosmonda d'Inghilterra and Pia de' Tolomei. Lithograph by Edward Morton (1839)
Above: Gaetano Donizetti, c. 1835, at the time he wrote Lucia di Lammermoor. Lithograph by Edward Morton (1839)
Self caricature of Gaetano Donizetti, c. 1843. The caption reads, mon portrait fait par moi même (my portrait, made by myself)
Salvadore Cammarano, librettist of Lucia di Lammermoor. He also created libretti another seven operas by Donizetti, as well as for three of Verdi's operas, including Luisa Miller.
Above: a 19th-century engraving of Fast Castle by John Horsburgh, after John Thomson. Fast Castle is thought have inspired Sir Walter Scott's description of the "Wolf's Crag," the ruined tower where the Master of Ravenswood lived in The Bride of Lammermoor. Photos of Fast Castle today