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Theatre / Lucia di Lammermoor

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Natalie Dessay in one of her most famous roles

Lucia di Lammermoor is a tragic opera by Gaetano Donizetti, loosely based upon Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor, and with a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano.

The opera is essentially Romeo and Juliet in Scotland. It follows Lucia Ashton and Edgardo di Ravenswood, two Star-Crossed Lovers from opposing houses who are having a secret affair. Then one day, Lucia's brother, Enrico, finds out about the affair, and when Edgardo leaves for France, he forges a letter to convince Lucia that Edgardo has betrayed her, so then he forces her to marry another nobleman, Arturo.

However, Lucia is so devastated with grief that she starts to lose her sanity. And when Edgardo bursts in on the wedding, he curses Lucia out for betraying him, and ends up being challenged to a duel by Enrico. As a result, poor Lucia goes mad and kills Arturo in their wedding bed, and then makes her appearance before the shocked wedding guests, singing her famous aria "Il dolce suono" and imagines that she is marrying Edgardo, and then collapses and dies.


Meanwhile, Edgardo is hoping to die at Enrico's sword in the duel when he learns of Lucia's death, and how she died saying his name. Devastated and hurt, Edgardo stabs himself and dies, hoping to reunite with Lucia in Heaven.

One of the most famous works of the bel canto period, Lucia di Lammermoor was the opera that established Donizetti's career as a successful opera composer shortly after the 1835 premiere at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. Other factors helped, including Gioachino Rossini's retirement and Vincenzo Bellini's death, as well as a large fascination with Scotland's legends and history throughout Europe. Donizetti also revised the score for a French version of the opera, titled Lucie de Lammermoor, one which takes away some characters and changes a few things around.

These days, it's a main staple of the operatic repertoire, starting mainly in the 20th century when famous sopranos helped bring new life into the opera. Some of these famous sopranos include Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, and the role of Lucia became signature roles for them.


This Work Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In Scott's novel, Edgar falls into quicksand and dies on his way to the duel with Henry Ashton. In the opera, Edgardo stabs himself to death upon hearing the news of Lucia's death.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The opera changes the characters' first names to their Italian forms: Lucy Ashton becomes Lucia Ashton, Edgar of Ravenswood becomes Edgardo di Ravenswood, Henry Ashton becomes Enrico Ashton, Norman becomes Normanno, Reverend Bide-the-bent becomes Raimondo Bidebent, and Alice becomes Alisa. In addition, Francis Bucklaw becomes Arturo Bucklaw.
    • The French version changes the characters names to their French forms: Lucia becomes Lucie, Edgardo to Edgard, Enrico to Henri, Raimondo to Raimond, and Arturo to Arthur. Normanno's name is changed to Gilbert.
  • Adapted Out: In the novel, the villain was Lady Ashton. In the opera, she and William Ashton are removed completely, and is replaced with Enrico Ashton, Lucia's brother.
    • In the French version, Alisa is adapted out completely
  • Arranged Marriage: Enrico sets Lucia up with Arturo Bucklaw, an ally of the Ashton family, in order to restore his family's honour.
  • Big Brother Bully: Enrico, natch.
  • Big Brother Mentor: In sharp contrast, Raimondo Bidebent, the chaplain, has shades of this to Lucia. He's kind and reasonable, and feels deeply saddened when Lucia goes mad.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Many modern productions will have Lucia's nightgown/wedding dress completely splattered in blood during the Mad Scene.
  • Bloodless Carnage: 20th-century productions would have Lucia perform the Mad Scene in a nightgown that somehow remained spotless despite the fact that she stabbed Arturo to death before the act even started. See Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas, for example.
  • Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Lucia's wedding dress gets stained with blood after she stabs Arturo, and she wanders around in her bloody dress while hallucinating in the Mad Scene.
  • Brave Scot: The opera is set in Scotland, so many of the Scottish male characters fit this trope. Special mention goes to Edgardo, who had killed a wild bull that had endangered Lucia.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Lucia. After Edgardo leaves for France, Lucia is forced to marry Arturo after her own brother forges a letter claiming that Edgardo has taken on a different lover. To make matters worse, Edgardo curses her and tramples his ring after being shown the marriage contract. This all culminates in Lucia going mad and stabbing her new husband to death before interrupting the marriage celebrations by wandering around in a blood-splattered wedding gown and singing about getting married to Edgardo. And after all of that, she dies of madness. The universe really has it in for her.
  • BSoD Song: "Il dolce suono", a.k.a. the Mad Scene aria, has shades of this.
  • Cassandra Truth: Alisa warns Lucia that she should end her relationship with Edgardo, as it is only going to endanger her, but Lucia doesn't listen. Guess what happens in Act III?
  • Costume Porn: Traditional productions will have some lovely costumes not just for Lucia, but for all the characters too.
  • Darker and Edgier: Lucia di Lammermoor is already dark and edgy enough, but David Alden's 2008 ENO production takes this trope Up to Eleven, with Enrico being an incestuous sexual abuser, not just a Big Brother Bully, and Raimondo, Lucia's Good Shepherd of a tutor, being villified into an oily hypocrite who would give Don Basilio a run for his money! But worst of all, the ending has Enrico snapping the neck of an already dying Edgardo in an Ignored Epiphany moment.
  • Death by Adaptation: In Scott's novel, Francis Bucklaw survives being stabbed by Lucy. His opera counterpart, Arturo, isn't so lucky.
  • Death Seeker: Edgardo is this in Act III, hoping to die by Enrico's sword.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lucia crosses this after Edgardo tramples the ring she gave him. After this, she goes completely mad.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Lucia is singing about marrying Edgardo... while in her blood-stained wedding dress in front of all the horrified guests.
  • Driven to Madness: Good Lord, Lucia is this down to a T.
  • Driven to Suicide: Edgardo after hearing about Lucia's death.
  • Downer Ending: And how! Lucia goes mad and kills her newly-wedded husband, imagines that she and Edgardo are going to get married in her state of madness, and she eventually dies. Then Edgardo commits suicide after hearing about Lucia’s death, and it's highly unlikely that Enrico has much longer to live either.
  • Everybody Cries: Raimondo and the chorus lament over Lucia throughout her mad scene, and pray for mercy upon her soul.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Played straight with Enrico Ashton, Lucia’s domineering brother, who is always sung by a baritone. On the other hand, it's subverted with the kindly Raimondo, who is sung by a bass.
  • Foreshadowing: Lucia’s aria “Regnava nel silenzio” and when Alisa tells her that the ghost she saw is a warning and that she must give up her love for Edgardo.
  • Final Love Duet: Only towards the end of Act I do Lucia and Edgardo sing “Verranno a te sull’aure”, perhaps one of the only remotely happy songs in the whole opera.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: While definitely not horrible-sounding, the end of the Mad Scene requires the soprano to sing some C sharps, some high Ds, and an E flat at the very end. And the French version is in the original F major, and ends with a high F note in its Mad Scene. Yeah, Lucia is a very demanding role for coloratura sopranos.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Lucia wears some lovely period dresses throughout the opera, especially in traditional stagings. Even her blood-stained wedding dress can be gorgeous to look at!
  • Hallucinations: In her Act I aria “Regnava nel silenzio”, Lucia tells the story of how she saw the ghost of a woman killed by her jealous lover near the fountain. She also hallucinates quite extensively in the mad scene in Act III.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Again, the Mad Scene requires Lucia to sing several high notes to signify her madness and to show off the soprano's skills in singing these notes. And at the very end of the Mad Scene, Lucia sings a long high note before collapsing.
    • Edgardo also has this long note in his final aria after stabbing himself; he must sing a high B flat at the very end, so his role is also very demanding for lyric tenors.
  • The Ingenue: As per the course of bel canto opera, Lucia is a frail, delicate young woman sung by a coloratura soprano.
  • Innocent Soprano: The titular character is a delicate young woman sung by a coloratura soprano. This is utilized for dramatic effect as Lucia undergoes a Sanity Slippage, resulting in several Glass Shattering Sounds.
  • Jerkass: Enrico Ashton. First, he plots to end his sister’s romance with his rival by claiming that her lover has found someone else. Keep in mind that Lucia already has a very frail mental state, so this makes her deteriorate very quickly. Then, he forces Lucia into an arranged marriage and taunts Edgardo with it when the latter arrives at the wedding. And even after Lucia goes mad, he gets angry with her and scolds her, terrifying her as she starts thinking that he’s Edgardo.
  • Karma Houdini: Normanno, the huntsman and Enrico's retainer, is the main cause of the whole disaster, and yet he still gets to live.
  • Kill the Cutie: Lucia's death from madness.
  • Last of His Kind: Edgardo is the last of the Ravenswood clan, and therefore, with his suicide, his family name dies with him.
  • Laughing Mad: Some productions, particularly the Met Opera's production with French soprano Natalie Dessay, have Lucia laughing like this during the mad scene.
  • Maid and Maiden: Lucia has this dynamic with Alisa in Act I.
  • Man in a Kilt: This is Scotland, so some productions have the male characters in kilts. Take, for example, Enrico Caruso in the early 1900's.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Chi mi frena in tal momento", the Act II sextet, is sung by Lucia, Edgardo, Enrico, Raimondo, Arturo, Alisa, and the chorus.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Enrico has this during the Act II sextet, and during Lucia's mad scene, when he regrets being so cruel to Lucia. Edgardo also has one in Act III.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Lucia and Edgardo during their duet "Verranno a te sull'aure", where they exchange rings before Edgardo leaves for France.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: A dark example done by Enrico.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice going, Edgardo. Way to totally break the remnants of Lucia's fragile mind.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Good job, Enrico. You got your ally murdered and your sister has gone mad now.
  • Only Sane Man: Raimondo and Alisa. The latter tries to warn Lucia that her relationship with Edgardo will only end in tragedy. The former tries to keep the peace as much as he can, all while looking out for Lucia.
  • The Ophelia: Lucia becomes this in Act III.
  • Rescue Romance: Edgardo saved Lucia from a wild bull, which is how they start their secret romance.
  • Sanity Slippage: Lucia's descent into madness starts in the Act II sextet, and maybe even earlier than that.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Both the Act II sextet and the mad scene arias count.
  • Scenery Porn: Many productions will have Scotland's landscape in their scenery, proving that there's no better place for a tragedy than the Scottish highlands.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Edgardo curses Lucia in front of everyone at the end of Act II, thinking she had been unfaithful to him.
  • Secret Relationship: Lucia and Edgardo. Justified, considering that they are of rival clans.
  • Setting Update: Some productions tend to update the late-1600's setting quite a bit. Examples:
    • David Alden's production at the English National Opera updates the setting to the Victorian era, around 1840's to 1850's.
    • Barbara Wysocka's production at the Bayerische Staatsoper updates the setting to 1960's Kennedy-era America, and has Lucia dressed similarly to celebrities like Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy, while Edgardo is dressed like Danny Zuko and James Dean.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Again, Lucia and Edgardo. And just like the trope, it ends in tragedy.
  • Tenor Boy: Edgardo
  • Together in Death: Edgardo stabs himself in his family's graveyard in the hopes that he can reunite with Lucia.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Lucia's death marks her as this, and even during her Mad Scene, Raimondo and the chorus echo this view as they beg God for mercy upon her.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Enrico wonders this during the Act II sextet.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: More like Widowed on the Wedding Night, though Lucia does this of her own volition.

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