Parlando: The COC Blog

3/14/2013

Introduction to Lucia di Lammermoor

Lucia di Lammermoor

What's it all about?

Lucia di Lammermoor is a bel canto opera by Gaetano Donizetti, inspired by Sir Walter Scott's gothic novel, The Bride of Lammermoor. The tale is a gothic romance between two children of feuding families, but the story is more Macbeth than Romeo and Juliet

The beautiful Lucia Ashton lives a sheltered life with her controlling brother Enrico in a crumbling mansion. The young, naive Lucia is a slip of a girl, held captive in the family home and still mourning the recent passing of her mother. The one bright spot in Lucia's life is her secret relationship with the handsome Edgardo, and their plan to get married. Unfortunately, Lucia's brother has a different future in mind for her, intending to pair her off with a rich nobleman instead.

Enrico's dark obsession with his sister and his distaste of her choice of bridegroom leads him to forge a note about Edgardo, convincing Lucia that her lover is unfaithful. The unsuspecting Lucia agrees to marry the wealthy Arturo for the betterment of the family's finances and reputation. Unfortunately, with Lucia's fragile mental state, this proves to be an unwise decision.

What is bel canto?

Translated as “beautiful singing” in Italian, bel canto is a term usually applied to the operatic period of composers Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, when a highly decorated and virtuosic style of singing was practiced.

Why is it special?

Lucia di Lammermoor is famous for its extremely difficult and beautiful vocal lines. Audiences will recognize the music from Lucia di Lammermoor in films such as Scarface, The Fifth Element, and even Beetlejuice. In particular, the aria "Il dolce suono... Spargi d'amaro pianto" is one of the most well-known "mad scenes" in all of opera. While some singers perform the piece as it was written, it has turned into a major vehicle for sopranos to showcase their voice. 


THE PRODUCTION

What will it look like?

The production design is inspired by Normansfield Hospital, a Victorian mansion that was turned into an asylum by Dr. John Langdon Down, as a facility for children and adults with Down's syndrome. Residents were taught life skills, and the hospital featured interactive activities and a theatre where the residents would perform. Set designer Charles Edwards used this building as a base to build the crumbling Ashton estate, and Brigitte Reiffenstuel pairs the set with her strict, Victorian-era inspired costumes. View our photo gallery for images from the production.

Who is starring in it?

Director David Alden created this production of Lucia di Lammermoor especially for the talented American soprano Anna Christy at English National Opera in 2008, and she makes her COC debut in the role this spring. Christy is a Metropolitan Opera regular, and has performed all around the world, from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, to Opéra national de Paris, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Teatro alla Scala.

Tenor Stephen Costello makes his COC debut in the role of Edgardo. A graduate of Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts in 2006, Costello made his Metropolitan Opera debut one short year later at the opening night of their 2007/2008 season. Notably, Costello received a 2007 Richard Tucker Award and won First Prize at the 2006 George London Foundation Competition.

American baritone Brian Mulligan makes his COC debut in the role of Lucia's sadistic brother Enrico. Mulligan has performed with Anna Christy in this production at English National Opera and has sung at opera houses across America. Mulligan is also a 2003 George London Foundation Competition award winner and recipient of a 2005 Richard Tucker Award.

Tenor Nathaniel Peake makes his COC debut as Arturo. The Merola alumnus was a winner at the Metropolitan Opera National Council awards in 2010, and has recently made debuts with the San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera and Minnesota Opera. Peake also sings the role of Narraboth in our spring production of Salome.

Performing the role of Lucia's chaplain Raimondo, is American bass Oren Gradus. The Brooklyn native is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and a regular at the Metropolitan Opera.

COC Ensemble Studio soprano Sasha Djihanian performs the role of Alisa, Lucia’s confidante, and COC Ensemble Studio baritone Cameron McPhail makes his COC mainstage debut as Normanno, Enrico’s captain.


THE HISTORY

Who is Donizetti?

Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was a prolific Italian composer who wrote over 75 operas, many symphonies, quartets, songs, cantatas over the course of his successful career. Popular and proficient, Donizetti is best known today for his operas L'elisir d'amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, and La fille du regiment, as well as his trio of operas known as the "Three Donizetti Queens"; Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux, the last of which we are presenting next season. Learn more about Donizetti here.

When did it premiere?

Lucia di Lammermoor debuted on September 26, 1835 in Naples. The first Lucia was Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani, an extremely talented soprano who was a prima donna of the highest order. In letters, Donizetti noted that when Fanny realized that Edgardo's tenor finale came after her death scene, she threw a fit so intense that it terrified the rest of the cast. For more historical information, click here.

LISTENING GUIDE

What are the most memorable musical moments?

Ah! Verrano a te sull'aure - In Lucia and Edgardo's romantic duet, they sing of the future as they exchange tokens of love and promise themselves to one another. 

Il dolce suono... Spargi d'amaro pianto - The famous "mad scene" where Lucia is confused, and mistakes her traitorous brother Enrico for her lover Edgardo. She sings her heart out, asking for Edgardo's forgiveness for marrying Arturo before she dies.

Visit COC Radio to browse all of our listening guides.

Photos: (top) Anna Christy as Lucia; (middle) Barry Banks as Edgardo and Anna Christy as Lucia; (bottom) Anna Christy as Lucia (centre). From English National Opera’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, 2008. Photos: Clive Barda.

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001