Lucia di Lammermoor

Lucia di Lammermoor

"Lucia di Lammermoor" is a "dramma tragico" (tragic opera) in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvatore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel "The Bride of Lammermoor" [In the Scott's novel, it is her mother, Lady Ashton, not Enrico, who is the villain and evil perpetrator of the whole intrigue. Also, Laird of Bucklaw was only wounded by Lucia after their unfortunate wedding, and he later recovered, went abroad, and survived them all. In the opera, Lucia's descent into insanity is more speedy and dramatic and very spectacular, while, in the book, it is a little bit mysterious and ambiguous. Also, in the novel, Edgardo and Lucia's last talk and farewell (supervised by her mother) is far less melodramatic and more calm, though the final effect is equally devastating for both of them. At the end of the novel, Master of the Ravenswood disappears (his body never found) and is presumably killed in some sort of an accident on his way to have his duel with Lucia's older brother; therefore, he does not commit a spectacular, operatic style suicide with a stiletto on learning of Lucia death.] . Very successful from creation, today it remains one of the leading bel canto operas. The opera premiered on September 26, 1835 at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Donizetti revised the score for a French version which debuted on August 6, 1839 at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris.

Performance history

The best-known pieces in "Lucia di Lammermoor" are the sextet at the end of Act II and Lucia's "Mad Scene" in Act III. The "Mad Scene," "Il dolce suono...Spargi d'amaro pianto," has historically been a vehicle for several coloratura sopranos (providing a breakthrough for Dame Joan Sutherland) and is a technically and expressively demanding piece.

Some sopranos, most notably Maria Callas, have performed the role in a relatively "come scritto" ("as written") fashion, adding minimal ornamentation to their interpretations. Most sopranos, however, add ornamentation to demonstrate their technical ability, as was the tradition in the bel canto period. This involves the addition and interpolation of trills, mordents, turns, runs and cadenzas. Almost all sopranos (most famously Joan Sutherland) append cadenzas to the end of the "Mad Scene", sometimes ending them on a high E-flat. Maria Callas often opted not to sing the E-flat; however, under the baton of Serafin, the Greek soprano ended the mad scene with an E-flat.

Some sopranos (most notoriously, Ruth Welting) have sung the mad scene in Donizetti's original F major key, ending it with a high F natural instead of transposing it one step down to the E-flat major key. For decades "Lucia" was considered to be a mere showpiece for coloratura sopranos and was a little-known part of the operatic repertory. However, after World War II, a small number of technically-able sopranos, the most notable of whom were Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, revived the opera in all of its original tragic glory. Sutherland's performances in the role at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1959 and repeated in 1960 established "Lucia" as her calling card.

Since its revival, "Lucia di Lammermoor" has become a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, and appears as number thirteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America [ [ OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas] ] .

"Lucie de Lammermoor"

The French version of "Lucia di Lammermoor" was commissioned for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris and opened on August 6, 1839. The libretto, written by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz, is not simply a translation, as Donizetti altered some of the scenes and characters. One of the more notable changes is the disappearance of Alisa, Lucia's friend. This allows the French version to isolate Lucia and to leave a stronger emotional impact than that left by the original. Furthermore, Lucia loses most of Raimondo's support; his role is dramatically diminished while Arturo gets a bigger part. Donizetti creates a new character, Gilbert, who is loosely based on the huntsman in the Italian version. However, Gilbert is a more developed figure and serves both Edgardo and Enrico, divulging their secrets to the other for money.

The French version is not performed as often as the Italian, but it was revived to great acclaim by Natalie Dessay and Roberto Alagna at the Opéra de Lyon in 2002. It was also co-produced by the Boston Lyric Opera and the Glimmerglass Opera in 2004.


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* [ Lucia di Lammermoor: listen to the whole opera] on [ Magazzini-Sonori]


The "Lucia Sextet" ("Chi mi frena in tal momento?") was recorded in 1908 by Enrico Caruso, Marcella Sembrich, Antonio Scotti, Marcel Journet, Barbara Severina, and Francesco Daddi, (Victor single-sided 70036) and released at the price of $7.00, earning it the title of "The Seven-Dollar Sextet". The film "The Great Caruso" incorporates a scene featuring a performance of this sextet.

The "Lucia Sextet" melody is best known to some from its use by the American slapstick comedy team the Three Stooges in their short films "Micro-Phonies" and "Squareheads of the Round Table", sung in the latter with the lyrics "Oh, Elaine, can you come out tonight...." But the melody is used most dramatically in Howard Hawks' gangster classic "Scarface": Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) whistles "Chi me frena?" in the film's opening sequence, as he guns down a ganglord boss he has been assigned to protect.

It has also been used in a Warner Brothers cartoon, Back Alley Op-Roar, featuring Sylvester the cat.

The "Lucia Sextet" melody also figures in two scenes from the 2006 film "The Departed", directed by Martin Scorsese. In one scene, Jack Nicholson's character is shown at a performance of "Lucia Di Lammermoor", and the music on the soundtrack is from the sextet. Later in the film, Nicholson's cell phone ringtone is the sextet melody.

The Sextet is also featured during a scene from the 1986 comedy film, The Money Pit.

In the children's book "The Cricket in Times Square," Chester Cricket chirps the tenor part to the "Lucia Sextet" as the encore to his farewell concert, literally stopping traffic in the process.

An aria from the "mad scene," "Il dolce suono" (from the 3rd Act), was re-popularized when it was featured in the film "The Fifth Element" in a performance by the alien diva Plavalaguna (voiced by Albanian soprano Inva Mula-Tchako and played onscreen by French actress Maïwenn Le Besco). A loose remake of this film version of the song was covered by Russian pop singer Vitas.

The "mad scene" was also used in the first episode of the anime series "Gankutsuou" (in place of "l'Italiana in Algeri" which was the opera used in that scene in "The Count of Monte Cristo").

The "mad scene" aria, as sung by Inva Mula-Tchako, was used in an episode of "" involving the murder of a young violinist by her opera singer mother (who performs the song right after the murder).

The "mad scene" was released as a music video by Russian male soprano Vitas in 2006.

Among other selections from the opera, the "mad scene", "Verranno a Te Sull'aure", and "Che Facesti?" feature prominently in the 1983 Paul Cox film Man of Flowers, especially "Verranno a Te Sull'aure," which accompanies a strip tease in the film's opening scene.

The opera is mentioned in the novels The Count of Monte Cristo, Madame Bovary and Where Angels Fear to Tread and was reputedly one of Tolstoy's favorites.

"Regnava nel Silenzio," accompanies the scene in Beetlejuice in which Lydia (Winona Ryder) composes a suicide note.

A portion of the opera is also used in a key scene of the film, The Fifth Element, written and directed by Luc Besson.


*Nicola Cipriani, "Le Tre Lucie. Un romanzo, un melodramma, un caso giudiziario. Il percorso di tre vittime del "Pensiero maschile", Zecchini Editore, Varese, 2008, pp. 276, ISBN 88-87203-66-0

Notes and References

External links

* [ ] Libretto (Italian)
* [ ] Libretto of French version (French)
* [ Further "Lucia di Lammermoor" discography]

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  • Lucia di Lammermoor — /looh chee euh di lam euhr moor /; It. /looh chee ah dee lahm merdd moohrdd / an opera (1835) by Gaetano Donizetti, based on Sir Walter Scott s novel The Bride of Lammermoor …   Useful english dictionary