by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
Based on the novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani (1812-67), the first Lucia
(Naples, Teatro San Carlo, 1835).
|Lucia Ashton, a young noblewoman||Soprano|
|Edgardo, Master of Ravenswood, in love with Lucia||Tenor|
|Lord Enrico Ashton, Lucia’s brother||Baritone|
|Raimondo Bide-the-Bent, chaplain at Lammermoor||Bass|
|Lord Arturo Bucklaw, betrothed to Lucia||Tenor|
|Alisa, Lucia’s companion||Mezzo-Soprano|
|Normanno, Enrico’s retainer||Tenor|
Relatives, retainers, wedding-guests, mourners.
Lucia di Lammermoor is set in late 17th-Century Scotland.
Lord Enrico Ashton’s retainers and their captain, Normanno, gather in the grounds of Ravenswood Castle. Enrico broods over his family’s fallen fortunes; it galls him that his enemy Sir Edgardo Ravenswood (whose castle Enrico has usurped) still lives in safety on the remains of his family estate. Only one thing can save the Ashton family: a politically advantageous marriage for Enrico’s sister Lucia. Raimondo Bide-the-Bent, spiritual advisor to the family, begs Enrico to be compassionate toward Lucia, who is still in mourning for her mother’s recent death and is not apt to think of love. But Normanno reveals that Lucia has been secretly meeting Edgardo, with whom she fell in love after he saved her from a charging bull. Enrico is furious (“Cruda, funesta smania”), but his raging is interrupted by a group of huntsmen, who report that they saw Edgardo in the grounds. Despite Raimondo’s attempts to calm him, Enrico vows to kill Edgardo (“La pietade in suo favore”).
Lucia nervously waits for Edgardo. Her companion, Alisa, chastises her for her imprudence. Lucia is frightened at the sight of a nearby fountain, where a young woman was murdered by a Ravenswood because she was unfaithful to him. Lucia tells the horrified Alisa that she once saw the woman’s ghost beckoning to her (“Regnava nel silenzio”). Alisa sees this as a portent of death and begs her to give up Edgardo, but Lucia declares that he is the light of her life (“Quando rapito in estasi”).
Edgardo arrives with the news that he must sail to France immediately on a mission to save Scotland. He vows to make peace with Enrico Ashton before he goes. When Lucia insists that their love must remain a secret, Edgardo becomes furious; he cannot believe that it was not enough for Enrico to kill Edgardo’s father and take his lands (“Sulla tomba che rinserra”). Lucia manages to calm him. Then he demands that Lucia betroth herself to him then and there before God. He puts his ring on her finger, and she gives him her own ring. But Edgardo must depart; he promises to write to her, and the lovers bid each other farewell (“Verranno a te sull’aure”).
Enrico tells Normanno that he plans to have Lucia married to Sir Arturo Bucklaw. Normanno assures him that he need not worry about Edgardo; he has been gone a long time, his letters to Lucia have been intercepted, and “proof” of his infidelity, in the form of a love letter to another woman, has been manufactured. Normanno leaves to conduct Arturo to the castle.
Lucia enters dejectedly. When Enrico asks why she is so sad on what should be a happy day, she invokes God’s forgiveness for his cruelty to her. He tries to placate her by asking her to forget her foolish love, as he has forgotten his anger. When he mentions her noble husband-to-be, she reveals that she has plighted her troth to Edgardo. Enrico angrily silences her and gives her the forged letter. Lucia swoons as she reads it. He tries to comfort her by pointing out that, although she betrayed her family by taking up with this vile seducer, heaven will be merciful to her.
Trumpets are heard in the distance. Enrico announces that her husband has arrived. Lucia is horrified at the thought, but Enrico reminds her that only Arturo can restore Enrico’s political fortunes, and that Lucia is the key (“Se tradirmi tu potrai”). Enrico rushes off to greet his future brother-in-law.
Lucia sees Raimondo approaching and rushes to him for help. He tells her to give up hope, for although he managed to get one of her letters to Edgardo, Edgardo has still not replied, proving that he is unfaithful. He advises her to forget her vows, for they were not blessed by a clergyman, and to submit to her fate, for the sake of her brother and the memory of her mother (“Ah! cedi, cedi”). Lucia sadly agrees, and Raimondo joyously proclaims that heaven will remember her sacrifice (“Al ben de’ tuoi qual vittima”).
The wedding guests have gathered to greet Arturo (“Per te d’immenso giubilo”). Arturo promises to raise the Ashton family’s fortunes and presents himself to Enrico as a friend, brother, and defender. Enrico quietly tells Arturo that, if Lucia seems sorrowful, it is only because she has recently lost her mother. But Arturo has heard something about Edgardo’s interest in Lucia. Enrico begins to reassure him when Lucia arrives with Alisa and Raimondo. Enrico presents Arturo to Lucia, who shrinks back, to Enrico’s annoyance. Enrico hastily invites the couple to sign the marriage contract. Lucia does so, trembling. She is about to faint when a great commotion is heard outside. Edgardo angrily bursts into the hall. After a stunned pause, Enrico and Edgardo realize that Lucia’s sorrow is stopping them from attacking each other; Lucia is in torment; and Raimondo, Alisa, and Arturo are horrified to see her hovering between life and death (Sextet: “Chi mi frena in tal momento”).
Enrico and Arturo draw their swords and threaten to kill Edgardo if he does not leave. Edgardo is prepared to die, but will take them with him. Raimondo interrupts the standoff, reminding them of God’s law that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. The men reluctantly sheathe their swords. Enrico asks Edgardo what business he has there. Edgardo replies that he had the right to come, for Lucia has plighted her troth to him. Raimondo advises him to forget his love, for Lucia belongs to another. He shows Edgardo the contract Lucia signed. In a fury, Edgardo gives her back her ring, snatches his ring from her finger, and curses her and her family. As she swoons, Enrico, Arturo, and the retainers threaten Edgardo, who rushes off.
(Note: Often omitted in performance is the “Wolf’s Crag Scene,” in which Enrico confronts Edgardo in his tower, Wolf’s Crag, to tell him that Lucia has married Arturo, and to challenge Edgardo to a duel at dawn at the tombs of the Ravenswoods.)
The guests celebrate the wedding of Lucia and Arturo and the triumph of Scotland over its enemies (“D’immenso giubilo”). Raimondo suddenly appears to stop the revelry. He has terrible news: Lucia was in the nuptial chamber with Arturo when suddenly the cry of a dying man was heard. Raimondo ran into the chamber to find Arturo bleeding to death on the floor and Lucia with a dagger in her hand. Lucia looked at Raimondo and asked, with a terrible smile, “Where is my husband?” She has lost her mind. Raimondo and the guests pray heaven not to take vengeance on her.
Lucia, deathly pale and out of her senses, wanders into the hall in her nightdress (Mad Scene). She calls out for Edgardo, remembering the fountain where they sat together — but a terrible phantasm separates them. She imagines an altar where they can take shelter, an altar covered with roses, where a wedding-hymn can be heard — they are to be married. She breathes in the fragrance of the incense, sees the shining candles, sees the minister ready to marry them. She takes the imaginary Edgardo’s hand and joyously pledges herself to him as the guests beg God to have mercy on her.
Enrico rushes in, having heard the news of Arturo’s murder, and is about to strike Lucia when Raimondo and the guests stop him and tell him that she has gone mad. Lucia, believing that Enrico is Edgardo, swears that she signed the contract because her brother forced her to and that she always loved him. Enrico is consumed with remorse as Lucia begs Edgardo’s forgiveness. She will pray for him when she is in heaven (“Spargi d’amaro pianto”).
Edgardo, unaware that Lucia has murdered Arturo, wanders among the tombs of his ancestors. Seeing the bright lights at the castle, he despairingly reflects on Lucia’s perfidy (“Fra poco a me ricovero”). A group of mourners, singing a dirge, passes by. They tell Edgardo that Lucia is dying and delirously calling for him. As he cries out in anguish, a funeral bell tolls. He is determined to see her one last time, but the men detain him. Raimondo arrives with the news that Lucia has died. Vowing to meet her in heaven (“Tu che a Dio spiegasti l’ali”), he stabs himself before the horrified mourners.
© 1999 Linda Cantoni