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Lucia di Lammermoor is a dramma tragico (tragic opera) in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.[1]

The story concerns a feud between two families, the Ashtons and the Ravenswoods. When the opera begins, the Ashtons are in the ascendancy and have taken possession of Ravenswood Castle, the ancestral home of their rivals. Edgardo (Sir Edgar), Master of Ravenswood and last surviving member of his family, has been forced to live in a lonely tower by the sea, known as the Wolf's Crag. The Ashtons, despite their success, are threatened by changing political and religious forces. Enrico (Lord Henry Ashton) hopes to gain the protection of the important Arturo (Lord Arthur Bucklaw) to whom he intends to marry his sister Lucia.

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. Very successful from creation, today it remains one of the leading bel canto operas.



Donizetti premiered Lucia di Lammermoor in 1835, a time when factors led to the height of his reputation as a composer of opera. Gioachino Rossini had recently retired and Vincenzo Bellini had died shortly before the premier of Lucia leaving Donizetti as "the sole reigning genius of Italian opera".[2] Not only were conditions ripe for Donizetti's success as a composer, but there was also a European interest in the history and culture of Scotland. The perceived romance of its violent wars and feuds, as well as its folklore and mythology, intrigued 19th Century readers and audiences.[2] Sir Walter Scott made avail of these stereotypes in his novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which inspired several musical works including Lucia.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 26 September 1835
(Conductor: - )
Lucia coloratura soprano Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani
Lord Enrico Asthon, Lord of Lammermoor; Lucia's brother baritone Domenico Cosselli
Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood tenor Gilbert Louis Duprez
Lord Arturo Bucklaw, Lucia's bridegroom tenor Balestrieri
Raimondo Bidebent, a Calvinist chaplain bass Carlo Ottolini Porto
Alisa, Lucia's handmaid mezzo-soprano Teresa Zappucci
Normanno, huntsman; a retainer of Enrico tenor Anafesto Rossi
Retainers and servants, wedding guests


Act 1

Scene 1: The gardens of Ravenswood Castle

Normanno (Norman), captain of the castle guard, and other retainers are searching for an intruder. He tells Enrico (Henry) that he believes that the man is Edgardo (Edgar), and that he comes to the castle to meet Lucia. It is confirmed that Edgardo is indeed the intruder. Enrico reaffirms his hatred for the family and his determination to end the relationship.

Scene 2: By a fountain at the entrance to the park, beside the castle

Lucia (Lucy) waits for Edgardo. In her famous aria Regnava nel Silenzio, Lucia tells her maid Alisa (Alice) that she has seen the ghost of a girl killed on the very same spot by a jealous Ravenswood ancestor. Alisa tells Lucia that the apparition is a warning and that she must give up her love for Edgardo. Edgardo enters. For political reasons, he must leave immediately for France. He hopes to make his peace with Enrico and marry Lucia. Lucia tells him this is impossible, and instead they take a sworn vow of marriage and exchange rings. Edgardo leaves.

Act 2

Scene 1: Lord Ashton's apartments in Ravenswood Castle

Preparations have been made for the imminent wedding of Lucia to Arturo (Arthur). Enrico worries about whether Lucia will really submit to the wedding. He shows his sister a forged letter seemingly proving that Edgardo has forgotten her and taken a new lover. Enrico leaves Lucia to further persuasion this time by Raimondo (Raymond), Lucia's chaplain and tutor, that she should renounce her vow to Edgardo, for the good of the family, and marry Arturo.

Scene 2: A hall in the castle

Arturo arrives for the marriage. Lucia acts strangely, but Enrico explains that this is due to the death of her mother. Arturo signs the marriage contract, followed reluctantly by Lucia. At that point Edgardo suddenly appears in the hall. Raimondo prevents a fight, but he shows Lucia's signature on the marriage contract to Edgardo. He curses her, demanding that they return their rings to each other. He tramples his ring on the ground, before being forced out of the castle.

Act 3

Scene 1: The Wolf's Crag

Enrico visits Edgardo to challenge him to a duel. He tells him that Lucia is already enjoying her bridal bed. Edgardo agrees to fight him. They will meet later by the graveyard of the Ravenswoods, near the Wolf's Crag.

Scene 2: A Hall in Ravenswood castle

Raimondo interrupts the marriage celebrations to tell the guests that Lucia has gone mad and killed her bridegroom. Lucia enters. In the aria 'Il dolce suono' she imagines being with Edgardo, soon to be happily married. Enrico enters and at first threatens Lucia but later softens when he realizes her condition. Lucia collapses. Raimondo blames Normanno for precipitating the whole tragedy.

Set design for iii.3 by Francesco Bagnara, ca 1844 (Civica Raccolta Stampe Bertarelli Milan)

Scene 3: The graveyard of the Ravenswood family

Edgardo is resolved to kill himself on Enrico's sword. He learns that Lucia is dying and then Raimondo comes to tell him that she has already died. Edgardo stabs himself with a dagger, hoping to be re-unified with Lucia in heaven.

Performance history

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 Dame 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.[5]


The "Mad Scene"

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 scene in a 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 append cadenzas to the end of the "Mad Scene", sometimes ending them on a high E-flat. Some sopranos, including Ruth Welting[6] and Mariella Devia[7] 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.

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.

List of arias and musical numbers

The index of Bonynge's edition lists the following numbers.

1. "Preludio"

Act I

2. "Percorrete le spiaggie vicine"

3. "Tu sei turbato!"

4. "Cruda, funesta smania" (Enrico)

5. "La pietade in suo favore" (Enrico)

6. "Ancor non giunse!" (Lucia)

7. "Regnava nel silenzio" (Lucia)

8. "Quando rapito in estasi" (Lucia)

9. "Egli s'avanza" (Alisa, Edgardo, Lucia)

10. "Sulla tomba che rinserra" (Edgardo, Lucia)

11. "Qui di sposa eterna...Ah! Verrano a te sull'aure" (Edgardo, Lucia)

Act II

12. "Lucia, fra poco a te verrà"

13. "Appressati, Lucia"

14. "Il pallor funesto, orrendo"

15. "Soffriva nel pianto"

16. "Che fia"

17. "Se tradirmi tu potrai"

18. "Ebben? - Di tua speranza"

19. "Ah! cedi, cedi" (Raimondo)

20. "Al ben de'tuoi qual vittima" (Raimondo)

21. "Per te d'immenso giubilo"

22. "Dov'è Lucia?"

23. "Chi mi frena in tal momento" (Sextet)

24. "T'allontana sciagurato"


25. "Orrida è questa notte"

26. "Qui del padre ancor respira"

27. "D'immenso giubilo"

28. "Ah! cessate quel contento"

29. "Oh! qual funesto avvenimento!"

30. "Oh, giusto cielo!...Il dolce suono" (Lucia; "Mad Scene")

31. "Ohimè! sorge il tremendo fantasma"

32. "S'avanza Enrico"

33. "Spargi d'amaro pianto"

34. "Si tragga altrove"

35. "Tombe degli avi miei" (Edgardo)

36. "Fra poco a me ricovero"

37. "Oh meschina!"

38. "Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali" (Edgardo)


See Lucia di Lammermoor discography.


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Lucia in popular culture

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 (1932 film): Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) whistles "Chi mi 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 Warner Brothers cartoons: Long-Haired Hare, sung by the opera singer (Bugs Bunny's antagonist); Book Revue, sung by the wolf antagonist; and in Back Alley Oproar, sung by a choir full of Sylvesters, the cat. Disney have also used the "Lucia Sextet" in a unique interpretation with all parts performed by Nelson Eddy in the 1946 Disney short The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met, the vocals being that of the amazing Willie, the Operatic Whale.

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 Luc Besson film The Fifth Element in a performance by the alien diva Plavalaguna (voiced by Albanian soprano Inva Mulla Tchacko and played onscreen by French actress Maïwenn Le Besco). Inva's performance is also used as a backdrop to "The Eye of Zion's Pocket" presumed to be by Chemical Brothers for the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack (though no such track exists). A loose remake of this film version of the song was covered by Russian pop singer Vitas over a heavily reworked orchestral techno score.

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, was used in an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent 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 striptease 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.


  1. ^ The plot of Sir Walter Scott's original novel is based on an actual incident that took place in 1669 in the Lammermuir Hills area of Lowland Scotland. The real family involved were the Dalrymples. While the libretto retains much of Scott's basic intrigue, it also contains very substantial changes in terms of characters and events. In 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.
  2. ^ a b Mackerras, p. 29
  3. ^ Mackerras, p. 30
  4. ^ This synopsis by Simon Holledge was first published on Opera japonica ( and appears here by permission.
  5. ^ OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas
  6. ^ Forbes, Elizabeth, Obituary: Ruth Welting, The Independent, 23 December 1999. Accessed 6 February 2009.
  7. ^ Youtube clip singing the mad scene in the F major key


  • Ashbrook, William (1983), Donizetti and His Operas, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521276632  
  • Cipriani, Nicola (2008), Varese, ed., Le tre Lucie: un romanzo, un melodramma, un caso giudiziario : il percorso di tre vittime del pensiero maschile, Zecchini, pp. 276, ISBN 88-87203-66-0  
  • Fisher, Burton D. (2005), Lucia di Lammermoor, Opera Journeys Publishing, ISBN 1930841795  
  • Mackerras, Sir Charles (1998). Album notes for Lucia di Lammermoor, p. 29–33 [CD booklet]. Sony Classical.

External links

Simple English

Lucia di Lammermoor is an Italian opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti, first performance at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, on September 26, 1835, libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, after Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor. The quintessential romantic opera, it was a sensation at its premiere and has remained one of Donizetti's most popular work. It contains the famous "mad scene" which requires spectacular technical prowess and dramatic strenght from the soprano.

Principal roles and voice types


  • The Complete Dictionnary of Opera & Operetta, James Anderson, Vikings Books, 1989.

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