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Opera Essentials: Lucia di Lammermoor

Our quick introduction to Katie Mitchell’s new production of Donizetti’s violent tragedy.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

9 March 2016 at 5.15pm | 9 Comments

The Story Begins…

Enrico Ashton determines to save his family fortunes by marrying his sister Lucia to Lord Arturo Bucklaw. But Lucia has fallen in love with Enrico’s enemy Edgardo, and will marry no one else. Will love triumph over duty – or will Enrico force Lucia to obey him?

A Powerful Plot

Lucia di Lammermoor is based on Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor, in turn based on a true story. Scott’s novels and poems provided inspiration for many operas in the 19th century, including Rossini’s La donna del lago (performed by The Royal Opera in 2013). Donizetti’s librettist Cammarano chose to focus on the more romantic aspects of Scott’s story. He omitted many of Scott’s large, colourful cast of characters (including Lucy’s villainous mother), gave greater prominence to the character of Lucy and changed Edgar’s death from an ignominious fall into quicksand into a heroic suicide.

Musical Atmosphere

Donizetti’s score for Lucia di Lammermoor contains many striking effects. These include the dirge-like march with ominous drumrolls evoking the gloom of Ravenswood Castle at the opera’s opening, the elaborate harp solo that precedes Lucia’s first aria, ‘Regnava nel silenzio’, the eerie use of glass harmonica in Lucia’s solo scene in Act III, and the melancholy opening of the final scene of Act III, with its sombre horns creating an air of foreboding.

Much More Than a Victim

Katie Mitchell’s feminist production contains scenes of sex and violence. It reveals Lucia to be an intelligent and resourceful woman, who until she meets Edgardo is more interested in the life of the mind than in love or marriage. However, the male-dominated society in which Lucia lives denies her both independence and Edgardo, causing her to take drastic revenge. Vicki Mortimer’s designs pay tribute to the Victorian Gothic, and form a dramatic backdrop to Lucia’s story of passion and thwarted ambition.

A Soprano Showstopper

The title role of Lucia di Lammermoor is one of the greatest written for coloratura soprano, and includes an extended ‘Mad Scene’ in Act III. Lucia was Joan Sutherland’s ‘breakthrough role’ – she became an international star overnight after singing Lucia with The Royal Opera in 1959. Other famous interpreters of Lucia have included Adelina Patti, Nellie Melba, Maria Callas and, in recent years, Diana Damrau, Natalie Dessay and Anna Netrebko.

Lucia di Lammermoor runs 30 October-27 November 2017. Tickets are still available.

It is a co-production with Greek National Opera.

This article has 9 comments

  1. Jacqueline responded on 24 March 2016 at 12:24am Reply

    A 'feminist' production is, by definition, anachronistic. In today's world, young women do not have a duty to accept their brothers' choice of husband, and therefore there would be conflict. Take a running jump brother. Pity Katie Mitchell could not do the same; and I am stuck with a ticket for her wretched prroduction. KM: a must to avoid.

  2. Jacqueline responded on 24 March 2016 at 12:25am Reply

    typo: 'would be NO conflict'

  3. Stevie responded on 30 March 2016 at 5:28pm Reply

    I will be watching this production and have so far persuaded my friends to keep their tickets. It is the musical score and the opportunity to see and hear Diana Damrau which draws me relentlessly to watch this performance. I hope my trust in Katie Mitchells production is proven to be well founded, I am not sure what a 'feminist production' means and hope that it means a production which is carried out by ladies, or I may be held to account by my friends. It is possibly a sign of the times when there is so much trepidation about attending what should be no more than a pleasurable occasion. Please let me have an uplifting night out without being bombarded with political agendas.

  4. Julia Kneale responded on 4 April 2016 at 10:02am Reply

    I, too, approach modern opera productions with some trepidation. I am sick of producers who feel their personal agenda is more important than the music and libretto.

  5. Rosalind Duhs responded on 4 April 2016 at 3:45pm Reply

    Fresh approaches help us to see the multi-layered meaning of productions in a new light. Feminism is no more than a desire for social justice. In the 1830's women were beginning to struggle for equality and Katie Mitchell's production reflects this. Women are still struggling for equality. Some women may be content - for example - to earn less than men, but others are not and this production will be empowering for those of us who struggle on.

  6. Giampaolo responded on 6 April 2016 at 10:03am Reply

    Dear Kate, among the big sopranos you have forgotten Mariella Devia, who has been considered the best interpreter of Lucia.

  7. Vincenzo responded on 8 April 2016 at 9:22am Reply

    Notwithstanding all her efforts, Katie Mitchell could not destroy this opera: her funny inventions remain credible only because a talented team of artists (Scott, Cammarano and of course Donizetti), created a masterpiece that can resist to all provocations. Thanks.

  8. I don't think I have seen Diana Damrau on stage before. She did opera in met opera in New York? I had better check any ticket left on the last performance.

  9. Freddy Kater responded on 18 April 2016 at 7:36pm Reply

    Dreaded seeing the opera after all the booing reviews! Went to the 3rd performance and while having to giggle somewhat at the bonking to music, the protracted killing and the unnecessary bloody goings on, on the left, with heavenly Bel Canto singing on the right of the stage, I loved the overall experience with tremendous singing and very real acting. Last time I saw Lucia it was with Joan Sutherland. Go if you possibly can and make up your own mind. I felt wrung out at the end!

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