Lucia di Lammermoor
A Romantic Opera in 3 Acts | Composer: Gaetano Donizetti | Librettists: Salvatore Cammarano
Based on a noval by Walter Scott
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Runtime: 3 hours, with one 15-min intermission.
Language: Italian | Surtitle: Chinese / English
To the Hong Kong City Hall, on the auspicious occasion of the 50th Anniversary of its opening, I dedicate this production of Lucia di Lammermoor.
This is the third production of Donizetti’s most beautiful and powerful work that I have created for Hong Kong. It represents a heart-warming return of that masterpiece to the city’s most centrally located and acoustically magnificent venue, where Lucia was first staged in 1984.
Over the years, I have produced some 60 western-style operas for Hong Kong, most of which I directed and also designed. More than 150 performances were tailor-made for the City Hall Concert Hall stage which, until the completion of the Lyric Theatre of The Academy for Performing Arts in 1984 and the Grand Theatre of the Cultural Centre in 1989, was practically the only suitable place for opera.
For all my endeavours in this most complex of all art forms, I have never ceased to rely principally on local talents in all aspects of production. Together, we have developed a home-grown expertise comparable to the best in the world.
The City Hall has been an invaluable gift to generations of practitioners and lovers of art. It has left an indeletable mark on the cultural growth of our beloved city. Long may it continue to be the cradle and home for beauty and creativity for generations to come.
The action takes place in Scotland towards the end of the 17th century. Lord Enrico of Lammermoor Castle is perpetuating a family feud with the Ravenswood clan. Edgardo the young lord of Ravenswood, whose father was killed and whose estate usurped by Enrico’s father, is now a fugitive.
Scene 1: The grounds of Ravenswood Castle
On the grounds near Ravenswood Castle, Normanno, the chief huntsman of Enrico, urges his men to seek out the stranger who has lately been lurking about. Enrico, entering with Raimondo, the chaplain, is preoccupied with his declining fortunes and upset that his sister Lucia refuses to marry the one man who can prevent his ruin. Raimondo suggests that Lucia is still mourning her recently deceased mother; but Normanno declares that she is in love with the intruder being hunted down, whom he suspects to be Edgardo. Enrico vents his anger in the aria. The huntsmen return and report definite identification of the stranger as Edgardo, news that arouses Enrico to another outburst.
Scene 2: By a fountain in a park near Ravenswood Castle
In the park of Ravenswood Castle, Lucia with her companion Alisa awaits Edgardo by the haunted fountain. She tells Alisa the legend of the victim of a passion killing who haunts the fountain, whose ghost has recently appeared to her. Alisa sees this as a dire omen and warns Lucia, who remains convinced of Edgardo’s sincerity. Edgardo enters and bids Lucia farewell, as he must leave that night on a political errand to France. Edgardo is determined to ask Enrico for Lucia’s hand before he departs, but finally yields to Lucia’s dissuasion. They solemnly exchange rings, pledge their mutual faithfulness in the love duet and separate in
Scene 1: Enrico Ashton’s chamber
In the Castle of Lammermoor, Enrico, who has intercepted the correspondence between Lucia and Edgardo, now forges a letter proving Edgardo’s infidelity with Normanno’s help. Lucia enters, reproaching her brother’s harshness. Enrico produces the forged letter and Lucia is grief-stricken. Enrico enjoins Lucia to marry Arturo, his only hope of salvation, threatening that if Lucia should betray him, the executioners’ axe awaits him and his ghost will haunt her.
Scene 2: The wedding reception hall
In the great hall of Lammermoor Castle, Enrico leads in Arturo, followed by the guests for the betrothal. Arturo asks about the rumour that Edgardo had courted Lucia, but Enrico’s efforts to brush this aside are interrupted by the arrival of Lucia. The marriage contract is signed with Lucia barely aware of what she is doing. Edgardo bursts in to claim his bride. In the famous Sextet, everyone reacts to this sudden intrusion. Raimondo steps between the drawn swords, bidding them remember God’s law against murder, and shows Edgardo the marriage contract. The furious Edgardo gives Lucia back her ring, snatches his from her and
tramples it as he curses her. The act closes with a headlong ensemble.
Scene 1: The great hall of Ravenswood Castle
The wedding guests continue rejoicing in the great hall. Raimondo enters with the shocking news that Lucia, apparently out of her mind, has stabbed Arturo to death in the wedding chamber. The gathering hope that this dreadful deed will not call down upon them the punishment of heaven. Lucia appears, imagining in her madness that she has been happily united with Edgardo, and conjuring up a vision of the nuptial altar. Enrico arrives and is filled with remorse at this tragic sight. Lucia declares that heaven will be empty for her until she is joined there by Edgardo as she falls dying into Alisa’s arms.
Scene 2: The Ravenswood graveyard
Edgardo, musing among the tombs of the Ravenswoods, declares he has no desire to live without Lucia, and longs to die on Enrico’s sword so as to join his ancestors. News comes that Lucia is dying, and Edgardo is frantic with grief when he hears the death-bells tolling. Raimondo enters to confirm Lucia is really dead. Edgardo prays for reunion with Lucia in heaven and stabs himself.
¹ 6/1 & 7/1, 7:45PM | ² 7/1 & 8/1, 2:45PM
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Gaetano Domenico Donizetti was born on 29 November 1797 in Bergamo, in northern Italy. Coming from poor parents, he was fortunate to have his talent recognized early. At the age of nine, he was admitted as a free student to attend the charitable music school established by Simon Mayr, a respected composer and music director of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, who took a personal interest in Donizetti’s musical education. As teacher, mentor and protector, Mayr gave the young musician caring guidance and assistance in launching his career.
Donizetti established his reputation as an opera composer with Zoraida di Granata, first performed in Rome in 1822. This early work was successful enough to attract the attention of the influential impresario Domenico Barbaja, who offered him a contract that brought him to Naples. The next eight years proved to be a period of experimentation and intense productivity, during which time Donizetti composed 22 operas to varying degrees of success.
The turning point of Donizetti’s career was the triumphant success of Anna Bolena, premiered in Milan in 1830, which won him commissions from all the major Italian theatres and spread his fame throughout Europe. There followed another period of eight years, during which this most industrious artist produced a further 24 operas including such masterpieces as L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love), Lucrezia Borgia, Maria Stuarda, and Lucia di Lammermoor.
Italy in the post-Napoleonic era was a dismembered nation under despotic rule severely controlled by papal, aristocratic and foreign powers. Throughout his career up to the late 1830s, Donizetti had to struggle hard with the censors for his works to be performed on stage. Many of his most powerful dramas involving historical royal or catholic personages were refused permission unless drastically revised. With his Poliuto banned by order of the King of Naples in 1838, Donizetti decided to move to Paris, where higher prestige, richer reward and greater creative freedom awaited him.
La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) is the first opera Donizetti composed in Paris, then the cultural capital of Europe. Its premiere at the Opéra Comique on 11 February 1840 was an enormous success and its overwhelming popularity has been on the rise ever since. La Favorite opened at the
Paris Opéra in December of that same year. Donizetti was 43 years old and at the height of his powers. Two years later, he accepted a commission to compose a work for Vienna and produced his mature masterpiece, Linda di Chamounix, which was so successful that the Emperor of Austria immediately appointed him Court Composer and Master of the Imperial Chapel, positions once held by Mozart.
For the next three years, Donizetti divided his time between Paris and Vienna, with occasional trips to Milan and Rome to present new works or Italian adaptations of his French works. In 1843, he created his final comedy of lasting appeal, Don Pasquale, for the Italian Theatre of Paris. The final years of Donizetti’s life saw a painful decline of his mental and physical health. In 1846, further deterioration forced his confinement to a sanatorium. He was later brought home to his native Bergamo, where death released him in April 1848.
Of Donizetti’s total output of 65 operas, half a dozen have always remained on top of the permanent international repertoire. Since the 1950s, there has been a great resurgence of interest in reviving his works, strongly encouraged by important scholars, conductors and great singers such as Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, Montserrat Caballé and others of the present generation.
Today, Donizetti is justly recognized as one of the most important opera composers in the history of western music.