sutherland, dame

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. 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.

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.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, September 26, 1835
(Conductor: - )
Lucia Ashton soprano Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani
Enrico Ashton, Laird of Lammermoor, Lucia's brother baritone Domenico Cosselli
Edgardo, Laird of 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 companion mezzo-soprano Teresa Zappucci
Normanno, huntsman, a retainer of Enrico tenor Anafesto Rossi
Retainers and servants, wedding guests


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.

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 (Lucy).

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 that he believes that the man is Edgardo, 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 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. 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.

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.

[This synopsis by Simon Holledge was first published on Opera japonica and appears here by permission.]

Noted Arias

  • Cruda, funesta smania – (Enrico) in Act I, Scene I
  • La pietade in suo favour – (Enrico) in Act I, Scene I
  • Regnava nel silenzio - (Lucia) in Act I, Scene II
  • Quando rapito in estasi - (Lucia) in Act I, Scene II
  • Ah, cedi, cedi! – (Raimondo) in Act II, Scene I
  • Al ben dei tuoi qual vittima - (Raimondo) in Act II, Scene I
  • Dalle stanze, ove Lucia – (Raimondo) in Act III, Scene I
  • Il dolce suono – (Lucia) in Act III, Scene I
  • Spargi d'amaro pianto – (Lucia) in Act III, Scene I
  • Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali – (Edgardo) in Act III, Scene II
  • Tombe degl'avi miei – (Edgardo) in Act III, Scene II

Selected recordings

Lucia di Lammermoor (in Italian)

Year Cast
(Lucia, Edgardo, Enrico, Raimondo)
Opera House and Orchestra
1939 Lina Pagliughi,
Giovanni Malipiero,
Giuseppe Manacchini,
Luciano Neroni
Ugo Tansini,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Italian Broadcasting Authority
Audio CD: Naxos
Cat: 8.110150
1952 Maria Callas,
Giuseppe di Stefano,
Piero Campolonghi,
Roberto Silva
Guido Picco,
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
Palacio de Bellas Artes Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Melodram
Cat: 1078712 (Live performance)
1953 Maria Callas,
Giuseppe di Stefano,
Tito Gobbi,
Raffaele Arié
Tullio Serafin,
La Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: EMI
1955 Maria Callas,
Giuseppe di Stefano,
Rolando Panerai,
Nicola Zaccaria
Herbert von Karajan,
Rias Sinfonie Orchester, La Scala Chorus
Audio CD: Melodram
Cat: 26004 (Live performance)
1957 Roberta Peters,
Jan Peerce,
Philip Maero,
Giorgio Tozzi
Erich Leinsdorf,
Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: RCA Victor (Living Stereo)
ASIN: B000003G44
1959 Maria Callas,
Ferruccio Tagliavini,
Piero Cappuccilli,
Bernard Ladysz
Tullio Serafin,
La Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: EMI
1959 Joan Sutherland,
Jao Gibin,
John Shaw,
Joseph Rouleau
Tullio Serafin,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,
Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Golden Melodram
(Live performance)
1961 Joan Sutherland,
Renato Cioni,
Robert Merrill,
Cesare Siepi
John Pritchard,
Coro e orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia
Audio CD: Decca
1965 Anna Moffo,
Carlo Bergonzi,
Mario Sereni,
Ezio Flagello
Georges Pretre,
RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Audio CD: RCA
1970 Beverly Sills,
Carlo Bergonzi,
Piero Cappuccilli,
Justino Diaz
Thomas Schippers,
Audio CD: Westminster
1971 Joan Sutherland,
Luciano Pavarotti,
Sherrill Milnes,
Nicolai Ghiaurov
Richard Bonynge,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,
Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Decca
Cat: 4101932
1976 Montserrat Caballé,
José Carreras,
Vicente Sardinero,
Samuel Ramey
Jesús López-Cobos,
Audio CD: Philips
1982 Joan Sutherland,
Alfredo Kraus,
Pablo Elvira,
Paul Plishka
Richard Bonynge,
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
1983 June Anderson,
Alfredo Kraus,
Lorenzo Saccomani,
Agostino Ferrin
Gianluigi Gelmetti,
Teatro Comunale Florence Orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: LS
1988 Joan Sutherland,
Richard Greager,
Malcolm Donnelly,
Clifford Grant
Richard Bonynge, Australian Opera,
Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra and Australian Opera Chorus
DVD: Image Entertainment
Cat: 5789RA
1990 Cheryl Studer,
Placido Domingo,
Juan Pons,
Samuel Ramey
Ion Marin,
London Symphony Orchestra
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 4594912
1998 Andrea Rost,
Bruce Ford,
Anthony Michaels-Moore,
Alastair Miles
Charles Mackerras,
The Hanover Band,
London Voices
Audio CD: Sony Classical
Cat: 63174

Lucie de Lammermoor (in French)

Year Cast
(Lucia, Edgardo, Enrico, Raimondo)
Opera House and Orchestra
2002 Natalie Dessay,
Roberto Alagna,
Cornell MacNeil
Evelino Pidò,
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
2002 Patrizia Ciofi,
Roberto Alagna,
Ludovic Tezier
Nicolas Cavallier
Evelino Pidò,
Opéra de Lyon Orchestra and Chorus
DVD Video: TDK

Note: "Cat:" is short for catalogue number by the label company; "ASIN" is product reference number.



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 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 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

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