But shortly before the premiere of “Lucia” in Naples in 1835, Donizetti rewrote the glass harmonica part for flute. What probably happened is related by Philip Gossett, an expert on 19th-century Italian opera, whose book “Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera” (University of Chicago Press, 2006) is as authoritative an examination of the era as we are likely to get. Mr. Gossett reports that the glass harmonica player at the theater in Naples was embroiled in a contractual dispute with company officials, and Donizetti was probably advised to steer clear of the guy. So the composer’s final score indicates that the part should be played by solo flute.
The Met chose to go with Donizetti’s initial inspiration. The glass harmonica is played by Cecilia Brauer, a pianist who has played celesta, a kind of small piano with chimes, with the Met orchestra for more than 30 years. It took her a long while to figure out how to play the glass harmonica, she said in a recent phone conversation.
“I used to play the Tchaikovsky concerto on the piano!” Ms. Brauer said. “But when I could finally play ‘Yankee Doodle’ on the glass harmonica, I was so happy.” She explained that the sound produced is dramatically affected by the hardness or softness of the water the glasses spin in, and even by the temperature of the player’s fingers.
“I dip my fingers in ice water to keep them cool,” she said. But she loves the haunting tenderness of the glass harmonica, which is slightly amplified to be heard at the Met.
During Lucia’s first scene, when the character’s melodies are introduced by the glass harmonica, the sound is eerily beautiful and entrancingly strange. It is as if you are not sure you are hearing these diaphanous tones and cannot quite place their source.
Traditionally, the flute plays a big role in the mad scene for the fragile Lucia, who has gone over the edge and murdered the husband she was forced to marry. In its familiar incarnation, the first part of the scene culminates with an elaborate cadenza for Lucia and solo flute. (Typically in opera, a cadenza is a free-sounding, usually showy, extended solo passage that comes just before the final dramatic cadence in an aria.)
At the premiere of “Lucia,” Donizetti sanctioned the soprano who originated the title role, Fanny Tacchinardi, renowned for her skill at improvisation, to make up her own cadenza. The elaborate cadenza most often performed today (and heard, with various alterations, on classic recordings) was written for the soprano Nellie Melba by her teacher, Mathilde Marchesi, 40 years after Donizetti’s death. It’s a tour de force in which the flute by turns beckons, rattles, accompanies and competes with the soprano.
Mr. Gossett writes that in performance this familiar cadenza for madwoman and flute should never be considered obligatory. It is unlikely, he comments, that “the endless coloratura display in the very highest reaches of the voice would have made sense to a contemporary of Donizetti’s, so different is it from anything else in the opera.”
Ms. Dessay, working with Mr. Levine, has devised a creative solution to the problem of the “Melba” Cadenza, as it could be called. The flute is much less present in Ms. Dessay’s version, though now and then the glass harmonica lends subtle instrumental color. She eliminates familiar passages, alters others and adds touches of her own. In the moments in which the persistent flute and the unhinged Lucia trade phrases, Ms. Dessay sings both parts, a musically captivating idea that makes the character seem even more delusional.
Of course, the music is not Donizetti’s. Still, a recurring theme in Mr. Gossett’s book is that intelligent performers, after studying the sources and history, should feel free to make sensitive interpretive choices that best suit their own talents and the particular production. This approach is actually in keeping with the practices of early 19th-century Italy.
Irving Berlin would understand. I could almost hear him saying: “You can’t put on a good show with a different girl in a different theater and do it the same way! What, are you crazy or something?”Continue reading the main story
Lucia di Lammermoor is a dramma tragico (tragic opera) in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian-language libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.
Donizetti wrote Lucia di Lammermoor in 1835, a time when several 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 premiere of Lucia leaving Donizetti as "the sole reigning genius of Italian opera". 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. Sir Walter Scott dramatized these elements in his novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which inspired several musical works including Lucia.
The story concerns the emotionally fragile Lucy Ashton (Lucia) who is caught in a feud between her own family and that of the Ravenswoods. The setting is the Lammermuir Hills of Scotland (Lammermoor) in the 17th century.
The opera premiered on 26 September 1835 at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. However, John Black notes that "the surprising feature of its subsequent performance history is that it established so slowly in the Neapolitan repertoire", noting that while there were 18 performances in the rest of 1835, there were only four in 1836, 16 in 1837, two in 1838, and continuing in this manner with only two in each of 1847 and 1848.
London saw the opera on 5 April 1838 and, for Paris, Donizetti revised the score for a French version which debuted on 6 August 1839 at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. It reached the United States with a production in New Orleans on 28 December 1841.
20th century and beyond
The opera was never absent from the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera for more than one season at a time from 1903 until 1972. After World War II, a number of sopranos were instrumental in giving new life to the opera, including Maria Callas (with performances from 1952 at La Scala and Berlin in 1954/55 under Herbert von Karajan) and Dame Joan Sutherland (with 1959 and 1960 performances at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden).
It has remained a staple of the operatic repertoire and ranks 21st on Operabase's list of the most-performed operas worldwide from the 2008/09 to 2012/13 seasons.
The instrumentation is:
- Woodwinds: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons
- Brass: 4 horns, 2 trumpets and 3 trombones
- Percussion: timpani, triangle, bass drum, cymbals and campana (tubular bells)
- Strings: harp, first violins, second violins, violas, violoncellos and double basses.
Additionally an off-stage wind band is used; Donizetti did not provide instrumentation. Also, occasionally the glass harmonica is substituted for solo flute in Lucia’s mad scene, per Donizetti’s original score.
- Time: Early 18th century
- Place: Scotland
Scene 1: The gardens of Lammermoor Castle
Normanno, captain of the castle guard, and other retainers are searching for an intruder. He tells Enrico that he believes that the man is Edgardo of Ravenswood, and that he comes to the castle to meet Enrico's sister, Lucia. It is confirmed that Edgardo is indeed the intruder. Enrico reaffirms his hatred for the Ravenswood 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 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.
Scene 1: Lord Ashton's apartments in Lammermoor 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, 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 Edgardo Lucia's signature on the marriage contract. Edgardo 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.
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 Lammermoor Castle
Raimondo interrupts the marriage celebrations to tell the guests that Lucia has gone mad and killed her bridegroom Arturo. 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 reunited with Lucia in heaven.
The "mad scene"
The aria "Spargi d'amaro pianto" following the more recitative "Il dolce suono" from the "mad scene" (Act 3, Scene 2), has historically been a vehicle for several coloratura sopranos (providing a breakthrough for Dame Joan Sutherland) and is a technically and expressively demanding piece. Donizetti wrote it in F major, but it is often transposed down a tone (two half-steps) into E-flat.
Some sopranos, including 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 keynote (E-flat or F, depending on the key in which they are singing, though Mado Robin takes an even higher B-flat). Some sopranos, including Ruth Welting and Mariella Devia, have sung the "mad scene" in Donizetti's original F major key, although E-flat is more commonly heard.
The original scoring of this scene was for glass harmonica, but this was later replaced by the more usual arrangement with two flutes.
The popular soprano and flute duet cadenza was composed in 1888 by Mathilde Marchesi for her student Nellie Melba's performance of the role, requiring ten weeks of rehearsal for the new addition and causing a critical reevaluation and surge of new interest in the opera.
List of arias and musical numbers
The index of Bonynge's edition lists the following numbers.
Lucie de Lammermoor (French version)
After Lucia di Lammermoor was produced in Paris, a French version was commissioned for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. Donizetti was living there at the time, preparing the revision of Poliuto into its French version (which became Les Martyrs). Lucie opened on 6 August 1839 and this version toured extensively throughout France. 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 handmaid and confidante. This allows the French version to isolate Lucia, thus increasing the story's emotional impact. Furthermore, Lucia loses most of Raimondo's support; his role is dramatically diminished while Arturo's is increased. Donizetti also added a new character, Gilbert, who is loosely based on the huntsman in the Italian version. However, Gilbert is a more developed figure who serves both Edgardo and Enrico, divulging their secrets to the other for money.
The French version is performed far less frequently than the Italian, but it was revived to great acclaim by Natalie Dessay and Roberto Alagna at the Opéra National de Lyon in 2002. It was co-produced by the Boston Lyric Opera and the Glimmerglass Opera. Sarah Coburn sang the title role as her first "Lucia" in this French version in 2005. In 2008 Lucie was produced by the Cincinnati Opera with Coburn again in the title role.
Main article: Lucia di Lammermoor discography
Lucia has received over 20 commercial studio recordings, and dozens more of live performances. Among these are two of the French version and another of the original Italian edition translated into English. The earliest complete recording was made in 1929 with Lorenzo Molajoli conducting the La Scala Orchestra and Chorus and Mercedes Capsir in the title role. There are several recordings with Maria Callas in the title role, including two versions conducted by Tullio Serafin (1953 and 1959) and one by Herbert von Karajan (1955). Joan Sutherland, who was particularly noted for performances as Lucia, has also been recorded in the role several times including a 1971 Decca Records recording conducted by Richard Bonynge with Luciano Pavarotti as Edgardo. In 2002, Chandos Records released the English version with David Parry conducting and Elizabeth Futral as Lucia. Several video recordings have also been released, including one in French.Charles Mackerras returned to Donizetti's autograph score and prepared a new edition of the score. He returned to the original key structure and the Mad Scene is quite different. He recorded this version for Sony in 1997.
- Ashbrook, William; Sarah Hibberd (2001), in Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4.
- Black, John (1982), Donizetti’s Operas in Naples, 1822—1848. London: The Donizetti Society.
- Mackerras, Sir Charles (1998). Lucia di Lammermoor (CD booklet). Sony Classical. pp. 29–33. ISBN 0-521-27663-2.
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
- Pugliese, Romana (March 2004), Martin Deasy, "The Origins of Lucia di Lammermoor's Cadenza", Cambridge Opera Journal, 16,1: 23–42
- Allitt, John Stewart (1991), Donizetti: in the light of Romanticism and the teaching of Johann Simon Mayr, Shaftesbury: Element Books, Ltd (UK); Rockport, MA: Element, Inc. (US)
- Ashbrook, William (1982), Donizetti and His Operas, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23526-X
- Ashbrook, William (1998), "Donizetti, Gaetano" in Stanley Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One. London: Macmillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Boyden, Matthew (2007), The Rough Guide to Operas (4th ed.), Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-538-6
- Cipriani, Nicola (2008), Varese, ed., Le tre Lucie: un romanzo, un melodramma, un caso giudiziario : il percorso di tre vittime del pensiero maschile, Zecchini, p. 276, ISBN 88-87203-66-0
- Fisher, Burton D. (2005), Lucia di Lammermoor, Opera Journeys Publishing, ISBN 1-930841-79-5
- Loewenberg, Alfred (1970). Annals of Opera, 1597–1940, 2nd edition. Rowman and Littlefield
- Osborne, Charles, (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
- Sadie, Stanley, (Ed.); John Tyrell (Exec. Ed.) (2004), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd edition. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-19-517067-2 (hardcover). ISBN 0-19-517067-9OCLC 419285866 (eBook).
- Weinstock, Herbert (1963), Donizetti and the World of Opera in Italy, Paris, and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, New York: Pantheon Books. LCCN 63-13703
- ^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, Bucklaw was only wounded by Lucy 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 more mysterious and ambiguous. Also, in the novel, Edgar and Lucy'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, Edgar disappears (his body never found) and is presumably killed in some sort of an accident on his way to have his duel with Lucy's older brother; therefore, he does not commit a spectacular, operatic style suicide with a stiletto on learning of Lucy's death.
- ^ abMackerras, p. 29
- ^Mackerras, p. 30
- ^ abBlack, pp. 34—35
- ^Ashbrook and Hibberd 2001, p. 236
- ^Performance statistics. Accessed 13 November 2013
- ^Free full score in IMSLP
- ^Enrico mentions the death of "William", assumedly William III who died in 1702
- ^Osborne, p. 240
- ^This synopsis by Simon Holledge was first published on Opera japonica (www.operajaponica.org) and appears here by permission.
- ^Mado Robin sings Bb over high C!!!. Youtube.com (television). Retrieved 2012-12-31.
- ^Forbes, Elizabeth, Obituary: Ruth Welting, The Independent, 23 December 1999. Accessed 6 February 2009.
- ^Youtube clip singing the "Mad Scene" in the F major key
- ^Pugliese, p. 32
- ^Lucia di Lammermoor Discography on Operadis