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Opera: ‘Lucia di Lamermoor’ in high definition

Elmer W. Koneman
special to the daily

A live broadcast of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday in the auditorium at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge, co-sponsored by the college and the National Repertory Orchestra.

Why do people attend grand opera productions?

Some may be looking for entertainment, others resonate with the music as produced by the orchestra and the singing voices, either singly, in duets or in other ensembles, or as performed by choruses. Many become engaged in the dramatic expressions and actions by which character roles are re-enacted. Within these motivations, select clips of music (known as “leitmotivs”), or actions on the stage may be allegorically related to treasured memories of events in the life of the attendee – an uplifting moment of success in time past, the departure or loss of a friend or loved one, or the struggle and failure to reconcile shortfalls and debasements in family, work and societal interactions.

One or all of these inducements will be satisfied by attending the production of “Lucia di Lammermoor.” This dramatic opera was written in 1835 by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, based loosely on the Sir Walter Scott novel, “The Bride of Lammermoor.”

Those primarily seeking entertainment will soon be transformed by the beauty of Donizetti’s music in the form of bel canto and flowing arias, duets and other ensembles, including the famous sextet at the end of Act II, and several powerful choral interludes.

The background story of the opera traces the gradual mental deterioration of Lucia as she contends with intrigues and family feuds at the Ravenswood Castle, located in the craggy Lamermoor District on Scotland. She had been deserted by everyone in whom she had placed trust, primarily her brother, to the extent that even the ability to weep had left her as she sings “my own tears have abandoned me.”

The opera begins with the search for a mysterious stranger, who Enrico, Lord of Ravenswood and brother to Lucia, believes is Edgardo, who had been the rightful heir to the castle, but whose title and estates Enrico himself had usurped. The plot thickens as Lucia had fallen madly in love with Edgardo, fueling intense rage within Enrico who vowed to thwart any form of betrothal between his arch enemy and his sister.

In the second scene, the two lovers meet in secret by a ruined fountain in the park of Ravenswood Castle, and after some preliminary misunderstandings had been resolved, profess love for one another in a beautiful duet. Edgardo announces that he must soon depart for France to tend to personal affairs. Before leaving, the lovers exchange rings with the pledge that they are “man and wife in the sight of heaven,” vowing to exchange frequent written correspondence.

Enrico, however, in the days ahead intercepted all correspondence between the two. He arranged a forced marriage between Lucia and one of his benefactors, Arturo.

Acceptance of this ceremony by Lucia was hastened by presenting to her a forged letter allegedly written to another woman by Edgardo, in which he disclaims any present attachment to Lucia. When Lucia signs the marriage contract, she sings “I have signed my death warrant.”

Suddenly Edgardo arrives on the scene in search for Lucia, who he still deeply loves. She faints away. There follows the famous sextet in which each of the characters vent their differing reactions. The scene leads to the drawing of swords, with Enrico threatening Edgardo with death if he does not withdraw immediately. With intervention from Raimondo, the Castle Priest, the duel is ended. Edgardo, upon learning that Lucia has already signed the marriage contract, gives back the ring to her and departs. Lucia and Arturo retire to the bridal chamber. The next scene depicts Enrico near midnight invading Edgardo’s private chamber, during which the two agree on a duel to take place at the break of day.

The plot moves forward uninterrupted. The next scene is in the Great Hall at Ravenswood where the Lucia/Arturo wedding festivities are in full swing, after the bride and groom had retired to the bridal chamber. Suddenly, Raimondo appears announcing to the crowd that Lucia has stabbed Arturo to death. Not long afterwards, Lucia, with visible blood stains and now obviously demented, returns down the stairway performing her famous bel canto aria that comprises the famous “Mad Scene.”

Although the absorbing music of this scene would be ideal to close the opera, there remains one last episode in which Edgardo is seen near dawn among the tombs of Ravensood, looking forward to his death at the sword of Enrico. However, suddenly people from Lammermoor appear, chanting there is no longer any hope for Lucia. He then learns of the fatal wedding night, and that Lucia lies at death door endlessly chanting Edgardo’s name. Following a magnificent aria, Edgardo thrusts a dagger into himself, now ready to join Lucia in death “in the sight of heaven.”

The part of Lucia will be performed by Natalie Dessay, who returns after one of her most acclaimed performances at the Met in 2007. In a recent Associated Press review of the current revival, Dussay’s Lucia is proclaimed as “a lesson in the art of a superb singing actress.” Dessay is joined by Joseph Calleja as Edgardo, Ludvic Tezier as Enrico, and Kwangchul Youn as Raimondo, each of whom are singing these roles for the first time at the Met. Calleja is proclaimed in recent reviews as being sensationally ardent as Lucia’s lover, performing one of his best roles during his exciting Met career. Thus, there is great excitement awaiting all opera lovers, not to discount the heightened receptivity for those experiencing opera for the first time.


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