Premiere April 2, 2011
Opera. Power struggles, impossible love and murder. Kerstin Avemo creates a moving impersonation of the unhappy Lucia in our first ever Donizetti opera.
Opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848).
Watch a movie from the performance.
Bel Canto – beautiful song – is a term originating in Italy, the home of opera. Gaetano Donizetti is seen as one of the most prominent of the 19th century composers of the Bel Canto genre. In his popular opera Lucia di Lammermoor, shown for the first time at The Göteborg Opera, the soprano passages of the title role are dizzyingly beautiful – and master pieces of virtuosity.
This production was a success when it premiered at the English National Opera in 2008, directed by award winning director David Alden, and was performed again in February 2010. The story takes place in ghostly castle milieus and tells of a power struggle between two families, impossible love versus economical interests and forced marriages with deadly consequences.
Watch pictures from the performance.
Lucia is sung by coloratura soprano Kerstin Avemo, much in demand internationally, not least because of her success in this role. Many will remember her hypnotic Lulu in Alban Berg’s opera of the same name which was performed at The Göteborg Opera in 2002. Now she plays the tragic heroine who is driven to insanity and, as author and philosopher Cathérine Clément says “dances with her desires”.
Lucia’s beloved, Edgardo, is sung by tenor Bülent Bezdüz, whose impression of Rodolfo in Bohème at The Göteborg Opera in 2008/2009 was very impressive. First guest conductor Giancarlo Andretta will lead the orchestra and in accordance with Donizetti’s original intentions we have included something as unusual as a glass harmonica in the orchestra.
Watch a movie from the rehearsal.
This happens in Lucia di Lammermoor:
The libretto is based on Walter Scott's 1819 novel, the Bride of Lammermoor, and can be characterised as a Romeo-and-Juliet story situated in 17th century Scotland.
The Ashton and Ravenswood families have long been entangled in a family feud. Enrico Ashton caused the death of Edgardo Ravenswood's father and has taken over the Ravenswood family castle in Scotland. Faced with a political shift in Scotland and family economic difficulties, Enrico needs to safeguard his position. He wants to achieve this by marrying off his sister Lucia to the famous and influential Arturo Bucklaw. But Lucia and Edgardo have secretly fallen in love and meet each night close to the castle.
Act I, Scene 1
Enrico's suspicions are confirmed by his henchman Normanno and a couple of hunters: Lucia has fallen in love with his enemy Edgardo and meets him in secret. Enrico realises that he needs to act quickly if he wants to be able to marry off Lucia with Arturo.
Act I, Scene 2
Lucia's confidante Alisa warns her about meeting up with Edgardo, and says it can only end badly. But Lucia does not listen to her warnings, instead telling her of a ghost she believes she has seen by the fountain in the castle grounds. The ghost is believed to be that of a young woman from the Ashton family, who was murdered by her beloved, a man from the Ravenswood family. Edgardo arrives and Alisa leaves to stand guard. Edgardo is about to leave on a long trip to France, and wants to reconcile with Enrico and ask for Lucia's hand in marriage, but Lucia stops him: it is not yet the right time. They agree on a secret engagement and Edgardo promises to write to her every day.
AII, Scene 1
Several months have passed. Enrico has prevented Edgardo's letters from reaching Lucia. He has also forged other letters, which show that Edgardo has been unfaithful. He confronts Lucia with these letters, which makes her very upset. Considering the situation, her only option is to marry Arturo, Enrico states. Lucia goes to see her confessor Raimondo, who persuades her to give up and marry Arturo.
Act II, Scene 2
Arturo arrives at the castle and the wedding ceremony can start. When Arturo wonders why Lucia looks so pale and unhappy, it is said to be due to her mother recently passing away. The despairing Lucia signs the marriage contract, but at that exact moment Edgardo unexpectedly arrives to ask for Lucia as his bride. Enrico, Edgardo and Arturo draw their swords, but are calmed down by Raimondo. When Edgardo understands that Lucia has married another man, he throws the engagement ring at her, cursing both Lucia and his own destiny.
Act III, Scene 1
The same night, as a heavy storm is raging: Enrico arrives to a tower on the castle grounds, which is still in the possession of Edgardo, in order to challenge him to a duel. Edgardo accepts and they agree to meet at the Ravenswood family cemetery at dawn.
Act III, Scene 2
In the castle, the wedding festivities are still under way, although the bride and groom have retreated to their room. Raimondo arrives and interrupts the festive mood by announcing that Lucia has murdered her husband and gone mad. The guests are frightened, and shortly after Lucia enters. She believes she is reliving the wedding, but this time Edgardo is the groom. In her mind she also sees the ghost from the fountain in the first act, which is keeping them apart. When Enrico runs in, she believes he is Edgardo and apologises for signing the marriage contract, assuring him that she is the only man she has ever loved. Finally she collapses in front of the terrified onlookers.
Act III, Scene 3
At the family cemetery, Edgardo is waiting for Enrico as agreed, in order for them to duel at dawn. But instead some wedding guests arrive and tell him of the terrible events, and that all Lucia can talk about is her love for him. When Edgardo wants to run to see her, he is stopped by Raimondo and the sound of a death bell. Lucia has departed from mortal life, and before anyone can stop him Raimondo sticks a dagger in his chest in order to be reunited with his beloved.
Glass harmonica - a genius way to illustrate insanity.
Ahead of the world première of Lucia di Lammermoor in Naples in 1835, composer Gaetano Donizetti was planning to use the glass harmonica for the opera's Mad Scene. This can be seen in his original handwritten score. Unfortunately, nobody able to play the instrument could be found in the Naples, and Donizetti was forced to replace it with a flute. The same issue occurred in all other cities where the opera was to be played and Donizetti finally gave up hope of being able to hear the opera performed as originally intended. The glass harmonica was constructed in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin and consists of rows of glass bowls in different sizes. These are placed on a horizontal shaft which is then lowered into a container of water by using a pedal, so that the glass bowls remain wet at all times. The player then touches the bowls with his/her fingers in order to produce the melody intended. The instrument operates on the same principles as that of rubbing the rim of a wine glass filled with water or wine. The size of the glass and the amount of liquid it is holding determines the tone produced. The timbre is impossible to reproduce by artificial means, such as by synthesizer. The sound produced is slightly frightening and hollow, and has been described as both heavenly and ghostly. The instrument soon came to be associated with insanity – those who touched or played the glass harmonica were seen as at risk of losing their minds. Thus Donizetti's idea of using it in Lucia's Mad Scene is nothing short of genius, especially considering that Lucia mentions the ghost she has seen above the fountain in the first act. The ghost is that of an ancestor who was murdered by her beloved.
Only recently has the glass harmonica started being used for certain performances of Lucia, starting in the 1960s when Beverly Sills performed the title role. In the complete version of her 1970 recording of Lucia with Thomas Schippers as conductor, Bruno Hoffman plays the difficult instrument. A short excerpt of this can be heard on our website. There is also a film clip of Beverly Sills on YouTube demonstrating the glass harmonica being played. The more modern construction of the glass harmonica, which is most commonly used nowadays, resembles a small organ and consists of a large number of vertical glass cylinders.
In David Alden's production for the English National Opera in 2008, the glass harmonica plays an important part of the staging. When this production is to be performed at the Göteborg Opera the instrument will of course be brought along – the first time the glass harmonica is used in a performance of Lucia on a Nordic opera stage. Only a few people in the world can play the glass harmonica, hence the same performers will alternate in Göteborg as in London: Sascha Reckert and Philipp Alexander Marguerre.
Beverly Sills introduces the Glass Harmonica.
Glass harmonica & Natalie Dessay-Lucia at the Mariinsky Mariinsky.