"If in the second and third decades of the 19th century the Rossini Theater established itself in Italy, if Verdi's Theater emerged in the fifth, then Donizetti belongs to the fourth," Piero Mioli wrote.
The composer's opera heritage, numbering 74 works, is extremely diverse in genres: comic operas, tragic melodramas, historical and heroic, as well as socio-psychological dramas, lyric and dramatic operas. The latter includes "Lucia di Lammermoor", in which Gaetano Donizetti's talent was revealed most fully.
This work is based on the novel "Lammermoor Bride" by Walter Scott. It is considered not the most successful creation of the writer, and therefore is not popular with readers, but attracts composers. Before Donizetti, operas based on the Scottish plot were written by Italians Michele Enrico Carafa di Colobrano and Alberto Mazzucato, as well as the Dane Ivar Fredrik Bredal on a libretto by Hans Christian Andersen. However, the creation of Donizetti ousted from the stage the works of his predecessors.
The opera is set in Scotland, but the authors changed the British names of the characters to more euphonious Italian ones. Lord Enrico (Henry) wants to marry his sister Lucia (Lucy) for a wealthy nobleman Arthur in order to improve his financial situation. However, Lucia is secretly betrothed to Lord Edgar, her brother’s enemy, and rejects a marriage of convenience. Then Enrique resorts to deception, convincing his sister of the treachery of her lover. Lucia agrees to become Arthur’s wife, but at the moment of signing the marriage contract, Edgar appears. He accuses the bride of treason and accepts a challenge to a duel from Enrico. On their wedding night, in a fit of insanity, Lucia kills Arthur and dies herself. Edgar ends his life at the coffin of his beloved.
The premiere of Lucia di Lammermoor took place at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples in 1835, and on the territory of the Russian Empire in Odessa in December 1838. The most striking arias in this opera are the love duet of Lucia and Edgar in the first act and the sextet in the second, as well as the scene of the main character’s madness, where the singer’s voice competes with the flute. In general, in this opera, vocals are of paramount importance, and instrumental performance follows. That is why many famous sopranos – Frenchwoman Lily Pons, Spanish Maria Barrientos, Verdi’s favorite Adeline Patti and others – chose Lucia di Lammermoor for their debuts in America.
It is also curious that the composer composed the final aria – one of the best in his work – in an hour and a half. “Do you know my motto? Fast! Perhaps this is not worthy of approval, but what I did well was always done quickly, ”he wrote to librettist Giacomo Sacchero.
Following the Italian version Gaetano Donizetti created the French one, which was seriously different from the first edition. In particular, the role of the friend of the main character, Alice, was completely removed, the party of Pastor Raymond was significantly reduced. A new character was also introduced, the scoundrel Gilbert, who sells secrets to Lucia’s brother Enrico and her beloved Edgar. However, the French version of the opera is practically never performed in modern theaters.