Looking into Lucia

Last night saw the opening of Opera Holland Park 2012, where we are resident orchestra for the ninth year running. There are six operas this season which runs until 4 August. Throughout the season we’ll be finding some fun facts on each opera to educate both opera novices and experts alike. This week we look at the opening opera, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

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1. The libretto for Lucia di Lammermoor, written by Salvadore Cammarano, was loosely based on The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott, a historial novel based on true events.

2. One of the most famous moments of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is the mad scene in Act III, where the main character Lucia eventually descends into madness. Donizetti himself went insane towards the end of his life and spent a few years in an asylum.

3. The mad scene was originally written for glass harmonica, but is often replaced by two flutes. This unusual instrument consists of a collection of glass bowls and the sound is created through the friction of the player’s fingers against the rim of the glass.

4. There is also a less regularly performed French version of this opera, Lucie de Lammermoor, which opened in Paris in 1839, four years after the Italian premiere in Naples.

5. The popular ‘Lucia Sextet’ melody from Lucia di Lammermoor has been used in many films and cartoons, including an unusual interpretation in Disney’s The Whale who wanted to sing at the Met.

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