Lucia di Lammermoor is a popular dramma tragico (which roughly translated means “tragic opera”) that has been made up in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvatore Cammarano has penne the Italian libretto that has been loosely based on Sir Walter Scotts historical novel named “The Bride of Lammermoor”. This opera has been extremely successful right from the day of its creation. To date it remains amongst one of the leading bel canto operas.
The opera made is debut premiere on the 26th of September in the year 1835 at the venue of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Donizetti had also gone on to revise the score for a French version that had been premiered for the very first time on the 6th of August i the year 1839 at the venue of the Theatre de la Renaissance situated in Paris.
Amogst the best-known pieces in the Lucia di Lammermoor are without doubt the sextet which comes at the end of the second act and Lucias "Mad Scene" that comes in the third act. The later, that is the "Mad Scene," is regarded as a historical piece and a base for numerous coloratura sopranos (that had provided a breakthrough for Dame Joan Sutherland). Not only that but it can also be termed as a perfect technical and expressively demanding piece.
Amongst some of the sopranos, the most notable is Maria Callas having performed the challenging role. However some sopranos, also add a certain amount of ornamentation for the demonstration of their technical abilities as well as the traditions in the bel canto period. This also comprises of the additions and the interpolation of trills, mordents and also turns and cadenzas. Almost all the sopranos (most importantly the famous ones like the likes of Joan Sutherland) they append the cadenzas to the end of the "Mad Scene." Many times many of them are ended on a high E-flat. Not only is that but Maria Callas is often given the option not to sing the E-flat. Although beneath the baton of Serafin, the Greek sopranos end the mad scene mostly with an E-flat.
Apart from that in addition many sopranos (amongst which Ruth Welting is the most notorious) have gone on to sing several mad scenes in Donizettis original F major key. They also end it with a high F natural rather than going on and transposing it one step under towards the E-flat major key. For several decades Lucia has been considered as being the showpiece for the coloratura sopranos and has also been known as a part of the operatic repertory.
Although after many times the World War II which is a small number of technically-able sopranos, the most distinguished and the prominent ones were without doubt Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. They have revived the opera in all its original tragic glory and splendor. Sutherlands has given a very good and memorable performance in the role at the venue of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in the year 1959.