The bride wore blood Lu­cia di Lam­mer­moor

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - James M. Keller

There will be blood. In most pro­duc­tions there is lots of it, drip­ping down the vir­ginal white night­gown of un­for­tu­nate Lu­cia di Lam­mer­moor near the end of the epony­mous opera. Her brother, En­rico Ash­ton, Lord (or Laird) of Lam­mer­moor, has es­sen­tially pimped her out, forc­ing her to marry the well-placed Lord Ar­turo Buck­law, an al­liance meant to re­store the Ash­ton fam­ily’s de­pleted for­tunes. Lu­cia has re­sisted. She loves not Ar­turo but Edgardo, Lord of Ravenswood, whom En­rico views as “the mor­tal en­emy of my fam­ily”; in­deed, Lu­cia and Edgardo have pri­vately ex­changed rings and nup­tial vows, although their mar­riage has not been blessed by the church. Great pres­sure is brought to bear on Lu­cia. En­rico tries to per­suade her through let­ters he has had forged, let­ters that pur­port­edly re­veal Edgardo’s love for an­other woman. He has a chap­lain in­form Lu­cia that if she does not marry Ar­turo, “your mother in her grave will shud­der with hor­ror be­cause of you.” She has given in. No sooner has she signed her mar­riage con­tract with Ar­turo than Edgardo bursts in and con­demns her for break­ing the vow they had con­sid­ered sa­cred.

Fes­tiv­i­ties move ahead, with par­ty­go­ers cel­e­brat­ing the re­stored for­tunes of the Ash­ton fam­ily. But a shriek pen­e­trates the rev­elry. The chap­lain en­ters: “From the rooms where Lu­cia had re­tired with her hus­band a cry of de­spair … a scream came as from a man who is near to death! … Arthur lay there on the floor, mute, cold, blood­less! And Lu­cia was clutch­ing the sword that be­longed to the slaugh­tered man!” The bride then ap­pears. “Lu­cia en­ters in white,” reads the stage di­rec­tion. “Her hair hangs di­sheveled and her deathly pale face makes her look more like a ghost than a liv­ing be­ing. Her glassy stare and con­vul­sive move­ments demon­strate clearly that she is out of her senses, and that her life is draw­ing to its close.” De­ranged, she sings in her fan­tasy to the man she truly loves. She imag­ines that she is now go­ing to wed Edgardo and, fore­see­ing her own im­mi­nent death, in­sists that hap­pi­ness will at­tend them both when they meet in heaven. The stage di­rec­tion for her fa­mous Mad Scene doesn’t men­tion blood per se, but crazed Lu­cia in her stained gown has be­come an iconic im­age of the opera house. What di­rec­tor could re­sist?

Gae­tano Donizetti and his li­bret­tist Salvadore Cammarano based their opera on the novel The Bride

of Lam­mer­moor, pub­lished in 1819 by Sir Wal­ter Scott. There is no ques­tion that the novel was am­pli­fied into a work of fic­tion, but when it ap­peared in an 1830 edi­tion, as part of what were by then called the Waver­ley nov­els, Scott added an in­tro­duc­tion in which he in­sisted that it was based on a his­tor­i­cal in­ci­dent that took place in the Lam­mer­muir Hills near Ed­in­burgh. “The Au­thor, on a for­mer oc­ca­sion, de­clined giv­ing the real source from which he drew the tragic sub­ject of this his­tory,” he wrote, “be­cause, though oc­cur­ring at a dis­tant pe­riod, it might pos­si­bly be un­pleas­ing to the feel­ings of the de­scen­dants of the par­ties. But as he finds an ac­count of the cir­cum­stances given in the Notes to Law’s Memo­ri­als, by his in­ge­nious friend, Charles Kirk­patrick Sharpe,

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