Lucia di Lammermoor is filled with heartbreak and tragedy

LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR | HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE | UNTIL SAT 4 NOV | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor will always have a special place in my heart, it’s the first opera I ever saw performed live on stage.

For years the WA Opera invited me to come and review their shows, and I always politely declined. While I’d worked in ballet, music, filmaking and theatre, my knowledge of opera was minimal. I felt confident sharing an opinion on things I had some level of experience in, opera was mostly a blank page. 

The first opera I attended was Lucia di Lammermoor, and many others have followed, but as they say, you always remember your first.

Going to the opera is a very special kind of theatrical experience, there’s something very mesmerising about listening to people perform in another language, in this case Italian, other operas are often in French or German. 

The story is easy to follow, you just grab a synopsis of the plot, they have them as you enter the auditorium, and quickly read up on what happens in Act one.

Most opera were written long ago, at a time when ploys and characters were far more complex that you’re average modern feature film, expect a tale filled with scheming, subversion, misunderstandings and mistaken identities. 

There are giant screens on the side of the stage that provide translations, so you can keep up with the story as it progresses along.   

Written in 1835, this Italian opera is based on a  novel by one of Scotland’s most revered authors, Sir Walter Scott.

First published in 1819, it tells the tale of a young woman named Lucy whose family are desperately trying to marry her off to handsome heir of another great house. Lucy however has fallen in love with a boy from a family who are enemies of her own, and she’s determined to be with him.

In writing the story for an Italian audience Donizetti changed all the characters names to Italian, so Lucy became Lucia, her older brother – the Lord of Lammermoor – is Enrico, he’d like to marry her off to Arturo, and Lucia’s determined to be with Edgardo.

While the names were changes, the setting remains in the Scottish Highlands, the set is a towering grey castle, and the cast of guards, courtiers and handmaidens all sport kilts, sporrans and bonnets. It’s a little incongruous, but it’s been that way for hundreds of years. 

This production is a joy to watch, you can get carried away in the melodrama of it all. Acclaimed Western Australian opera singer Aldo Di Troro has returned for the role of Egardo, while another WA talent soprano Emma Pearson excels as Lucia. 

It’s one of the great roles of opera, the scene where Lucia, having been tricked and deceived by those around her, descends into madness is one of opera’s most famous moments. The aria from this scene is famously used in the Jean Luc Besson film The Fifth Element.   

For my second experience of Lucia di Lammermoor I took along a friend who had never experienced opera before, drag queen Rachel Discrimination, who declared the night to be camp and outrageous, is the best possible way.

Aside from enjoying the action on stage, we also admired the fashion of the audience, where else are you going to see boys in brocaded tail coats, and ladies with tiaras? Plus the architecture of His Majesty’s Theatre makes it a building you want to be seen in.

Music, drama, fashion and style all in a single night. If you’ve never been to an opera, give this one a go.

Graeme Watson, Image: David Rogers 


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