Limelight takes a look at why Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor still gets us going gaga.

September 26, 1835 was quite a night at Naples’ Teatro di San Carlo. A new opera was promised by the then undisputed leading Italian composer of the day and based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor– a topical popular novel in print for a mere 15 years. Set in misty, murky Scotland, for patrons of the day it represented the ne plus ultraof romantic destinations, and there was to be a mad scene – like public executions, always a draw. Add to that rumours of potential drama backstage with tempestuous singers and a Machiavellian theatre manager (the ruthless Domenico Barbaja – greatest impresario of his age and, in a former career, inventor of the cappuccino!) As we now know it was a hit and, despite not exactly taking off like a rocket in comparison to some of his other works of the period, it has gone on to be Donizetti’s greatest success. Unlike other works of the bel cantothat needed a Callas, a Sutherland or a Caballé...

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