Lucia di Lammermoor is the very model of the Italian style of its era: the perfect embodiment of both the period preceding Bellini and Verdi and the melodic and sentimental Italian bel canto opera. Of Donizetti's entire humongous 67-opera oeuvre, this is perhaps the one that occupies the most important position: although it is his comic operas that are played most often, the great humorist distilled into this opera the very best of his dramatic skill. His music, just like the libretto by Cammarano, superbly reflects the passion and unearthly atmosphere of The Bride of Lammermoor, the Walter Scott novel that it is based on. An ancient feud between two families propels this love story, which has been a constant repertoire piece at opera houses ever since it was written.
After a hiatus of 13 years, it is now returning to the Erkel Theatre in a new production directed by Máté Szabó.
A stranger has been glimpsed at night around the area of Lammermoor Castle. The master of the castle, Lord Enrico Ashton, orders Normanno, captain of the guards, to take his men to scour the area. Enrico is troubled: his family's fortunes will wane if his younger sister Lucia is not willing to marry Lord Arturo Bucklaw. Raimondo, the chaplain, reminds Enrico that Lucia is still mourning the loss of their mother. But Normanno uncovers the secret: Lucia is conducting a secret romance with Edgardo Ravenswood, enemy of the Ashton family. Normanno suspects that the stranger is none other than Edgardo himself. Filled with boundless rage, Enrico swears vengeance. The guards return and report that they have seen and identified the intruder: it was indeed Edgardo.
Dawn. By a fountain in the nearby wood, Lucia is awaiting Edgardo's arrival in the company of her maidservant, Alisa. Lucia relates how she had previously seen, at that same spot by the spring, the ghost of a girl who had been stabbed by her jealous lover. Alisa urges her to leave Edgardo, but Lucia replies that Edgardo's love gives her so much joy, nothing can vanquish it. Arriving late, Edgardo announces that he must depart that evening for France in order to secure supporters for political purposes. Before he leaves, he wishes to make peace with Enrico and ask for Lucia's hand in marriage, but Lucia asks him to continue to keep their love a secret. Edgar consents, but underneath the starry sky – before the face of God – they agree to an engagement and exchange rings.
A few months later, the day has come for Lucia and Arturo's wedding. Normanno assures Enrico that he has intercepted all of the letters Lucia and Edgardo have sent each other, and has also forged a letter in Edgardo's name that indicates that he is now in love with another woman. The captain departs to receive the arriving bridegroom, while Enrico summons Lucia, who is still attempting to resist her older brother's will. Enrico begs his sister to save his life by submitting to the forced marriage. As a last resort, he shows the maiden the forged letter. Lucia breaks down at the news, but her brother continues to demand that she save the family by wedding Arturo. After Enrico has left, Raimondo, who is now convinced that there is no hope left for Lucia to marry for love, asks her to do her sisterly duty in the memory of her late mother and in the interest of the family's future. Eventually, shattered, she acquiesces.
The guests arrive. Enrico tells Arturo that the reason why Lucia is so sad is because she is still mourning the death of their mother. The girl enters and, although reluctantly, signs the marriage contract. At this point, Edgardo bursts into the hall to fetch his bride. The gathered guests watch what ensues with astonishment. Arturo and Enrico attempt to eject the raging suitor, who vehemently insists that he and Lucia are engaged. When Raimondo shows him the marriage contract bearing Lucia's signature, Edgardo curses the girl and, after taking back his ring from her, departs in a fury.
Raimondo interrupts the festivities to bring news that Lucia, who had retired for her wedding night, has gone mad and killed Arturo. Then, her clothes soaked in blood, Lucia herself enters and alternately overcome by feelings of tenderness, joy and fear, recalls the days she spent with Edgardo, believing that tonight is their wedding night. The enraged Enrico is about to punish the girl, but then realises that his sister has lost her mind. Lucia collapses in a dead faint.
In the cemetery, Edgardo curses Lucia, whom he believes is spending a joyful wedding night with Arturo in the castle. The guests arriving from Lammermoor Castle inform him that Lucy is close to death and has called for him. As he rushes to her side, Raimondo arrives: it's too late, Lucia is dead. At this news, Edgardo stabs himself so that he can join his beloved Lucia in heaven right away.