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The Story of 'Lucie di Lammermoor'

ACT ONE:The opera is the story of a woman — Lucia, or, in this French version, Lucie — who murders her new husband after being forced to marry him through the deception of her brother, Henri.

Henri has taken over Ravenswood castle. Actually, he has swindled the property from its rightful heir, a man named Edgard, with whom Lucie is in love. Lucie and Edgard have been meeting each morning in a remote part of the castle grounds.

As the opera opens, Henri's men are busy combing the area for a reported intruder. The Captain of the Guard, Gilbert, informs Henri and his chaplain Raymond that in the past his sister has been seen with Edgard. Henri says he'd rather see Lucie struck by lightning than see her in the arms of his enemy.

In the next scene, we meet Lucie. She's at the ruins of an old fountain, where she and Edgard have been secretly meeting. In an aria, Lucie tells of visions. She's seen the ghost of a woman who died at the well, beckoning to her. Then Edgard arrives, telling Lucie that he will leave for France tomorrow. She is sad, but the two declare their love in a duet where the voices wind around each other. They exchange rings before Edgard leaves.

ACT TWO: Meanwhile, Lucie's brother Henri has arranged for her to marry Arthur, whose wealth and position will help Henri secure the Ravenswood estate for good. And, to trick Lucie into agreeing to the marriage, Gilbert has conveniently forged a letter. It's supposedly from Edgard, telling Lucie that he has found a new lover.

The wedding guests arrive, along with the groom. Lucie, in a daze after reading the forgery, reluctantly signs the marriage contract. Then, to everyone's surprise, Edgard bursts into the room, ready to claim Lucie as his own. At this point, we hear the famous sextet ("Chi mi frena in tal momento," in the original Italian version), where the principal characters each express mixed emotions. Seeing Lucie's signature on the contract, Edgard curses her and throws back the ring she gave him. A fight between Edgard and Henri nearly erupts, before Edgard is convinced to leave Ravenswood castle.

ACT THREE opens with a thunderstorm. Edgard has left the wedding and is holed up in a deserted tower on the castle grounds, brooding. He hears someone approach. It's Lucie's brother Henri, coming to challenge Edgard to a duel in the graveyard the following morning.

Back at the Castle, the wedding party is still in full swing. But everyone freezes when they see the look on Raymond's face. He reports that while checking up on the newlyweds in their chamber, he found Lucie, bloody dagger in hand, standing over the body of her new husband, clearly out of her mind.

Lucie herself appears, in a bloodstained nightgown. It's her big mad scene — a 15-minute rollercoaster ride of incredibly florid music — a challenge for even the best sopranos to get right both technically and dramatically. In her delirium, Lucie hallucinates. She imagines herself back with Edgard, about to be married, but she also flashes back to her dream from Act One — a dead woman at the fountain trying to separate them. The wedding guests look on in horror, and Lucie finally faints. Henri returns to find his sister crazed and Arthur murdered.

Although Donizetti's opera clearly focuses on the plight of Lucie, the final part of Act Three is reserved for Edgard, who gets two fine arias. It's sunrise, the morning after the wedding, and Edgard is waiting in the cemetery, ready for his duel with Henri. He has decided he can't live without Lucie, so he plans to let Henri kill him. Edgard learns that Lucie has lost her senses and is on her deathbed, calling out his name. But as he heads for the Castle, bells ring and Raymond appears, telling him it's too late — Lucie has died. Edgard prays that he'll meet her in heaven. Although the crowd tries to stop him, Edgard pulls out his dagger, stabs himself and falls dead.

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