SFOpera - Director’s Note

Director’s Note

Like so many tragic horror stories, Lucia di Lammermoor is a cautionary tale, in this case a warning of the destructive power of blind ambition. Our title character is a delicate, warm, and emotional girl surrounded by cold and callous people. She is mistreated and manipulated to such a degree that she disconnects with her cruel reality and commits a horrific crime. This desperate, violent act is her ultimate rebellion, the only way to show an uncaring world that the desires of a committed heart cannot and must not be denied. 

Lucia’s brother Enrico embodies the ethos of this world; selfobsessed, paranoid, and cold, willing to sacrifice his own sister to save himself. The hangers-on, counselors and advisors that surround them both are only focused on their own narrow, selfish needs. Even Lucia’s lover, Edgardo, treats her harshly. He coerces her into their sudden, secret marriage, abandons her to pursue his own ambitions, then publicly berates and humiliates her without pausing to hear her side of the story.

It is obvious from the outset that Lucia doesn’t do well in this oppressive atmosphere. She is highly suggestible and extremely sensitive to her own and others’ feelings. So much so, that she seems to have affinities for the extra-sensory: the spirit world, in other words. At her very first appearance, she sings passionately of the powerful hold that the departed soul of a past tragic figure has over her. It’s as though Lucia goes through life with a fixation on death, treading with one foot on either side of the divide.

Her commitment to the infinite includes, of course, her vow of love. However, her heart’s eternal desires stand no chance against the power of her family’s shortsighted selfishness. One character after another dismisses her, ignores her pleas, mocks her feelings, and forces her to follow their will. After being pulled, pushed and betrayed by one uncaring narcissist after another, she finally snaps. Her madness, then, is an emotional release from a world that is highly controlling and coldly rational, a release of passion both terrifying and ecstatic at the same time. The repercussions are profound; it’s only after the tragedy that everyone realizes they share responsibility for pushing her beyond sanity. Edgardo feels it most of all, and commits an equally desperate, mad act—suicide— to atone for it and attempt to join her in eternity.

Our setting is modern-mythic Scotland, a dystopian near future where the lines are blurred between family, country and corporation. Enrico Ashton is struggling to compete at the highest levels of business and politics, and success or failure feels like a matter of life or death to him. The responsibilities of salvaging his family name and fortune become a tremendous burden, and these desperate ambitions blind him to the repercussions of his actions. He feels that the merger with Arturo Bucklaw’s nouveau riche family will ensure his survival, his hold on power, his success. These are the only things that matter to him. It’s only after he comes face-to-face with the horror he engineered that he realizes the destructive force he exerted upon the very family he was desperate to save.

In our production, the Lammermoor estate is entirely Enrico’s world; hard, cold, and intimidating. More suggestive of a corporate headquarters than a family home, this environment exists to intimidate and coerce. It doesn’t comfort its inhabitants but exerts inexorable pressure on them, the highly sensitive Lucia especially. To her it also has the look and atmosphere of a mausoleum, which offers her a kind of solace. She seeks refuge in the grounds between her ancestral home and the Ravenswood estate, a memorial garden, where she feels drawn to and connected with the spirits of the departed. She is the only one who pays homage to her heritage, who feels the impact and understands the importance of those who came before her. This, then, is one of the great themes of this story and our setting of it. If we ignore our past, the foundations of love and support of earlier generations, we imperil our future. If we pursue our ambitions by using family members like pawns on a chessboard, pressures will inevitably build and the insanity of treating life like a game will be exposed. Most importantly, if we ignore the passionate commitments of a sensitive heart, that heart may be broken so completely that it causes unimaginable tragedy.

“So, you have ta’en up your bonny bridegroom?” Gaetano Donizetti and Lucia di Lammermoor