Daddy Issues: Lucia di Lammermoor

             Hey y’all.  So lately I’ve been working on a very big role, Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.  This opera is famous for the big ‘mad scene’ in the final act, when the leading lady loses her sanity (and then her life), tossing off vocal fireworks all the way.  Before it all goes to seed, though, the plot honestly seems like an episode of Game of Thrones: there’s all this intrigue between rival families, cloak-and-dagger tactics, forged letters, plays for power through marriage, and lots of hot-blooded scenes where the threat of violence is constantly looming.  And then there’s the actual violence, too.  As far as operas go, this one is pretty sexy.

The thing is, this guy, Edgardo, he can’t stop talking about his father.  Lucia is set in medieval Scotland, where powerful clans ruled vast ranges of territory, passing down land and legacy from father to son.  Apparently, my (Edgardo’s) family used to be a major power in Scotland, before we were cast down.  It’s not clear exactly what happened, but in my childhood, my father was slaughtered, and our family’s holdings were almost entirely seized, by our enemies, the Ashton family.  It seems like my life’s goal is to re-attain the glory and power that my family once held, but the experience of losing my father must have been deeply traumatic, because I can talk about little else.  It’s an obsession.

In my first scene– which is a love scene between young sweethearts, mind you– I find occasion to discuss my father’s murder, the oath I swore on his grave, and the revenge I plan to seek for him.  When I confront my enemy in my third scene, I talk about my father’s spirit living on– “Qui del padre ancor respira” = “Hear, my father still draws breath”).  In the final scene, when I’m convinced that my death in battle is forthcoming, the first words out of my mouth are “Tombe degl’avi miei which means “Tombs of my ancestors.”  The dude is obsessed.  And here’s the thing: this isn’t that kind of bad-ass obsession (Robb Stark?  Inigo Montoya?), that fuels my brilliant schemes for revenge, or encourages me to work hard every day so that I can acheive what my father would want for our family– it’s that other kind of obsession, the kind that handcuffs you, that holds you back, that keeps you from accomplishing what you otherwise might.  Because the fact is that everything Edgardo tries to accomplish, falls apart– my engagement, my plans to retake power, the single combat in which I pledge to kill my rival.  Nothing works out.

It’s interesting, as an American, to watch this unfold.  After all, this is an Italian depiction of Scottish people– in the United States, this level of blue-blooded patriarchs dividing up territory and using their daughter’s marriages as bargaining chips in political gambit is foreign… as foreign as worshiping cows, or going to the opera.  Americans are notoriously obsessed with our fathers, however– just ask President Barack Obama, or Senator John McCain, whose books during the last Presidential election both featured “My Father” in the title.  We’re rebels, whether in wars for independence, or in James Dean movies, and who better to rebel against than a father? 

Whether Edgardo be American, Scottish, Italian, or any other nationality, though, it’s sad and literally tragic, to watch his entire life be defined, his entire life be limited, by his dad.  How many men live the same fate, only in less epic fashion?  How many frustrated men and women are out there, unable to love themselves or their partners or their children, unable to fulfill their potential, or unable to help each-other, because of some trauma with a parent?  How many of us have been in Edgardo’s place, are just as trapped, and handle it just as poorly?

Stuff like that is what brings me to this work, and in October, when my attention is going to be squarely on singing this intensely demanding role, I’ll hope that some folks in the audience take more away from this opera, than how the high notes sounded in the mad scene 🙂 


  1. Really liked what you had to say in your post, Daddy Issues: Lucia di Lammermoor, thanks for the good read!
    — Awilda

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