Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Donizetti Critical Edition

Edited by Gabriele Dotto and Roger Parker (2021)

Two-volume set: score + critical commentary
NR 138000
Piano vocal score available

Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, written to a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, was first performed at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples on 26 September 1835. It has remained in the repertory without interruption as one of Donizetti’s most popular operas throughout its nearly 200-year history.

The edition proposes as the principal text a version of the opera that, for the most part, is as near as possible to that given at the premiere in Naples. However, one of the important new features of the edition is that it includes several fully orchestrated passages that, for unknown reasons, were cancelled very close to the time of the first performance. It also features in the third-act mad scene an obbligato part for the glass harmonica, an instrument that Donizetti had chosen for this extraordinary scene, and drafted in his autograph score, but was then constrained to substitute with a solo flute when the glass harmonica player got into contractual difficulties with the theatre. While the glass harmonica part was considered a mere “musicological curiosity” some decades ago, the critical edition now convincingly argues for its legitimate restoration as part of the composer’s preferred concept.

The Sources section of the edition includes a detailed examination of all contemporary sources for the opera. The composer’s autograph score is of course the most important of these, but also of great value is the first printed vocal score of the opera, which in some numbers has a piano reduction prepared by the composer and contains many vocal variants (all reported in the score) that will be a great value to performers. There are also a number of early manuscript copies of the full score, several of which are valuable in outlining the first interpretations of Donizetti’s music.

The critical edition restores the original keys, thus maintaining Donizetti’s overall harmonic design, but discusses transpositions that later entered the performing and editorial tradition of the opera. Three transposed pieces – which may have had Donizetti’s approval – will be made available available in the material for hire to theatres. 

The full score’s Appendix 1 contains an early version of the recitative leading to the aria of Raimondo in Act 1, a recitative that leads directly to the Act 1 finale and allows performers to omit Raimondo’s aria if they so wish (something the composer himself sanctioned). Appendix 2 contains a contemporary orchestration of the banda used in the score.

The Historical Introduction, as well offering the usual reconstruction of the genesis and early history of the opera, contains a lengthy consideration of some particularly difficult performance practice issues, including the type of instrument to be used in the glass harmonica passage and resolves the long-argued problems raised by the use of horns with so-called “basso” tuning.

The edition also makes use of a lengthy letter written by the librettist Cammarano in which he details his ideas about staging the opera. All important instructions in this document are included as footnotes to the score, thus offering those who wish to revive the opera a unique resource concerning the first staging of Lucia.

The edition amends numerous errors in previous editions of the score, and seeks to resolve all the complex issues brought about by the plethora of contemporary sources by which the opera comes down to us (even addressing such small details as how the pronunciation of “Asthon” was historically sung). The extensive Critical Notes consider in detail all aspects of the particular problems, the situation with the sources, and the eventual decisions made.