In a feud between the Scottish families of Ravenswood and Lammermoor, Enrico (Lord Henry Ashton of Lammermoor) has gained the upper hand over Edgardo (Edgar of Ravenswood), killing his kinsmen and taking over his estates. By the time of the opera’s action, however, Enrico’s fortunes have begun to wane. In political disfavor, he stakes everything on uniting his family with that of Arturo (Lord Arthur Bucklaw), whom he means to force his sister, Lucia (Lucy Ashton), to marry.
Lucia di Lammermoor premiered on September 26, 1835 by Teatro San Carlo, Naples. The libretto is by Salvatore Cammarano, after the novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott.
The garden of Ravenswood castle, which once belonged to the Ravenswood family, is now wrongfully held by the Ashtons. The guards of Lord Enrico (Henry) Ashton are searching for a trespasser whom it is rumored is meeting Enrico’s sister, Lucia. Ashton enters, he is troubled because his political support for William of Orange has weakened his financial and political position, and he needs to make some strong alliances. His sister must agree to marry the influential Lord Arturo (Arthur) Bucklaw, but she has refused, giving the reason that she is too consumed with grief; her mother having just died. Normanno, captain of the guard, suspects that Lucia is in love with a man she secretly meets each day in the garden. This suspicion is confirmed by the guards who return to tell Ashton that they have seen his rival, Edgardo (Edgar) of Ravenswood leaving the garden from the direction of the Ashton castle. Enrico is furious because of Lucia’s betrayal with his most hated rival.
That evening Lucia, accompanied by her servant Alisia, waits for Edgardo in the park by a fountain. Alisia is anxious and begs Lucia to put an end to this love that can only bring her sorrow. Lucia refuses and tells Alisia that she had a vision of a murdered wife — a Ravenswood accused of infidelity and murdered near this fountain by her jealous husband. This vision only heightens Alisia’s fears for the young girl who is at once distraught over her mother’s death, and exuberant over her love for Edgardo. When he arrives, he tells her that he is being sent to France to negotiate on behalf of the political forces behind Mary, who would eventually become Mary Queen of Scots. Before leaving, he wants to be reconciled with the Ashtons, and as a pledge of peace, ask for her hand in marriage. Knowing her brother’s feelings, Lucia dissuades him, and begs him to postpone this plan. They exchange rings, which at this time in history was a solemn vow of their secret engagement.