Scottish Opera: Lucia Di Lammermoor
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Wed 16, Sat 19, Tue 22, Sat 26, Thu 31 May; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 16, Wed 20, Fri 22 Jun
They have been described as wild, cheerless and bleak, but it is the landscape of the Lammermuirs, these low, rolling hills that characterize the area bounded by the Berwickshire coast, that provide the setting for Sir Walter Scott’s gothic novel, The Bride of Lammermoor. In turn, it inspired one of the finest examples of 19th century Italian opera, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, that retells Scott’s dark story of two feuding Scottish families, a forced marriage, and the mad bride who stabs her husband on their wedding night.
It’s hardly feature material for You and Your Wedding, but as operas go, it’s got the right ingredients. The plot, however, is fairly sparse, and, for director John Doyle, there lies its challenges. ‘It’s grand opera, with bel canto, wonderful tunes,’ he says, ‘but the biggest challenge is holding interest in the story while the opera develops musically.’ Doyle, whose international theatre work has won countless accolades, most recently a TONY for his Broadway Sweeney Todd, is delighted to be working with Scottish Opera. Born and brought up in Inverness, he fondly recalls being taken to productions as a boy.
Combining a passion for visual storytelling with his feelings about the Scottish landscape, Doyle’s Lucia is one to look at as well as listen to. ‘The chorus are used more than usual - they’re not there just to park and bark,’ he says, ‘and although Scotland is very beautiful, we are thinking here of the hills in November, you’re freezing, you don’t do over the top gestures, you don’t show off.’ It is certainly not Brigadoon, but a more timeless Scotland that Doyle has created. ‘It’s a kind of bleakness with a sense of eternity, that’s in touch with nature.’ A world away from Sweeney Todd and Broadway, but, as Doyle says, ‘It’s beautiful music and full of great, hummable tunes.’