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‘Lucia Di Lammermoor’ a story of a woman torn between two worlds

SANTA FE, N.M. — Lucia descends into madness wrapped in a cacophony of trills, runs and cadenzas.

That breakdown culminates in one of the most haunting mad scenes in all of opera.

Soprano Brenda Rae wants audience to “get lost” in the opera.

Donizetti’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor” brings soprano Brenda Rae (“La Traviata,” “The Impresario” and “Don Pasquale”) back to Santa Fe beginning on Saturday, July 1.

In this macabre Scottish tale (based loosely on a novel by Sir Walter Scott), Lucia and Edgardo find that plighted love is no shield against the blows of fate.

“It’s a very sad story,” Rae said. “She’s torn between two worlds – her romantic love and the desire to salvage her family from political ruin.”

It’s an intensely demanding vocal role Rae has sung in both Frankfurt, Germany, and in Vienna.

“The good thing about this music when I build it into my voice is it doesn’t seem that difficult,” she said. “I don’t want the audience to hear the way I work. I want them to just get lost in it.”

Of course, the man Lucia loves comes from her family’s enemies. Her glinting steel knife drips with blood as the men around her bully her into insanity. Both Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland made this soprano showpiece a signature role of their careers.

“She’s a pawn for her family,” Rae said. “Unfortunately, at that time women didn’t have much power. They were just used. The only way to save the family is through this alliance.”

The opera is often called the Scottish “Romeo and Juliet.”

Mario Chang stars in “Lucia Di Lammermoor.”

The Guatemalan-born tenor Mario Chang, who also sang the role in Frankfurt, plays Lucia’s lover, Edgardo.

When Edgardo meets Lucia, he wants to hate her. Instead, he is instantly smitten.

“This is a guy who comes from a well-accommodated family,” Chang said. “But they lost all they had, and the person who took that is Lucia’s brother.

“He has all that resentment inside. He says, ‘I was going to take revenge, and then I saw you and everything changed.’ ”

The singers must pace themselves like long-distance runners to produce Donizetti’s demanding score, its flights of bejeweled melody spun within a darkly romantic tragedy.

“You can go all the way to the mad scene, but you have to know how to do it little by little,” Chang said.

Donizetti wrote “Lucia Di Lammermoor” in 1835, a time when several factors led to the height of his reputation as an operatic composer. Gioachino Rossini had recently retired and Vincenzo Bellini had died shortly before the premiere of “Lucia,” leaving Donizetti as the sole reigning genius of Italian opera. Not only were conditions ripe for his success as a composer, but Scottish history and culture fascinated Europe. The perceived romance of its violent wars and feuds, as well as its folklore and mythology, intrigued 19th century readers and audiences.

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