Lucia, or the singer at her best

On November 9. 12. 14 and 17, the Opéra de Montréal presents Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts.



Torn between her brother’s schemes and her love for his sworn enemy, Lucia sinks deeper and deeper into madness. What follows is the mad scene, a highlight of this opera, in which the soprano delivers a performance showcasing her talent both as an actress and a singer. Indeed, this role requires great vocal mastery coupled with dramatic sensibility, which is why women portraying Lucia have left their mark on opera history. In their own way, they have each shaped this entity, leaving us today with a Lucia who is more complex and less of a stereotypical “mad woman.”

As early as in the 19th century, there was already a certain degree of importance attached to the portrayal of this role. The creator of the role, Fanny Persiani, was the precursor; “beyond the vocal performance inherent to this role, one of the most difficult in the entire repertoire for bel canto sopranos, she knew how to become Lucia, embody Lucia, bring Lucia to life. And still today, this is what distinguishes singers who merely sing Lucia and those who personify the character.” (Source) Since then, the sopranos who take this role are evaluated and compared with each other in relation to their interpretation. Here are some who dared!


Joan Sutherland

The Australian singer—nicknamed “La Stupenda” (the stupendous one)—is well-known for the unique touch she brought to her portrayal of Lucia, as well as for her contribution to bel canto culture. Her tone and exceptional technique made her an ideal candidate for this role.

It was only after she was a few years into her career that she was given the opportunity to sing Lucia at Covent Garden; “the role transformed Joan Sutherland’s career and the famous ‘mad scene’ catapulted her to international stardom. In 1960, she recorded an album of opera arias, The Art of the Prima Donna, considered by some to be one of the most remarkable recitals ever committed to record.” (Source)

Joan Sutherland in the mad scene:


Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times: Sutherland [was dubbed] the Stupendous One after her Italian debut, in Venice in 1960. And for 40 years the name endured with opera lovers around the world. Her 1961 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” generated so much excitement that standees began lining up at 7:30 that morning. Her singing of the Mad Scene drew a thunderous 12-minute ovation.

˃˃ Purchase your tickets for Lucia di Lammermoor now!


Maria Callas

Callas was well-known for her intensely dramatic performances. In fact, she “revolutionized 20th century opera by emphasizing the approach to acting, which until then had been relegated to the background.” Her virtuosity, great range, and ease at acting allowed her to portray characters with tragic fates like Lucia.”

“Lucia di Lammermoor experienced a real resurrection with Maria Callas’s exceptional portrayal in her role debut in Mexico City in 1952. […] Maria Callas definitively showed that the famous third act ‘mad scene’ called for just as much dramatic sensibility as technical prowess. Lucia di Lammermoor could never again only be seen as ‘an opera for prima donnas.’” (Source

Maria Callas in Lucia di Lammermoor in 1952:

 ˃˃ Hear the Korean-American coloratura soprano who sings the title role of Lucia here with us on November 9, 12, 14, and 17.


anna netrebko

“A multi-faceted artist whose big voice, rich tone, glamourous side, and acting talent allow her to take on the greatest of roles” including that of Lucia. Anna Netrebko is without a doubt one of the 21st century’s most prominent (and most highly sought after!) opera artists.

One of her recent remarkable performances of Lucia was at the Metropolitan Opera in 2009: '' Yet during the first part of the mad scene, after Lucia stabs her husband to death on their wedding night, Ms. Netrebko was spellbinding. In the hushed pianissimo passage when the delusional young woman believes she and her beloved Edgardo are at last united, she created vocal magic, imbuing lines with spectral colorings that matched the eerie sounds of the glass harmonica, played by Cecilia Brauer. Her earthy, subdued expressivity had me thinking of Callas.'' (Anthony Tomassini, New York Times, 2009)


 ˃˃ Purchase your tickets for Lucia di Lammermoor now!