Lucia di Lammermoor’s plot is loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. The fragile Lucia is caught in a feud between two noble Scottish families. Her dreams of happiness and love fall to pieces in the desperate race for power and fortune... Lucia di Lammermoor is Gaetano Donizzeti’s most celebrated opera; the main reason for its popularity over nearly two centuries rests on one moment – the famous mad scene for the heroine Lucia. The LNO production is set in Mussolini's Italy.
Enrico Ashton wants to find out why his sister Lucia will not agree to marry the mighty Arturo. This marriage would help the Ashtons survive in the new and unstable political situation. Lucia’s courageous Raimondo tries to explain that the girl is still grieving for her recently deceased mother, but the captain of the guard Normanno denies this theory. In fact, Lucia regularly meets in the park with a stranger who has saved her from the attack of a raging bull. The suspicions that Lucia’s secret lover could be the family’s worst enemy Edgardo Ravenswood, whose inheritance today is in Enrico Ashton’s possession, are soon to be confirmed. The enraged Enrico is certain that Edgardo has seduced Lucia just to humiliate the Ashton family. Enrico swears that Edgardo’s offence will be paid with blood.
The moon is rising. Lucia secretly prepares for her usual meeting with Edgardo. Her friend Alisa asks her in vain to put an end to the dangerous relationship. Even the ghost Lucia has seen– a woman murdered by an ancestor of the Ravenswood's in a jealous rage – does not make her change her mind and give up Edgardo. Still, Lucia is afraid that Enrico may learn about her feelings for Edgardo, who must travel to France immediately. The lovers hope to see each other soon, pledge their love and exchange rings.
Several months have passed since Lucia and Raimondo last received news from Edgardo. The reason is not hard to determine: Normanno has been intercepting Edgardo’s letters and handing them over to Enrico, who still hopes to trick Lucia into marrying Arturo. In his studio, Enrico shows his sister a forged letter from Edgardo and tells her that Edgardo has found another woman abroad. In her despair, Lucia cannot control herself. She gives in to Enrico’s psychological pressure and Raimondo’s advice, and agrees to marry a man she does not know at all.
Arturo and the guests arrive at the marriage certificate signing ceremony. Lucia is showed into the room, and she mechanically signs the fateful document. It seems she has lost her will out of sorrow. The carefully planned celebration is suddenly interrupted by Edgardo’s arrival. He accuses Lucia of betrayal – and takes back his ring, a sign of eternal commitment. Only Raimondo’s intervention prevents those in attendance from physically unleashing their hate and aggression. Edgardo leaves; Lucia is reduced to deep despair.
The unpleasant incident does not stop the celebration. Lucia must go to bed with Arturo to consummate their marriage. The entertainment for the guests continues with renewed strength, until Raimondo enters and announces that a tragedy has occurred: Lucia has gone mad and has killed Arturo.
Everyone is terrified as they watch Lucia’s appearance and listen to her lengthy story. Lucia is haunted by visions; she talks in delirium about Edgardo and Arturo. She also mentions her brother Enrico, who starts to regret using his unhappy sister to achieve the interests of the Ashton family. Especially now because, with Arturo’s death, his ambitious plans are once again out of reach. Enrico asks Raimondo to take care of Lucia. But this proves not be necessary for long– Lucia dies from total over-exertion.
Edgardo, who is unaware of the events after his hot-tempered withdrawal from the ceremony, laments about his fate. He is the last of the Ravenswood line– and all signs indicate that this is not going to change. Edgardo’s reflections are interrupted by the wedding guests and Raimondo. The news of Lucia’s death end Edgardo’s will to live: the shocked wedding guests and Raimondo can do nothing to prevent one more death this evening.