NUTSHELL SYNOPSIS: Depressed woman marries rich man after awful brother convinces her that absent fiancé has been unfaithful. Arranged marriage designed to ensure that awful brother inherits castle falls apart when woman goes insane, with bloody consequences.

Act One

Scene One — Outside Ravenswood Castle in the Lammermoor District of southeast Scotland. There are reports of a stranger lurking about. Enrico, a nobleman, fears it’s Edgardo, heir to Ravenswood, whose father Enrico killed, at the same time seizing Edgardo’s family’s castle. Enrico suspects Edgardo may be seeing his sister, Lucia, on the sly. Enrico tells Raimondo and Normanno that he’s in bad financial shape. What’s more, Lucia has refused to marry Lord Arturo Bucklaw who could bring considerable money to the family. Is it because she’s still mourning her mother’s recent death? No. She’s in love with Edgardo and she’s secretly meeting him every morning near her mother’s grave. Enrico is furious and vows revenge.

Scene Two — In the predawn, Lucia and Alisa, wait in the castle garden. Lucia says she once saw a dead girl’s ghost rise out of the garden’s fountain. Alisa thinks this is a bad omen and warns Lucia about seeing Edgardo. Love is all I care about, Lucia replies. Edgardo arrives and tells Lucia that he’s being sent to France on a diplomatic mission. Before he leaves, he says he plans to meet Enrico and ask for Lucia’s hand in marriage. No, you must keep our affair secret, Lucia says. Edgardo rages against the situation. Then, in a calmer mood, he exchanges rings with Lucia, symbolizing that even before their eventual wedding, they are man and wife. They sing a sweet farewell. (“Ah! Ferraro a te sull’aure.”)

Act Two

Scene One — Several months have passed. In the castle, Enrico tells Normanno he’s planning a wedding between Lucia and Arturo Bucklaw and guests are on the way. Enrico tells Lucia she must marry Arturo or else he’s ruined. The family’s honor and welfare are at stake. Lucia refuses, saying she’s pledged to someone else. Playing his last card, Enrico hands Lucia a letter from Edgardo that’s been rewritten to sound as if her fiancé is seeing another woman. Lucia, already depressed, believes the forged letter and sinks further into despair. Raimondo, a chaplain, counsels her to marry for her mother’s and her brother’s sake. Beaten down, she agrees.

Scene Two — Guests have gathered to witness the bride and groom sign the marriage contract. Arturo signs, followed by distraught Lucia who laments, “I have signed my death warrant.” At that moment, Edgardo bursts into the room to the obvious amazement of all. Everyone sings in the celebrated sextet. (“Chi mi frena.”) Enrico, Arturo and Edgardo draw swords. Edgardo says he’s come to claim his bride. Shown the marriage contract, Lucia admits to Edgardo that the signature is hers. Outraged, Edgardo returns his ring to Lucia. Lucia hands hers to Edgardo who tramples it and flees.

Act Three

Scene One — The wedding celebration continues in the castle hall. Raimondo stops the gaiety with a horrible tale. He tells the guests he heard a moan from the wedding bedroom, entered, and found Lucia standing over the body of Arturo, holding a bloody sword. At this moment, Lucia appears in the hall, her hair disheveled, her nightgown stained in red. Clearly hallucinating, she imagines she is with Edgardo. “Give me thy right hand..for I am thy bride forever.” Enrico enters and Lucia, taking him for Edgardo, says, “Do not leave me.”
She asks everyone to throw flowers on her grave and collapses in the arms of Alisa.

Scene Two — Edgardo, alone in the forest and despondent that Lucia has married another, muses about suicide. A few people from the castle party pass by. Edgardo questions them and is stunned to learn that Lucia, in her delirium, is calling his name. A bell rings in the distance. Raimondo arrives and tells Edgardo that it signals Lucia’s death. Praying that he will join her in heaven, (“Tu Che a duo spiegasti.”), Edgardo pulls out his dagger, stabs himself and dies.

- Performance notes by Eugene Carlson