Lucia di Lammermoor is Donizetti’s best-known opera. It’s the story of a young, aristocratic Scottish girl who is in love with with a noble and handsome, but poor young lord, whose parents are against their union. Lucy is forced to break up with him and he moves far away. Her parents make Lucy marry a rich nobleman from the area. On the evening of their wedding, as the guests dine in the main reception hall, screams can be heard coming from the bridal suite. Then Lucy appears in a nightdress, covered in blood, and holding a dagger in her hand. She has just stabbed her new husband to death. She has gone mad. She will soon die and when her former fiancé returns from his distant travels, still hoping to marry her, all he finds of her is her grave.
The story was novelised by Sir Walter Scott and is said to be based on true events, except for the fact that the husband survived the stabbing and indeed lived to the age of 90, but Lucy did go insane. Lucy’s real family name was Dalrymple. The family still exists and I have spoken with a distant descendant, the remarkable historian and writer, William Dalrymple.
Of the castle where the tragedy occured, very little remains, apart from a stretch of wall and an ivy-covered doorway next to an enormous barn, home to a few hundred cattle. It’s an unremarkable place, yet steeped in fabulous history, and it was one of the most important sites we saw on our expedition to southern Scotland with my grandson, Tigran.