"Ghost Writing”: an Exploration of Presence and Absence in Lucia di Lammermoor (1835)’

Matsumoto, Naomi. 2016. "Ghost Writing”: an Exploration of Presence and Absence in Lucia di Lammermoor (1835)’. Word and Music Studies, 15, pp. 63-84. ISSN 1566-0958 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

When Salvadore Cammarano was adapting Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) for Donizetti’s new opera, Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), the librettist removed several characters. The most striking deletion was that of Lucy’s mother, Lady Ashton, who in the novel seems to be a prime mover in the narrative, alongside the character of Lucy herself.

This paper first discusses Lady Ashton’s absence in relation to general theories of ‘opera-as-adaptation’, and contrasts Donizetti’s opera with earlier stage works based on the same novel. Central to the dramaturgical analysis here is the notion of ‘presence-through-absence’: Lady Ashton’s influence is present in spite of her bodily absence; Lucy’s ‘angelic’ personality masks darker aspects not directly acknowledged; and the silent presence of the ghostly girl killed by an ancestor of Lucy’s lover Ravenswood turns Lucia into what we might call (borrowing from Derrida) a “corporeal ghost”. Indeed the metaphysics of presence/absence, conceived in Derridean terms, has a great deal to do with this opera, and offers a hermeneutics window into its effects and layers of activity.

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8 April 2016Published
22 July 2014Accepted

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08 Jun 2016 15:35

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:18

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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