In Paris in 1835, Donizetti could not hope to compete against the wave of enthusiasm for I Puritani by his rival Bellini. His Marino Faliero, inspired by Byron's drama of the same name, and with the same singers as I Puritani, namely Giovanni Battista Rubini and Giula Grisi, enjoyed only a very short run. He had his revenge a few months later however, albeit a sad one: three days before the first performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, Bellini died at the age of thirty-four. Lucia was a huge success thanks, notably, to Grisi and Rubini's principal rivals, Fanny Persiani and Gilbert-Louis Duprez. With Rossini in retirement since 1829 and Bellini in his grave, Donizetti was now master of the European operatic stage. He did not remain so for long however. Even before Verdi came to fame, he succumbed to madness, that terrible affliction whose accents he so brilliantly captured and which dominates this Scottish opera. Inspired by Sir Walter Scott's novel, the story unfolds in an old ruined castle amid the wild and misty moorland. As Balzac later pointed out in Massimilla Doni, virtuosity is the very soul of a prima donna and Donizetti succeeds with sublime mastery in combining drama consummate vocal writing, bringing to the role of Lucia a quality both heart-rending and exquisitely delicate. In Lucia di Lammermoor, madness is neither an abyss nor a descent into hell, but deliverance and sublimation.