For whatever reason, Gaetano Donizetti's Maria Stuarda is only now receiving its first performance at the Metropolitan Opera. It rolls in at number 92 on the operabase list of the most popular operas, so we're not talking about a big hit. Still, it's not exactly a rarity either. Maria Stuarda's star has risen over the last few years, and it was famously controversial in its day. It chronicles the dispute between Queen Elizabeth (of England) and Queen Mary (of the Scots), ending in the decapitation of Queen Mary.
A look back at the Saturday Afternoon at the Opera database shows that Maria Stuarda received its first CBC broadcast in 2002, and has received two further Saturday afternoon presentations, in 2010 and 2011, none of them from the Met.
In performance, it has seen Canadian presentations in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto the last few years. And in 2012, the Houston Grand Opera presented it, featuring Joyce DiDonato in the title role.
It's safe to say that was a warm up for this Met premiere. By all accounts, we've waited far too long for what is a fantastic production. DiDonato is in fine form with a blazing voice. And her rival, playing Queen Elizabeth, is the young South African soprano Elza van den Heever. The New York Times said, "her sound, with its earthy tinge and quick vibrato, is not conventionally beautiful. But her voice has penetrating depth and character. "
Here's a bit of the finale, recorded at the dress rehearsal on Dec. 28:
And here's one of the most famous arias from the opera, Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera:
I thought this inside look at the production was very insightful as well. It's particularly of interest if you're heading to the theatre for the live in HD presentation:
It's also worth noting that Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins returns to the Met as Cecil in this production.
Bill Richardson didn't list it in his top five, but I think this is the one production I'm not going to miss this season.
You can find a synopsis on the Met website.
Here's a complete cast list:
Elza van den Heever, Elisabetta
Joyce DiDonato, Maria Stuarda
Matthew Polenzani, Leicester
Joshua Hopkins, Cecil
Matthew Rose, Talbot
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Maurizio Benini, conductor
Complete Maria Stuarda starring Gabriele Fontana and Joyce DiDonato (as Elizabeth in this production)
Both Mary Stewart and Queen Elizabeth I lie buried at Westminster Abbey
Ten Sopranos sing the end of Maria Stuarda