This opera becomes a battle of the divas in its great second act, with Sutherland, as Mary Stuart, pitted against the jealous, paranoid, and vengeful Elizabeth I (Tourangeau). There is an intensely dramatic confrontation in which insults are violently exchanged between the powerful monarch and her imprisoned but still regal rival to the throne. Mary wins the battle of insults, but this is a dangerous victory over one who has the power of life and death. Elizabeth orders Mary's execution and Act III becomes a spectacle of pathos and horror. Sutherland's usual style is more attuned to pathos than to the swapping of insults, but she rises splendidly to the challenges of Act II and she has a splendid supporting cast. (Joe McLellan)
How this opera grows in the affections. And how it strengthens the larger, ever-deepening appreciation not merely of Donizetti's work but of operatic conventions as such. I mean that the frequently derided forms of opera (the set pieces, aria-and-cabaletta and so forth) can increasingly be a source of pleasure and of perceived power in the writing. Here, for instance, part of the exhilaration arises out of the composer's skill in suiting the conventions to his dramatic and musical purposes. Elizabeth's first aria, meditatively hopeful yet anxious, fits the lyric-cantabile form; then the arrival of Talbot and Cecil with their opposing influences provokes the intensified turbulence of irresolution that makes dramatic sense out of the cabaletta. It is so with the duets and ensembles: they look like conventional set-pieces, but established form and specific material have been so well fitted that, with the musical inspiration working strongly (as it is here), you have opera not in its naive stage awaiting development towards freedom from form but, on the contrary, opera at the confident height of a period in its history when it was entirely true to itself.
On New Year’s Eve 2012 Joyce DiDonato became the first singer to take the title role in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. With her at its heart, the production became, in the words of Opera magazine, “a high point of the season and of the company’s performance history of bel canto operas”.
Two queens on one island. A recipe for disaster. Especially as both have a legitimate claim to the other’s throne. They are, after all, related… So the power politics are the name of the game. And, for reasons of state, one of the heads that wears a crown has to roll…
The composition of Maria Stuarda was fraught with complications. After the completion of Lucrezia Borgia in 1833 the librettist Felice Romani withdrew from further collaborations and Donizetti, who was already contracted for a production at San Carlo in Naples, more or less in panic engaged the amateur poet Giuseppe Bardari in Romani’s place. The music was composed during the summer of 1834 and in September the dress rehearsal took place. The following day, however, the King of Naples cancelled the performance of the opera on the grounds that ‘the presentation of operas and ballets of tragic arguments should always be prohibited’. Donizetti reworked his opera into Boundelmonte in less than a fortnight, the premiere took place on 14 October with the action moved from Tudor England to Renaissance Italy. It was not a success.– Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International
Despite having to mentor a 17-year-old law student through the versifying of the libretto for Maria Stuarda in 1834, when it was finally finished Gaetano Donizetti believed that he and the young man, Giuseppe Bardari, had created a powerful and high-quality opera for the eagerly expectant Naples public. He was quite disappointed then, when the Bourbon King of Naples absolutely refused to allow its performance (the King’s wife was a distant descendant of the Catholic Stewart queen, whom many Italians considered a martyr to her religion). Troubling to the censors was not only the subject of a beheaded Catholic royal, but also the strongly emotional and bitter interchange between the two queens in their act II confrontation at Fotheringhay Castle (an interchange that historically never occurred; the two queens never met in real life)…FANFARE: Bill White
In its original form, Maria di Rohan was without doubt the most audacious result – pre-Verdi – of aesthetic transformation beyond the courtly dramas of “long Italian classicism”. The opera’s intrigue develops like an unstoppable machine: the fatal triangle formed by Maria, Chalais and Chevreuse being the work of Richelieu’s absolute power (despite never appearing on stage). Like trapped animals, the characters hopelessly search for a way out, and they devour each other in turn. Recorded at the Bergamo Donizetti Festival, October 2011, this is the first DVD release of Donizetti’s 1843 opera.
The Met's belated foray into the complete Donizetti "Tudor trilogy" began inauspiciously in 2011 with a season-opening David McVicar production of ANNA BOLENA showcasing Anna Netrebko. Hobbled out of the gate by the pregnancy-necessitated withdrawal of mezzo Elīna Garanča (whose Jane Seymour had been the best thing about a recent-past production from Vienna, now on DVD), it was further undermined by an Anna whose temperament only partially compensated for a smudgy florid technique and a big lyric rather than truly dramatic voice, hoarsening toward the end of the work's two long acts. The director, too, was largely unsuccessful in his attempts to make a long and oft-static work dynamic, and costume and set designs were notably dreary. The prospect of a new MARIA STUARDA the following season helmed by the same director did not inspire great enthusiasm, but this was as much a hit as the BOLENA had been a miss, and a standout of the 2012-13 season… By Todd Kay
With his sharp and lively conducting, Fabrizio Maria Carminati puts the Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice entirely at the service of three exceptional singers, Sonia Ganassi ("an extraordinary performance," Opera Today) as Elisabetta, Fiorenza Cedolins ("colorful, nuanced, highly dramatic heroine," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) as Maria Stuarda, and José Bros as a passionate Leicester. "Maria Stuarda" is the most popular work in Donizetti's trilogy of bel canto operas on Tudor queens.