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.
All of these are live recordings so the sound is quite variable. The standard square box contains separate soft plastic sleeves in which the cds are inserted. The advantage is that the cds are well protected (minor risk for scrapes compared to cardboard), but there is no information printed on the sleeve since it is made of plastic. There is some basic information printed on each cd (name, composer, cd #, the act/s and the date of the recording). There is also a small 24pg booklet that introduces the box including some photos as well as content description for each disc (opera, singers, time and location as well as a list of the separate tracks). I have been collecting these boxes for a while and always find it worthwhile as there are gems nicely interspersed in these collections. By Moonfish
Despite the obvious advantage of hearing Beverly Sills in one of her celebrated Three Queens roles, for many opera aficionados there will be an almost equal attraction in being able to hear Eileen Farrell as Elisabetta. She was an under-recorded artist who curtailed her opera career early and there is a special thrill in haring her huge, slightly unwieldy dramatic soprano negotiate Donizetti's florid lines. Her voice obviously contrasts strongly with Sills' lyric coloratura soprano and even though I prefer the great mezzo Dame Janet Baker above all as the doomed Mary Stewart, as long as there is sufficient contrast between the two queens the drama works..