OPERA NEWS - Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Maria Stuarda
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Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Maria Stuarda 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD transmission of Saturday, January 19, 1 P.M.

Broadcast Maria Stuarda hdl 1 113
Set designs by John Macfarlane for David McVicar's staging of Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera Technical Department
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Maria Stuarda

Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Giuseppe Bardari
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance)
Elisabetta     sop., ELZA VAN DEN HEEVER
Talbot     bass, MATTHEW ROSE
Cecil     baritone, JOSHUA HOPKINS
Roberto, Earl of Leicester     tenor, MATTHEW
Anna     mezzo, MARIA ZIFCHAK 
Maria     mezzo, JOYCE DiDONATO


The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: David McVicar
Set and costume designer: John Macfarlane
Lighting designer: Jennifer Tipton
Choreographer: Lea Hausman
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: John Keenan,
     Howard Watkins, Carrie-Ann Matheson,
     Vlad Iftinca
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,
Jonathon Loy, Louisa Muller
Prompter: Carrie-Ann Matheson
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Italian coach: Loretta Di Franco

Production a gift of The Sybil B. Harrington
     Endowment Fund
THE SCENES    The Timings (ET) 
ACT I   1:00–2:21
Sc. 1 Whitehall Palace   
Sc. 2 Fotheringhay Castle  
ACT II   3:00–4:10
Sc. 1 Whitehall Palace  
Sc. 2 Maria's apartment
at Fotheringhay 
Sc. 3 A room adjoining the
place of execution

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
     William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
     Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by: Gary Halvorson
HD host: Deborah Voigt

For more information on the broadcasts,
     please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to:
     Metropolitan Opera Quiz
     Metropolitan Opera
     30 Lincoln Center
     New York, NY 10023
     or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.

This performance is also being
     broadcast live on Metropolitan
     Opera Radio on SiriusXM
     channel 74.
This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound, 
into selected movie theaters, and will be shared with students in more than 100 U.S. schools
as part of The Met HD Live in Schools program. 
For information on tickets, visit www.metopera.org/hdlive.


Broadcast Maria Stuarda lg 113
Details of costume designs by John Macfarlane for
Elisabetta in the Met's new Maria Stuarda

Costume designs by John Macfarlane


ACT I.  Mary Stuart, Catholic queen of Scotland, was beheaded in 1587. The action takes place in the period leading up to her execution, when the rebellion of the Scottish nobility had forced her to abdicate the throne and flee her kingdom, seeking asylum from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. In Protestant England, however, the Catholics saw Mary as the rightful heir to the Tudor line, making her presence untenable for Elizabeth. 

Whitehall Palace, London. The English court welcomes Elisabetta (Queen Elizabeth I), who is considering a marriage proposal from the king of France but cannot forget her secret passion for Roberto, Earl of Leicester. Two of her advisers raise the question of Maria Stuarda, who is being kept confined at Fotheringhay because she is considered a possible threat to the English throne. Talbot advocates clemency, while Cecil urges Maria's execution. Elisabetta agonizes over the decision. She suspects, however, that Maria is her rival for the love of Leicester, who enters as she is musing on her dilemma. She gives him a ring to take to the French ambassador as a token of her tentative acceptance of the king's proposal. To her chagrin, Leicester registers no emotion. The queen withdraws, leaving Leicester with Talbot, who gives him a letter from Maria, containing her portrait. Leicester's rapturous response makes it clear that he loves Maria, and he pledges to free her or die in the attempt. Talbot departs, but Leicester is prevented from leaving by the return of Elisabetta, who notices his agitation and demands to see the letter from Maria, in which she begs for a meeting with the queen. Elisabetta accuses Leicester of loving Maria, but he protests that he only pities her plight and persuades Elisabetta, despite her mistrust, to come to a hunt near Fotheringhay, where a meeting can be arranged. 

On the grounds of Fotheringhay Castle, Maria, unexpectedly permitted to walk with her companion, Anna, reminisces about her happy youth in France. When huntsmen's voices herald the approach of Elisabetta, Maria no longer feels able to face her. Leicester arrives and entreats her to humble herself before the queen, then pledges his love. Maria withdraws as Elisabetta arrives, nervous and suspicious, and sends the courtiers off at a distance. Talbot escorts Maria back, and the two women contemplate each other, each privately musing on her grievances. Finally, Maria, mastering her pride, kneels before Elisabetta and asks her pardon. When the queen disdains her, accusing her of licentiousness and treason, Maria at last loses her temper, denouncing Elisabetta as the bastard daugher of Anne Boleyn and asking how she dares talk of dishonor. Elisabetta orders her dragged back to prison, to Cecil's satisfaction and Talbot and Leicester's chagrin.

ACT II. In a gallery at Westminster Palace, Cecil, having procured evidence implicating Maria in a Catholic plot to assassinate Elisabetta, urges the anxiety-wracked queen to sign Maria's dreath warrant. Though unrelenting toward her rival, she hesitates, fearing criticism or reprisal,  but signs just as Leicester arrives to plead for Mary. The queen retorts that he must witness the execution himself.

At Fotheringhay, Maria rails against her fortune. Talbot arrives with Cecil, who tells her she is condemned; she disdains the services of a Protestant priest, and Cecil departs. Talbot tells Mary that Leicester will be present at her execution and offers comfort, but she says her sins prevent her from being solaced by heaven. Revealing the priestly vestments he is wearing, Talbot urges her to make her confession. She recalls how she caused the death of her husband Henry Darnley and admits her involvement in the Catholic conspiracy against Elisabetta. Talbot says heaven will forgive her, and Mary prepares calmly for death.

Outside the place of execution, Maria's coterie bemoans the sight of the block. Anna silences them as Maria enters, led by Talbot. She greets her friends, telling them not to weep for her, and all join her in prayer. When the first of three cannon shots is heard, Cecil brings word that Elisabetta has ordered that Maria's last wishes be granted. She asks that Anna accompany her to the block, then sends her forgiveness to Elisabetta, praying that her blood may wash away all memory of hatred between them. Leicester arrives, distraught, as the second shot is heard, but Maria calms him, telling him not to seal his own fate by attempting to rescue her; she is content to die with him close at hand. The third shot sounds, and Maria — dressed in red, the color of Catholic martyrdom — ascends the scaffold.

Broadcast Maria Stuarda hdl 2 113
Set designs by John Macfarlane for David McVicar's staging of Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan Opera
© Ron Berard/Metropolitan Opera 2013


The original libretto for Donizetti's Maria Stuarda is based upon Andrea Maffei's Italian-language translation of Friedrich Schiller's tragedy Maria Stuart (1800). After the scheduled premiere at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples was canceled on the direct orders of Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies, Donizetti repurposed much of his Maria Stuarda score into a new work, Buondelmonte, first given at Naples in October 1834. At the urging of prima donna Maria Malibran, who was eager to sing the title role, Maria Stuarda had its world premiere at La Scala, on December 30, 1835. When Malibran ignored changes mandated by the local censors, the opera was banned. The opera was infrequently performed until the second half of the twentieth century, when the role of Mary Stuart attracted the attentions of star singers such as Leyla Gencer, Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, Janet Baker and Beverly Sills.

The Metropolitan Opera premiere of Maria Stuarda was presented on December 31, 2012, with Joyce DiDonato, Elza van den Heever and Matthew Polenzani heading the cast in David McVicar's production, conducted by Maurizio Benini.

Broadcast Maria Stuarda lg 2 113
Details of costume designs by John Macfarlane for
Maria in the Met's new Maria Stuarda

Costume designs by John Macfarlane


The standard reference work on the composer is William Ashbrook's Donizetti and His Operas, now reprinted in a high-priced paperback edition by Cambridge. Also valuable (and less expensive) is The New Grove Masters of Italian Opera (Norton). Schiller's Mary Stuart is available in several English-language translations; the Peter Oswald version used for Phyllida Lloyd's production is published by Oberon Books. Antonia Fraser's comprehensive and compassionate 1969 biography, Mary, Queen of Scots, has been reissued in paperback by Delta. Alison Weir's book on the Scots Queen (Ballantine paperback) explores in exhaustive detail the murder of Mary Stuart's second husband, Lord Darnley — an event that set in motion her flight to England and her eventual imprisonment.

On CD, there are three essential recordings. EMI's live performance from 1982, conducted by Charles Mackerras and sung in Tom Hammond's English-language translation, preserves the triumphant Mary of Janet Baker, who sang the role in John Copley's staging for English National Opera during her final opera season. Joan Sutherland, in excellent form, recorded Maria Stuarda in 1974–75, in a freely altered version prepared by her husband, Richard Bonynge, who also conducted (Decca); the soprano strikes sparks with her Leicester, Luciano Pavarotti, and her Elisabetta, Huguette Tourangeau. Beverly Sills, who delivered a mercurial Mary Queen of Scots in Tito Capobianco's New York City Opera staging, recorded the opera in 1971, under Aldo Ceccato; her spectacular Elisabetta is Eileen Farrell.  (Previously released on several other labels, the Sills Stuarda is now available on DG.)

The most exciting DVD performance of Maria Stuarda stars Mariella Devia (Maria) and Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elisabetta), although the La Scala production is uneven (Opus Arte). Copley's ENO staging, with Baker and Rosalind Plowright, as its stars, is more consistent (Kultur). spacer 

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