Once again opera lovers are anticipating some bel canto treats as Joyce DiDonato stars as Mary, Queen of Scots in the first-ever Met production of Donizetti’s intensely dramatic historical opera Maria Stuarda. It will be seen at venues around the globe “live in HD” on January 19, 2013 at 12:55 p.m. ET. The Running time is approximately 166 minutes, including one intermission.
South African soprano Elza van den Heever makes her Met debut as Mary’s rival, the formidable Queen Elizabeth I, and Matthew Polenzani sings Leicester, the nobleman caught between the two dueling monarchs. Maurizio Benini conducts a cast that also includes Matthew Rose as Talbot, Mary’s jailer, and Joshua Hopkins as Elizabeth’s advisor Cecil. The production is by David McVicar, who also staged last season’s production of Donizetti’s Tudor drama Anna Bolena. Soprano Deborah Voigt hosts the transmission and conducts backstage interviews with the stars.
Where to see it
In the Berkshires of Massachusetts, the live transmission can be enjoyed at four venues: the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the North Adams Movieplex and the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown.
About the Opera
The opera, which dramatizes the famous rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots and her royal cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, is the second opera in the composer’s “Tudor trilogy,” a trio of works about English queens of the 16th century.
Maurizio Benini will conduct. On opening night of the 2011-12 season, his production of Anna Bolena premiered with Anna Netrebko in the title role, and in a future Met season he will stage the final opera in the series, Roberto Devereux. McVicar made his Met debut with an acclaimed staging of Il Trovatore in 2009, a production that has since been performed more than 30 times at the Met and will return to the repertory this January. In April, his inventive staging of Handel’s Giulio Cesare, a hit at the Glyndebourne Festival and Lyric Opera of Chicago, will come to the Met with David Daniels and Natalie Dessay in the leading roles.
McVicar’s production of Maria Stuarda will feature set and costume design by his fellow Scotsman, John Macfarlane, lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton, and choreography by Leah Hausman. The Saturday, January 19 matinee performance of Maria Stuarda will be transmitted worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which is now seen in more than 1,900 movie theaters in 64 countries around the world.
The Principal SIngersJoyce DiDonato made her Met debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in 2005 and has quickly become one of the company’s leading artists, singing Stéphano in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Isolier in the Met premiere of Le Comte Ory, the Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and, last season, Sycorax in the world premiere of the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island. She made a critically acclaimed role debut as Maria Stuarda at Houston Grand Opera in April 2012. This season, she also sings Romeo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at San Francisco Opera and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; and Elena in Rossini’s La Donna Del Lago at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
Elza van den Heever makes her Met debut as Elisabetta. The fast-rising soprano made her professional debut as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at San Francisco Opera in 2007. She has subsequently sung major roles at many of the world’s leading opera houses, including Frankfurt Opera, where she made her role debut as Elisabetta in November 2012 and where she has sung Donna Anna, Elisabeth de Valois in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin, Vitellia in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, Antonia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello. Other recent appearances include Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at Paris Opera, Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with the Canadian Opera Company.
Matthew Polenzani starred as Nemorino in the new production of L’Elisir d’Amore that opened the current season, a role he reprises in a series of performances this January and February. In recent seasons, his starring roles at the Met have included Alfredo in the 2010 new production premiere of La Traviata, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette. Earlier this year, he sang the Chevalier des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon at La Scala and the title role in Massenet’s Werther at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Later this season, he sings the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at Vienna State Opera and the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at San Francisco Opera.
Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins made his Met debut as Ping in Puccini’s Turandot in 2009. His recent performances include Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème at Houston Grand Opera and Ottawa’s Opera Lyra; Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo at Glyndebourne; and the title role in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Kansas City Opera, Vancouver Opera, and Arizona Opera.
English bass Matthew Rose made his Met debut as Colline in La Bohème in 2011. He appears frequently at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where he has recently sung Colline, Lord Sidney in Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, and Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Last season, he sang John Claggart in Britten’s Billy Budd at English National Opera and Walter Furst in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell at the BBC Proms.
Maurizio Benini’s last Met performance was the season-opening new production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, an opera he also led for his company debut in 1998. In January, he will conduct the first Met revival of Rossini’s bel canto rarity Le Comte Ory, an opera he led at its company premiere in 2011. His other Met appearances include many performances of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, including the 2006 new production premiere; the new production premiere of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale; and performances of Verdi’s Rigoletto, La Traviata, and Luisa Miller, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Gounod’s Faust, and Bellini’s Norma.
John Macfarlane has designed both sets and costumes for Maria Stuarda. He made his Met debut with Richard Jones’s hit production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in 2007. Lighting designer Jennifer Tipton’s Met designs include Hansel and Gretel, Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, McVicar’s staging of Il Trovatore, and this season’s new production of L’Elisir d’Amore. Leah Hausman made her Met debut providing choreography for McVicar’s Il Trovatore production.
For more information on this season’s performances of Maria Stuarda, please visit the Met’s website at http://www.metopera.org.
Synopsis of Maria Stuarda
At the Palace of Whitehall in London, the Court are celebrating. The Duke of Anjou, brother to the King of France, has sought Queen Elizabeth’s hand in marriage and the glorious alliance of the two kingdoms is eagerly anticipated. Elizabeth enters, still undecided as to whether she will accept the French proposal. For a long time, her heart has belonged to her favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but recently she has sensed that his love for her is waning. Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and Mary Stuart’s custodian for many years, takes the opportunity to petition the Queen for her cousin’s release. Cecil, Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, argues that Mary presents a constant threat to the stability of England while she remains alive. Elizabeth refuses to be drawn into the subject of her cousin but privately fears that the Queen of Scots has stolen the love of Leicester from her. In the past, Leicester has been a suitor for Mary’s hand and was dazzled by the young Queen’s beauty when he first met her, long ago in France. Leicester arrives and Elizabeth gives him a ring to convey to the French Ambassador in equivocal acceptance of Anjou’s proposal. His indifferent response fuels her suspicions and she leaves, attended by the Court. Alone with Leicester, Talbot secretly hands him a letter and a miniature sent by Mary. Enmeshed in the plots of the English Catholics against Elizabeth, Mary’s life now hangs in the balance. Enraptured by the portrait, Leicester vows to give his aid and support to Talbot’s plans for Mary’s liberation. As Talbot leaves, Elizabeth returns, alone. Suspicious of Talbot, she demands to see the letter in Leicester’s hands. Mary has written to beg Elizabeth for an audience and despite herself, tears spring to Elizabeth’s eyes. Seizing his advantage, Leicester presses the Queen to agree to ride out near Mary’s prison on a hunt and under this pretext engineer a meeting between the two queens. Although mistrustful, Elizabeth agrees to her favorite’s request.
Unexpectedly allowed by Talbot to walk freely in the park outside her prison of Fotheringhay Castle, Mary rejoices, running far ahead of her lady-in-waiting, Hannah Kennedy. Her thoughts turn to times of happiness and liberty in France. The horns of the royal hunt are suddenly heard in the distance. The approaching huntsmen cry out Elizabeth’s name and Mary is struck with fear at the prospect of finally setting eyes on her cousin. Leicester has ridden ahead of the hunt to prepare Mary for the meeting. He urges her to humble herself before Elizabeth and move the Queen to pity. Pledging his love and loyalty, he promises Mary that she may yet be free. He hastens to greet Elizabeth as she arrives with the hunting party. She is agitated and suspicious and Leicester’s solicitude for Mary’s cause rouses her jealousy. Talbot leads Mary forward and the two queens stare into each other’s eyes for the first time. Mary masters her pride and shows deference before Elizabeth but her cousin remains aloof and insulting. She accuses Mary of licentiousness, murder, and treason. The tender words with which Leicester tries to calm Mary serve only to increase Elizabeth’s anger. Insulted beyond endurance, Mary turns on Elizabeth. She denounces her as the illegitimate offspring of a whore, one who’s foot sullies and dishonors the throne of England. Elizabeth orders the guards to seize Mary and drag her back to her prison.
Time has passed and Mary has remained incarcerated at Fotheringhay, under ever harsher conditions. The marriage to Anjou is now a faded dream for Elizabeth. Cecil has procured evidence that implicates Mary in a Catholic plot to assassinate Elizabeth, and a warrant for her death lies on the Queen’s desk at the Palace of Whitehall. But Elizabeth is racked with anxiety and fear. If she signs it, she sends an anointed monarch to the scaffold and makes an enemy of all Catholic Europe. Cecil urges her to be strong: her own life could be at stake and all England will applaud her and defend her, if need be. Elizabeth’s indecision ends when Leicester enters the chamber. Quickly and indifferently she signs the warrant and hands it to Cecil. Appalled, Leicester pleads with her to rescind the order and show mercy. Elizabeth commands him to be present as witness to the execution. Leicester tells her that she has sent a sister to her death and leaves.
In her room at Fotheringhay, Mary rails bitterly against her fortune. Suddenly, Cecil and Talbot enter to tell her that she must die in the morning. Cecil offers her the services of a Protestant minister in her final hours. Angrily, she refuses and commands him to leave but asks Talbot to stay. He tells her that Leicester will be present when she dies and tries to comfort her. But Mary is tormented by the ghosts of her past and longs to make the confession to God that Cecil has denied her by refusing the ministrations of a Catholic priest. Her heart is heavy with the bloody memories of her short reign in Scotland, and the deaths of her beloved favorite, David Rizzio, and her husband, Darnley. Gently, Talbot urges her to confess to him. She agrees and begins to unburden her conscience. Finally, she confesses her unwitting acquiescence in the fatal plot of the English Catholic, Sir Anthony Babington, to assassinate Elizabeth. She and Talbot pray together for God’s absolution and Mary calmly prepares for death.
Early next morning, Mary’s faithful servants gather, weeping outside the great hall of Fotheringhay, where Mary will be beheaded. The Queen enters. She asks them not to shed tears, as death comes to liberate her. She gives Hannah a silken handkerchief to bind her eyes when the moment comes and leads the household in a fervent prayer. The shot of a cannon on the ramparts above signals that the time of execution is near and Cecil arrives with guards to conduct Mary into the hall. Elizabeth has sent word that all requests should be granted her in her final moments and Mary asks that Hannah may accompany her to the scaffold. She tells Cecil that she forgives her cousin and prays that her blood will wash away all memory of hatred between them. Leicester suddenly appears, distraught, as more shots of the cannon indicate the time has come. Mary calms him. She is content that she will die with him close at hand. She prays that England may be spared the vengeful wrath of God. Dressed in red, the color of Catholic martyrdom, she ascends the scaffold.