As is tradition, the Met holds a New Year’s Eve gala where they unveil a new production to ring in the new year. The presentation this year will be Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. Now why they would choose to inaugurate 2013 with a beheading is beyond me, but it’s sure to be a thrilling night of theater.
The production(Which runs through January 26) by David McVicar keeps relatively close to the Tudor setting of the libretto, and the evening’s stars are Joyce Didonato making her house-role debut as Maria, and Elza van den Heever in her Met debut as Queen Elisabetta. Also in the mix are Matthew Polenzani as Leicester, Maria’s lover and Matthew Rose as Giorgio Talbot amongst others in this strong cast. Sets and costumes are by John Macfarlane and bel-canto specialist, Maurizio Benini conducts.
The story is based off the Schiller play revolving around the fictional meeting of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor and the showdown that plays out. Mary, who has been kept imprisoned at Fotheringay Castle for many years, is released for some “fresh air”. Fresh air turns out to be the arrival of her cousin, the queen. The two meet and a showdown ensues. The opera is most famous for its climax of Mary calling Elizabeth an “Impure child of Anne Boleyn” and eventually a “vile bastard”. Weave in some romantic intrigue and Elizabeth’s order to send Mary to the chopping block and that’s the general structure of Maria Stuarda.
The second installment in Donizetti’s Three Queens trilogy- following Anna Bolena and preceding Roberto Devereux(Which will be produced in following years at the Met)- is a complex, bel-canto masterpiece. Personally, I find it less interesting and compelling than Anna Bolena, but it is still considered one of Donizetti’s finest pieces of work in certain circles. The two, domineering lead female parts are considered “zwischenfach” roles, meaning that they lie in between, not exactly conforming to a typical soprano or mezzo voice. Both mezzos and sopranos have sung both roles, and DiDonato brings her interpretation of Maria to the Met this week. However, this is not the first time DiDonato has sang in this opera. In 2005, she sang Elisabetta opposite Gabriele Fontana as seen in the complete, dress rehearsal performance below:
There have been many newspaper articles leading up to this presentation at the Met:
- New York Times: Giving History a Bel-Canto Twist(December 28)
- New York Times: When the Costume Isn’t Enough(December 30)
- The Examiner: Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato Stands Prepared as the Met’s Mary Stuart(December 3)
- The Examiner: Joyce DiDonato, Exploding with Possibilities(December 4)
If you aren’t familiar with Maria Stuarda as an opera, then you fall into the majority. However, I found the best way to learn about this opera is through the San Diego Opera Opera Talk! video as seen below:
Here is a clip of Joyce singing Maria Stuarda at the Houston Grand Opera, where she made her role debut in the spring.
Now for some fun stuff…
This is a mash up video someone made of Joyce DiDonato “duetting” herself in the confrontation scene from Maria Stuarda.
Here is another montage video someone made of various singers throughout the ages in the great “Vil Bastarda” moment.
Unfortunately, I will not be listening to the opening night broadcast which will be streamed live on the Met website. I have my own New Year’s Eve traditions I have to maintain. However, I have tickets to the second performance of the run on January fourth so I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.
Finally, just something fun I made.
Happy New Year to you all and here’s to a 2013 filled with great music! Enjoy the broadcast!