admin On febbraio - 2 - 2016

New York
by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Gaetano Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart) had its world premiere at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, back in 1835, and it first premiered at the New York Met Opera House during New Year’s Eve of 2012. The tragic opera, in two acts, that combines the Italian composer’s music with a libretto by Giuseppe Bardari — based on Andrea Maffei’s translation of Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 play — returns to the Big Apple.

The opera is set during the Tudor epoch, and is part of a tryptic referred to the “Three Donizetti Queens”, since it involves lead female characters of the operas Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux. The second chapter of this Elizabethan history is loosely based on the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Despite the political and personal rivalry was real, the story is fictional: Schiller invented the confrontation of the two Queens (who in fact never met), through a dramatic device that brilliantly highlights the two women’s contrasting characters.

American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, fresh from her mesmerising portrayal of of King Henry’s ill-fated queen in Anna Bolena delivered an interpretation of Mary Queen of Scots notable for her coloratura technique and emotive power. Furthermore, Radvanovsky is already preparing for her next crown: this spring she will sing the role of Elizabeth, when the Met stages Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux for the first time in its history. In Maria Stuarda Ms. Radvanovsky’s enchanting voice adumbrates all of her stage partners: South African soprano Elza van den Heever (Queen Elizabeth), tenor Celso Albelo (Dudley, Earl of Leicester), bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi (Cecil, Lord Burghley), Kwangchul Youn (Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury), Maria Zifchak (Anna, Mary’s lady-in-waiting).

The presence on the podium of young conductor from Brescia, Riccardo Frizza, galvanises the revival of Sir David McVicar’s stunning production of the tragedia lirica. The solemness of the British Golden Age is glorified in the imperious portrayal of Fotheringhay Castle, along with the funereal and gloomy ambiance of its prison, where Mary is incarcerated.

The score features some of Donizetti’s most beautiful music, like the tender “O nube! Che lieve per l’aria” (Mary’s reminiscence about France and freedom) and the emotionally wrenching prayer scene. At the courtyard at Fotheringay, people gather at the site of the execution, lamenting that a queen’s death will bring shame upon England. Mary calls them to a final prayer “Deh! Tu di un umile preghiera”” and, together, she and the crowd pray for God’s mercy. The way Radvanovsky eulogises Donizetti’s bel canto — as her Maria Stuarda walks to her executioner with regal dignity and pride — is utterly overwhelming.


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