The Metropolitan Opera‘s HD broadcast of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda on Jan 19 was a highlight of the season. If you missed it, be sure to turn out for the rebroadcast 2/6, or go catch the last performance in New York on 1/26. The production deserves every word of the NY Times’ rave review, by Anthony Tommasini, including, and especially, this to-die-for praise for Joyce DiDonato in the title role:
Ms. DiDonato’s performance will be pointed to as a model of singing in which all components of the art form — technique, sound, color, nuance, diction — come together in service to expression and eloquence.
This particular moment mentioned by Tommasini, near the end, is alone worth the price of admission. “Ms. DiDonato is simply magnificent, singing with plush richness and aching beauty. At a few moments, from the collective sounds of the subdued chorus and orchestra, a pianissimo high note, almost inaudible, emerged from Ms. DiDonato’s voice, slowly blooming in sound and throbbing richness.”
The rest of the cast is excellent also, particularly Elza van den Heever making her Met debut as Elizabeth, Mary Stuart’s cousin and triumphant political rival, and Matthew Rose, as Talbot. The Met chorus sang better than usual, and the orchestra, was, as always, magnificent.
The first act ends with a stunning confrontation scene between these two, in which Maria, after trying to keep her cool in hopes of some reconciliation, as Elisabetta puts her down, finally explodes in a furious denunciation of the queen.
At the beginning of the second act, Elizabeth is still seething over the insults, which, in the libretto, happened the day before, or at least recently. But the director, David McVicar, somewhat incongruously chooses to stick closer to history by setting the act 10 years later. He gives Elizabeth, the older of the two, rheumatism and a decayed appearance, which she only has to embody long enough to dramatically agonize over, and finally sign, Mary’s death warrant. Mary is saddled with a Parkinsonian tremor that she has to work hard to simulate through the entire act.
There were many people in the theater crying through most of the extremely poignant and moving second act. Be sure to bring your hanky.