Cher Public

Vil cutlet

“…Mary Queen of Scots calls Elizabeth I ‘vil bastarda’ — a lowborn bastard. The phrase was considered so inflammatory back in 1835 that the La Scala world premiere was shut down after a single performance. At the Met, though, the emotional temperature ran a little lower. True, Joyce DiDonato’s Mary spat out those fighting words in a tangy chest voice, but it was hard to believe she meant them.” [New York Post]

  • Camille

    Well stated. Truthful and concise.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I wonder how Leighton Kerner, Andrew Porter, Stephanie von B., Claudia C and even Manuela H would have written about all of this Stuarda.

  • RobNYNY1957

    Actually, it’s historically accurate that MQoS, at her execution, wore a loose red undergarment that might look to us like a nightgown (a “shift”).

    • RobNYNY1957
    • ianw2

      Oh please, the Sartorialist photos from that era are spotty, at best.

      • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

        “Ha, ha!”

        [Do I win a prize?]

    • Mmmm, red yes. A number of sources agree with Antonia Fraser:

      The petticoat and corset were the next layers worn over the “shift” and, as the quotation indicates, were fairly substantial.

      This looks like a fairly accurate recreation of the scene:

      The 1971 film Mary Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave takes a slightly different point of view, showing Mary carefully applying makeup and wig before her march to the scaffold. The red bodice and petticoat, here a bit dressier, make their appearance to a delightfully campy gasp from the crowd.

  • norma54

    ‘Just took a look at the clip of the Act I finale on the MET website. ‘Couldn’t be more STERILE!! Both Van den Heever and DiDonato sing like it’s the first rehearsal read-through…….and no one acts with their voice……or their FACE !!! The tempo is WAY too fast and the strutting of Elizabeth is WAY over the top and annoying. SINGING WELL just ISN’T enough! I won’t pass judgement until I see the entire HD……..but so far, I agree with most of the postings here……..VERY disappointing.

    • Nerva Nelli

      Zinka… you have a new… ALIAS! Those ’54 Normas were THE PEAK of bel canto… except for those Paterson basement BORGIAs with your pals Paul and (NO ONE HERE KNOWS HER REAL LAST NAME!) Marisa…

  • grimoaldo

    Staid, sober and sensible.
    Sounds boring.
    How sad.
    Once again as in other reviews and responses to the show, the conducting is considered less than successful:

    “Maurizio Benini conducted with precision if little rhythmic drive.”

    Even in these diva vehicles, the conductor is very important, nothing turns a show into a damp squib more than a so-so conductor.

    When JDD did Mary Stuart at Houston, she had a big success and that production seems to have had a better supporting cast and conductor:

    “Patrick Summers leads the orchestra through Donizetti’s score, and his deft handling gives us music that rises up in argument and indignation, and falls to the softness of a lullaby. Donizetti’s score captures the very real drama of the age in a way the libretto does not, and Summers uses this to full effect.”

    “Patrick Summers’ flawless conducting.”

    And both reviews report that the confrontation scene was ace, unlike the Met’s:

    “Van Kooten and DiDonato trade stunning vocal fireworks, the depth and richness of DiDonato’s mezzo a gorgeous counterpoint to Van Kooten’s ringing soprano.”

    “sizzling vocal fireworks unleashed when DiDonato and Van Kooten square off in the famous confrontation scene at the opera’s center”

    It’s very sad that this Maria Stuarda is yet another disappointing show from the Met, they had better do something about the mediocre conducting and orchestral playing that now seems to prevail there.

    • Nerva Nelli

      Benini was undistinguished but he was in fact better than Summers, who was just bad. But don’t try telling the local Houston critics that…

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Like the Houston critics have any credibility or qualifications for their work.

      • peter

        Like the NY critics (i.e. the NY Times) have any credibility either.

        • louannd

          “Ha, ha!” [Peter wins the prize.]

    • deviafan

      I have not seen the MET production and cannot comment on that. But I did see two of the Houston performances and thought it was a wonderful perfromance, not only by DiDonato who was dramatically and vocally excellent but also Summers who provided good tempi and support to the singers. In a belcanto opera like this one a singer will never please everyone, but I thought DiDonato’s voice suited the music very well. I didn’t miss a couple high notes (how many singers actually hit them on pitch anyway!)

      • atalaya

        Was surprised at Nerva’s comments about Summers as I view him positively.

        I didn’t hear Houston but thought his Lucia and Iphigenie at the Met were very good. Quick, thrilling, and a lot of energy. He had some tempo wars with Graham in Iphigenie where it seemed she was not quite willing to go at the breakneck tempos he wanted. When the cover Bishop sang a couple of times, she didn’t have quite the same authority as Graham and got run over -- noticeable in “Je t’implore et je tremble”.

        For Bel Canto, having energy is perhaps the most important quality -- at least to me. Bel Canto being conducted with such intensity it feels like its on the verge of veering off the road and smashing into bits is very entertaining. I’m willing to overlook mistakes and occasional cue and sync problems -- even a couple of crashes -- as long as the thrill is there. With Benini, I’ve never found much electricity. Maybe elsewhere he can get orchestras to play better, but at the Met it’s always rather dull for him.

        “Timid, tepid accompaniment” (how Bernheimer described Benini’s Stuarda) is the kiss of death for this style of music and it’s something Summers, as far as I know, doesn’t do.

  • phoenix

    JJ seems to be complainging about the “sobering” mood -- but fails to emphasize that the downhillslide is in the score itself, particularly Act 2. McVicar chose to emphasize this rather than juxtapose it -> probably a wrong move, certainly for the singers. If JDD’s “compact voice seemed at times to evaporate” that seems to be right in line with this production, as described by JJ and others who saw it. As for Patrick Summers in the Houston performances, I forgive all his mistakes in light of his ass kicking conducting, particularly in Act 2.

  • redbear

    Can’t wait for the “Live.” All the critics, except in this forum, are gushing. Why? Another thing: do Americans ever consider the possibility that the director might have something to do with the emotion of the singing. It would be a topic for Europeans who are used to “director-driven” productions but it never occurs to anyone on the West side of the pond. The same singer will have different approaches with different directors. Antonacci’s Carmen at the Royal Opera and at the Comique, both available on DVD, would be an example.

    • bassoprofundo

      I don’t think too many people are complaining about the production. it’s the singing that they don’t like.

      • Camille

        The Second Soprano Stuarda, to be specific.

        I finally noticed your conversation with Cocky Kurwenal, which pins the tail on the donkey in this situation. Bravi, tutti e due.


      • redbear

        Maybe I will try this again. In Europe, the directors often give acting advice to their singers. “OK your furious, but in this production you have just started a passionate sexual relationship with her, so try to make your anger seem… ahh.. conflicted.” Stuff like that. In all reviews I read, it seems to never occur to the critic that some sort of “projection” of the role was encouraged, or rather demanded, by the director. Why?
        “Her affecting performance demonstrates the art of singing at its best.” says the NYT. Despite the fact that the NYT seems a glad-handing publicity agent for the Met, my question is why you hated JDD’s singing? Everything I have heard her do puts her at the very top of my list. Who would do this role better (and is still alive!)?

        • Inga Kalna, Krassimira Stoyanova, possibly even Ekaterina Siurina

          • Bianca Castafiore


  • marshiemarkII

    “Donizetti’s score is unusual in that either role — Mary or Elizabeth — can be cast for a soprano or a mezzo. Some of the great bel canto sopranos of the last few decades, including Callas, Sutherland and Sills, have undertaken the role of Mary. DiDonato makes a strong case that it rightfully belongs to the mezzo.”

    Who IS this queen????????????????

    And isn’t Ms Huffington herself an opera “expert”?

  • “The other” mezzo Mary.

    yes yes yes I know, most people here can’t stand Dame Granite but IMO she is mind-bigglingly good here, terrific if very BBC acting style (wholly appropriate in the vernacular) and always ‘on her toes’.

    The late Sir Charles also knew a thing or two about the style.

    • *boggingly. LOL

    • Otherwise, this is MY benchmark for the famous confrontation / finale. Not really overtly histrionic as some tend to favour, yet irresistibly bigger than life

    • grimoaldo

      C/F you obviously missed a wide range of views on Dame Janet and Maria Stuarda on an earlier thread here, you may find it interesting

      • Oh, oh dear. I have apparently missed a great deal. Finally the Granite Pandora’s box has been opened.

        Not wishing to re-fuel the discussion, I’ll just state that IMVHO she is the best Brahms and Mahler interpreter to have graced the studios, and her occasional forays to other kinds of rep (this Stuarda and the Sills Capuletti even!) could bring unexpected flashes of genius. For my mind and heart there is no better Alto Rhapsody in existence (the Boult / Baker collaboration was legendary), and yet perhaps those people who find her singing lacking in joy or charmless or not exciting enough or lacking in tonal beauty are the same people who detest the piece.
        Here too, I fear that all in all and as recorded performances go (Callas should have done BOTH roles) for my money Baker presents the absolute best in Mary Stuart, utterly believable, humane and thourhoughly in the bel canto style. As for beautiful singing, the preghiera is very much up there with the greats. Not astonishingly beautiful TONE, perhaps, or sound or what you will, but SINGING. Yes, there is a difference.

    • mia apulia

      I don’t care who doesn’t like her, JB was one of the greatest communicators of her time, as she is here.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    With apologies if this has been posted before, here is melle. DiDonato as Elisabeth

  • Clita del Toro

    Wagner Concert on France Musique today:

    SPECIAL PROGRAM: Le concert du soir
    par Producteurs en alternance
    En direct de la Salle Pleyel : Richard Wagner
    ? Le Vaisseau fantôme WWW 63(1843), Ouverture

    ? Lohengrin WWW 75 (1845, 1848)
    -- Prélude de l’acte I
    -- Prélude de l’acte II
    -- Acte III, scène 1 : “Treulich geführt ziehet dahin”* **
    -- Acte III, scène 2* **

    ? Tannhäuser WWW 70 (1845)
    -- Ouverture
    -- Venusberg

    ? Tristan et Isolde WWW 90 (1865), Prélude et mort d’Isolde***

    Annette Dasch, Soprano *
    Stephen Gould, Ténor **
    Violeta Urmana, Soprano ***
    Chœur de Radio France
    Robert Blank, Chef de chœur
    Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
    Marek Janowski, direction

    Concert donné dans le cadre de l’Union Européenne de Radio-Télévision (UER). (2 hrs., 32 min.)

    • Clita del Toro

      Dasch is better when you can see her. Urmana’s Liebestod was nothing to w rite home about. Should have listened to Il Pirata.

  • MontyNostry

    La Cieca’s having Stuarda fun on Twitter tonight ..

    La Cieca?@parterre

    RT @OperaTeen @JoyceDiDonato Tonight’s perf @MetOpera is dedicated to the amazing Tweeters who are out there in da house!

  • La Valkyrietta

    I had a good seat last night but Polenzani cancelled and his replacement was not ‘voice equivalent’. I heard the Met now prices the tickets according to cast. Should not the audience in all fairness have gotten a partial refund upon entering the house last night? If that is too complicated, well then, free Champagne, even if only the house Champagne, or at least free Merlot.

    I liked the production. Sets and costumes do suggest XVI century England, and Gelb did not get a ‘clever’ director that would have the chorus dancing ‘Forty Second Street’ at the end, thanks heavens. Joyce made the evening worth it. The South African girl did not do it for me at all, and Benini makes me miss Levine. Nice Rigoletto costumes from yesteryear on display at the Parterre and Dress Circle levels.

    • Leon Dupuis

      La Valkyrietta, I didn’t have ANY seat last night--family circle standing room! If anyone’s wondering, all the voices carry nicely. I think I might have to see how the opera plays up close. Sometimes it’s magical up there. Other times (like Friday night), my feet hurt and I get distracted by all the cell phones ringing. Shut them off people!!! Vibrate isn’t good enough. We can all hear your phones vibrate!

    • Nerva Nelli

      “If that is too complicated, well then, free Champagne, even if only the house Champagne, or at least free Merlot.”

      Maybe free Target Brand Box Riesling to all if Mojca Erdmann is allowed to appear?

      • Camille

        Three Buck UpChuck, as it is popularly known in SoCal, from Trader Joe’s?

        The Sauvignon Blanc is *almost* alcohol and equally palatable.

  • Leon Dupuis

    At the Met’s second performance of Maria Stuarda on Friday night, van den Heever’s voice seemed somewhat unsettled (maybe her timing was off) and a bit screechy at the top of her range. Her waddling movements were similarly strange. Good for her. She played an unattractive role perfectly imperfectly. (Somebody had previously wondered in a post on NYE what she is like in a graceful role. Me too!) DiDonato was vibrant and in control from her very first note. She was very good for most of her performance and, at times, exceptional. The rest of the audience cheered her tremendously. Since this was my first Maria Stuarda, I was as dumb about the opera as I could possibly be. I have no idea how Sutherland (God bless her soul) sang the role. At face value, both women performed their role brilliantly. This wasn’t (and arguably shouldn’t be) a cat fight. These are powerful and noble women. All hell cannot break loose, and it doesn’t. DiDonato establishes her Maria in the cavatina right at the beginning of Act II, scene I. Noble, serene, self-righteous, and in control. Not knowing when to applaud, we ended up applauding DiDonato’s “E chè! Non ami chè ad insolita gioia” somewhat later in the scene.

    The force of this confrontation scene comes at the “Ah! No!” just before “vil bastardo.” If you wait until “vil bastardo,” you’ve missed the climactic moment of their confrontation. With her “Ah! No!” we know exactly what Maria’s going to say next. The biggest regret is that the confrontation scene is so short.

    The weakest link in the production is the libretto--the love interest really is unnecessary and confuses the plot, and Donizetti does seem to make up for the libretto’s flaws enough with the score. A little more patriotic Verdi would go a long way with the chorus. A little of Puccini’s tenderness would also help. So, it’s a good, not great opera; but that really isn’t so bad, is it?

  • All-knowing Earth Goddess

    I, too, was at Stuarda on Friday evening. The tenor was B-level so I’ll go back to hear Polenzani in a future performance. I agree with the critic who wrote that Joyce would sing with a straight tone on pianissimi. That might be fine for baroque music but I don’t think it’s correct for Donizetti. I loved van den Heever and found myself not looking at the English titles because I was too busy concentrating on her movements.