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Queens of song

Our own JJ ponders the Met’s new production of Maria Stuarda (not pictured) for Musical America. [Rough and Regie]


  • 1
    Camille says:

    Would that picture be le Ballet Trockadero aus Monte Carlo, recently in town--or still may be--but alas and alack, I didn’t see?

  • 2
    Satisfied says:

    OMG…that’s a picture of the Berlin Staatsoper production of Maria Sturada (Regie: Karsten Wiegand) which is set in an elderly living home! I’m going to see this later this month and am extremely excited. (Especially after seeing the very so-so McVicker production at the Met.)

    Would be happy to post thoughts after viewing for any Parterrians who might be interested.

    Link to Staatsoper page:

  • 3
    deviafan says:

    Here are two videos I posted from the Berlin Maria Stuarda with Elena Mosuc (2006)

  • 4
    WindyCityOperaman says:

    I missed the prima from the Met website b’cast of Stuarda, so looking forward to the Sat afternoon. Just for kicks I dug out the Sills_Farrell_Ceccato recording and played it start to finish. Has anyone really given it a listen lately? It’s stuff like this that I really miss.

  • 5
    grimoaldo says:

    JJ’s essay says of the Berlin production confrontation scene:

    “For all Maria Stuarda‘s fine words and flashing roulades, what actually is happening here is no more signifcant (though no less entertaining) than a feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.”

    I have wondered during these discussions of Stuarda and the confrontation scene if everyone realises that when Mary calls Elizabeth “vil bastarda” it is not mere vulgar abuse like saying, “I hate you, ugly bitch!” or something, but saying that Elizabeth is only the “the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime” as the Papal Bull of Pius V in 1570 said.
    Elizabeth was considered by Catholics to be illegitimate (a bastard), a heretic (Protestant) and as someone who had no right to the throne.
    When Mary calls Elizabeth a “low born bastard”,Mary is saying she should be queen of England, as many English Catholics believed and there were several well authenticated plots to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with Mary.
    So there are larger issues here than two divas in a slanging match.
    The two queens never actually met of course, but Schiller invented the scene to dramatize the larger issues through personal confrontation.
    As Verdi said of Schiller and “Don Carlos”, “to copy reality is a very fine thing but to invent reality is much much better”.

    • 5.1
      operadent says:

      Bravo, grimoaldo!

    • 5.2
      Ilka Saro says:

      Grimoaldo, you’re right, the term “bastarda” is laden with historic significance. The King of Naples had the right to ban the opera without explaining his motives and that is just what he did. Some think it is because his wife we descended from Mary Stuart, and that it was unseemly to have his wife’s ancestor imprisoned, degraded and beheaded onstage. Other’s suggest that “vil bastarda” was to strong a term to be thrown by one monarch at another.

      Because of the historic significance that you point out, I don’t think the reason for the ban would have been the “vil bastarda” reference. After all, even 250 odd years after that fact, I don’t think that any Catholic monarch with blood ties to Mary Stuart would be bothered by seeing Elizabeth’s “illegitimate” claim to the throne pointed out. In an opera where Mary is already portrayed as wronged, this just adds to the wrongs, and makes her even more a martyr, more heroic.

    • 5.3
      oedipe says:

      I was at the Met Stuarda two days ago and some people were laughing at the Mary vs. Elisabeth confrontation as if it were TV slapstick comedy.

      • 5.3.1
        Vergin Vezzosa says:

        Also saw the Tuesday Stuarda -- went back to see Polenzani who I missed last Friday when the cover (who wasn’t very good at all IMHO) sang Leicester. I fall in the “really liked almost the whole thing very much” camp. Loved the production with its beautiful group stage pictures at the ends of both acts and for the prayer. I did not like, however, the interpolated 8 bars of Maria’s Act I cabaletta music into the very end of the opera. Cheesy. If this is deemed acceptable, why not add the theme of “Ah bello a me ritorno” to the end of Norma or, better yet, an orchestral reprise of “Di quella pira” as Manrico is executed? While offering nothing distinguished, Benini was perfectly OK and moved things right along.

        All of the men, including MP, did great and I liked Elza van den H. very much as Elisabetta. Not a beautiful voice but huge, with a lot of presence except in the lowest range and used very effectively in this role. Her acting was a hoot -- she reminded me a bit of Max Baer, Jr. in drag playing Jethrine (Jethro’s female alter ego) on the Beverly Hillbillys. I did not find that a bad thing.

        JDD sang just beautifully for the most part with the confession scene being the highlight for me. And what dramatic commitment! -- I found her portrayal very moving as did my guests on both Friday and Tuesday. Some genuine pearl-clutching at the end. That said, JDD now has vibrato issue in parts of her voice when singing some slow or moderato passages that I personally do not find attractive. Finally, I have come to the conclusion, after seeing 2 performances and playing through most of the score (which I adore), that I don’t like the performing edition of the score that the Met is using to accommodate JDD’s abilities. The use of both the downward vocal variants and the substantial downward key transpositions changes the tinta of Stuarda for me and damps down the whole atmosphere of the show. Without a soprano Maria who can float above the rest of the cast and the chorus and who can provide bright fireworks when appropriate, the piece doesn’t always take off for me as it should. Just my opinion, but I am looking forward to Met revivals of Stuarda with LaRad and hopefully any number of sopranos who may be able to do the role.

          Camille says:

          Mot du jour: “Tinta”.

          Esattamente e brava, cara Vergin! That is what bugged me so much and the very word I wanted to employ but dare not. Destroys the tonal palette, e.g. The first aria, “O nube…”

          Thank you for your considered words and opinion. Tinta. Yes, good ol’ Joe Green woulda understood.


          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            BTW, I had the same reaction to the SF Sonnanbula that F. Von Stade did in 1980-something. Gorgeously sung, but…….

          • Camille says:


            She sang the “Ah, vorrei trovar parola” with the most entrancingly balletic and graceful rhythmic movement.


  • 6
    aulus agerius says:

    And I think to depict the sacrament of confession was equally outrageous in Catholic Italy. At HGO Talbot was not revealed as a priest at all.

  • 7
    tannengrin says:

    All this Stuart discussion has left me hungry. Is the Grand Tier at the Met offering production specific menus? Do they have “Veal Bastarda” and “Codpieces a la creme” right now?

  • 8
    stignanispawn says:

    I spent the last two evenings at the Met.
    Turandot was mediocre, other than great singing by Irene Theorin. She ranks very high on my Turandot index.
    Last night’s Maria Stuarda was first-rate. It is not my favorite Donizetti score but, that said, I thought the singers and production values were fine. Joyce DiDonato was a poster child for controlled singing of the highest rank and Elza van den Heever was excellent too. I especially liked the walk E vdH developed for Elisabetta.
    Comparing the two performances, I said to my partner when the Met does a new production with “A List” singers no one does it better; with an older production like Turandot you come out humming the scenery. That being said — the gold confetti at the end of Turandot still leaves my Met seat moist 25 years later :)
    I’m looking to Trovatore with Angela Meade and Alexey Markov next week.

  • 9
    kashania says:

    I love it when JJ analyses opera direction. More please!