Cher Public

Queen for a D

Some may conjecture that Anna Bolena is a stronger opera than Maria Stuarda and its title role a better fit for Sondra Radvanovsky, but Friday’s season premiere at the Met of Donizetti’s opera about the doomed Scottish queen proved surprisingly satisfying and a genuine success for the American soprano.  

Last fall’s first Bolena was a bumpy afternoon for Donizetti, but that demanding run of performances seems to have been beneficial for the soprano, whose initially iffy command of the bel canto idiom has evolved into something more polished and nuanced. While one might have expected Henry VIII’s fiery second wife to have suited the extroverted Radvanovsky, her portrayal last fall was dramatically scattered, and although she mostly pulled it together for the demanding final scene much of her singing that day was marred by inelegant, lunged-at high notes amid overall stylistic tentativeness.

Friday’s Stuarda was preceded by an announcement that the soprano was suffering from a cold and begged for our understanding. But none was needed as illness may have had a salutary effect on Radvanovsky’s sometimes unwieldy soprano. Rarely has it sounded so plangent, and its sometimes off-putting harshness only occasionally flared. Maria’s opening aria brimmed with quiet nostalgia; her bristling duet (capped by a blazing D-flat) with the Leicester of debuting tenor Celso Albelo revealed flashes of the implacable pride that proved her undoing.

For many, Stuarda centers around “Figlia impura di Bolena,” Maria’s breathtaking denunciation of her malevolent enemy—and cousin—Elisabetta. They can be reassured that Radvanovsky’s curse sizzled with slow-boiling fury studded with arrestingly pungent glottals that suggested she’d been attentively listening to “pirate queen” Leyla Gencer. The subsequent frenzied ensemble reacting to her outburst (including a quick high D from the prima donna) brought the first act to a thrilling conclusion.

The final 40 minutes of the opera are a taxing tour-de-force for Maria to which Radvanovsky brought a steadfast intensity and secure vocal command with only an occasional misstep in the prayer revealing her slight indisposition. Where her Bolena was sometimes marred by her abruptly and fussily fining down the tone to a whispery pianissimo (think Edita Gruberovà), her polished soft singing in Stuarda, particularly in her wrenching duet with Talbot, has matured into a well-controlled tool in her still-growing vocal arsenal.

She concluded that exhausting scena which culminated in her brave walk to her execution wigless and clad only in a blood-red shift with a brave and stinging rebuke to the English nation possibly foreseeing that her son James would soon enough succeed her merciless persecutor.

The guiding hand of director David McVicar supervising this revival could be felt in Radvanovsky’s quiet, focused fervor. Hers was a much more flesh-and-blood embodiment of the Stuart queen than Joyce DiDonato’s had been when the production was new. From her entrance DiDonato personified a chilly martyr where Radvanovsky incarnated a warmer, more vulnerable woman. Despite the awe-inspiring accomplishment of her bel canto technique, the mezzo’s smaller, whiter voice (along with many downward transpositions) lacked the visceral impact of her successor’s exciting, house-filling soprano.

Stuarda’s oddly bipartite structure means Elisabetta is nearly as important as Maria, and Elza van den Heever returned to the production repeating her strikingly kinetic interpretation of the Virgin Queen. McVicar devises a stark contrast between Elisabetta’s restless energy and Maria’s intent stillness, but van den Heever’s manic limping and darting about the stage soon grew wearisome. While one admired the soprano’s all-out physical commitment (although no head-shaving this time), less frenetic choices might have been more effective.

So too van den Heever’s bright pointed soprano squared off vividly against Radvanovsky’s warmer, more enveloping sound.  As it had two seasons ago, Van den Heever’s singing again proved erratic and puzzling; sometimes the voice responded fully and confidently, other times it emerged small and hollow. The top seemed pinched at one moment, free and pealing at others.

She spun the opening cavatina with a sweetly light touch but the succeeding cabaletta lacked the needed thrust. Her waspish, biting edge served the character well but I’m curious to hear the South African soprano in another sort of role and look forward to her Fidelio Leonore this summer at the Caramoor Festival under Pablo Heras-Casado.

Robert Leicester (aka Roberto) functions mostly as a tenor-shuttlecock bouncing back and forth between Elisabetta and Maria. He has no individual character other than to serve as a (sort of) love interest/sounding board to the two warring sopranos. That Albelo wasn’t much of actor mattered less here than it might have in another role. However, he sang firmly and tossed out secure pinging high notes. His voice’s appealing middle reminded me a lot of Alfred Kraus’s; it was only after the performance that I discovered that Albelo, like Kraus, was born in the Canary Islands.

As Maria’s devoted Talbot, Kwangchul Youn started out in alarmingly unsteady voice but settled down to a hearty if anonymous portrayal. By contrast, Patrick Carfizzi delivered a powerfully sonorous Cecil and again made one wonder why one doesn’t encounter this consistently excellent, under-valued artist more often at the Met. While Maria Zifchak limned a touchingly faithful Anna, her mezzo grows more grating on each hearing.

John Macfarlane’s arrestingly abstract sets and sumptuous costumes helped McVicar to create one of his more effective Met productions, despite the distracting hyper-active stage business for Elisabetta. The numerous duets, trios and ensembles were handsomely and economically staged, and Jennifer Tipton’s evocative lighting again reminded me how rarely the Met has seen the work of this superb artist.

Conductor Riccardo Frizza’s fine work was likely responsible for the superiority of this Stuarda over last fall’s Bolena. Unlike the well-intentioned but uninspiring Marco Armiliato, Frizza led a taut performance, attentive to his singers and crackling with energy.

Frizza’s dynamism surpassed Maurizio Benini’s two years ago, and it’s too bad that he won’t be leading the final work in the so-called “Tudor Ring”—the new McVicar Roberto Devereux which opens on March 24—it’ll be Benini again. But Radvanovsky’s gratifying development as a Donizettian raises high hopes for this Met premiere whose glamorous cast includes Elina Garanca, Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien.

Photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

  • merveilleux

    Such a shame that there won’t be an HD broadcast so that we, the far flung provincials, might be able to visibly compare to DiDonato!

  • auracentral

    I’d like to commend Mr. Corwin on his ongoing analysis of the Met’s Tudor trilogy with Radvanovsky, and particularly his comments on the conducting. I do think a lot of the limitation of the Bolena goes to Armiliato. I like Benini better, and Frizza much better. My reaction is entirely from the Sirius feed, but I have tickets for the penultimate performance, the last is the international broadcast. In a generous world I too would like to have a video of Radvanovsky’s Maria. I am looking forward to Devereux very much and have tickets for two plus the moviecast. In searching the Sills annals, she did 38 Elizabeths essentially with NYCO forces, but sometimes assembled in Cincinnati, LA, or Wolf Trap; she did 18 Maria Stuarda and 18 Anna Bolenas. Sondra has now passed her in Bolenas, but I doubt that she’ll do the other. Even though vocally hard pressed at times, I actually thought Sills’ Elisabeth was much the best of her three queens. Maria which fit her voice best already showed the ravages of an essentially light voice overworked. Sutherland’s Maria (in Philadelphia) was one of her greatest live appearances. All three of these works have final scenes of considerable length and difficulty, and praise to Radvanovsky for her efforts. The Stuarda tickets are not flying out the door.

  • CwbyLA

    I noticed the glottal attacks on Figlia Impura as well and was surprised since I haven’t heard Radvan employ that vocal trick before. It was effective.

    • becca

      This performance Friday night was a thrilling edge of the seat performance for me…. I loved the contrast between the two sopranos, very different voices but both compellingly musical.

      The Leicester was very sweet sounding but underpowered when up against the more powerful voices.

      There were many empty seats…. I had the front row of a dress circle box to myself, allowing me to have two screens operating.. one in English and one in Italian.
      This opera should be sold out for all performances.
      To be able to enjoy an opera so rarely done in New York, in a live performance, with this amount of intensity reminds me why I love opera.

      I did hear Sills in two of the three queens at City Opera… it was entirely different… no fantastic Met Orchestra and Chorus to start. And no subtitles in those days either. And it was done in a much less dramatic musical fashion…. Sills was a gifted technician, very impressive, but her instrument could not deliver the drama that Sondra does.

      I hope this will encourage people to pick up tickets.

      • antikitschychick

        “I had the front row of a dress circle box to myself, allowing me to have two screens operating.. one in English and one in Italian.”

        LOL that’s awesome and something I would totally do as well. Would like to just add that I’m happy for the success of the performance and echo your sentiments about wanting it to sell better. Hopefully the RD will. I will be in NY in March from the 2nd to the 6th for a competition and will try and catch Madame Butterfly if I can.

  • PCally

    I had a feeling that Anna Bolena would be the least effective Tudor Queen for her. The others can be sung more dramatically, without the purity and focus Anna Needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Elisabeth turns out to be her best one.

    • Gualtier M

      Actually PCally, Stuarda is the most lyrical vocally of the three Tudor queens and the most amenable to a lighter lirico leggiero protagonist. Also, I must mention that Mr. Corwin reviewed the opening night (afternoon?) performance of “Anna Bolena” which was really probably the worst of the run for Sondra. I saw the last show of the Fall run and Sondra had made several adjustments and refinements and was really quite moving. (Sondra dropped the final sopracuto -- E flat? -- at the end of “Coppia Iniqua” and minimized the incessant dropping out for bars to rest up for an interpolated high note approach throughout) Her return to Anna Bolena on January 5th showed even more growth in the role. The Saturday afternoon radio broadcast was impressive in a lot of places. Unfortunately reviewers sometimes only see the opening night and often a revival and the lead singers settle in and improve over the run. Sometimes the transformation is dramatic.

      • PCally

        Well Gualtier your more of an expert than I am. Bel Canto is not something I know a great deal about (even more so regarding the Tudor queens). I’ve only seen Bolena live once and the others never. So I’m perfectly able to accept that I’m incorrect.

        • Gualtier M

          Well there is no correct or incorrect here -- the three queens lie differently for different voices. One soprano may find Maria Stuarda an easy sing while others might struggle with it. I personally found Joyce DiDonato for all her histrionic and musical sensitivity just not a good vocal fit for Maria Stuarda. The part has a lot of high cantilena and it really pushed Joyce into that white, tremulous, tight part of her voice.
          Caballé is my personal favorite Maria Stuarda with Leyla Gencer a close second. I think I like Gencer best in the Tudor triple crown tournament. I am actually listening to Beverly Sills right now via JML’s mixcloud in preparation for tonight. Sills is captured here in 1972 (at the tail end of her prime -- before the cancer) and despite the fact that her voice is high and light and best suited to Stuarda, I actually like Sills better in “Roberto Devereux” and “Anna Bolena”.

      • Gualtier and PCally: I think Anna Bolena was the least comfortable fit for Rad because of the low tessitura of the role. She tried to make up for it by adding a lot of high-lying ornaments and I think she over did it. I was not terribly impressed by the clips I heard from preview videos the Met posted. And I gather that the prima on a Saturday afternoon was the worst of her performances. By the time of the radio broadcast (which I was not anticipating highly), she had really turned things around and gave a very good performance.

        I’m not surprised of her success as Maria Stuarda because it is full of long, lyrical lines allowing Rad to do the kind of singing she does best. I liked JDD a lot in the HD but that was more because of her skill as a bel canto artist and her commitment to the role which I found quite moving. But, like others, I found the lack of colour on her high notes to be all wrong for the part. Whenever the voice needed to soar, hers voice sounded choked up.

        I’m pleased to hear of Rad’s glottal attacks which I’ve never heard her do. I hope she incorporates them into her Norma.

        I also saw her Toronto RD Elisabetta and agree that she had a great success in the part. I’m glad that it is getting the HD.

  • jack_ewing

    Sondra had the music of Stuarda in her veins on Friday, she was exceptional. The entire cast was superb, especially the chorus.

    Frizza, Benini and Armiliato should all stay as far from Donizetti as possible. No elegance, rhythm and ridiculously fast tempi, all of them. Benini is the worst. Stuarda is a score that deserves Muti, or at least someone like the late Marcello Viotti. Friday ran shorter than a Broadway musical. Why present the 2-act mezzo version when we have a real soprano this time? Maria Stuarda is a 3-act opera with overture. The end of act 1 has GOT TO GO, it’s from La Favorite and Donizetti only allowed it (by letter, he wasn’t even involved) because the original was too high for Maria Malibran. The reprise of Nella pace del mesto riposo at the very end’s also not in the score, get rid of it, the “big tune” mentality is totally misplaced here.

    • phoenix

      Interesting comment, Jack. You are probably correct in your estimation of the conductors.
      -- The performing version of Maria Stuarda we have nowadays supposedly dates from 1835. La Favorite was premiered five years later in 1840, so the Act 1 finale was filched from Stuarda by Favorite. I like that finale very much (anthem-like quality to it), so I don’t mind hearing it again and again … and again …

      • jack_ewing

        correct phoenix, but that’s not the original end of act 2 premiered in October of 1834. It was rewritten for Malibran for her La Scala performances in December of 1835 then recycled in La Favorite. The original is superior, that’s the version performed by Sutherland, Gencer, Caballé, Gruberova, etc.

        • THERE IS NO MEZZO VERSION OF MARIA STUARDA. THE 1834 VERSION WAS NEVER PERFORMED AND THE OPERA DID NOT RECEIVE ITS PROPER PREMIERE UNTIL 1835 WITH MARIA MALIBRAN IN THE TITLE ROLE. The 1835 edition is considered the critical edition.

          Jesus. I hate the constant idea that there’s a “mezzo” version of this opera. Maria Malibran today might be considered a mezzo but this opera was written for her to perform and the critical edition probably reflects things she could do within her range. Sills, Gruberova, Sutherland etc. added high options and mezzos like DiDonato and Baker made downward transpositions. But there is no “mezzo” version of this opera.

          • Fluffy-net

            Poison,

            permit a bit of pedantry. The 1835 edition cannot possibly be a critical edition. People didn’t think about such things then. Most likely you are referring to an Italian vocal score the primary purpose of which was to make money for the publisher. It would be a source, maybe an important one even.

            There is a critical edition edited by Anders Wiklund and published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000. It should answer these questions definitively.

            Perhaps someone who knows much more than I (not hard) is reading and can enlighten us.

            • quoth the maven

              Poison is right--there is no “mezzo version.” The Met uses the critical edition; this was the version sung by JdiD (with transpositions) and now by Rad.

          • Gualtier M

            I can’t speak with any authority about the revised “Malibran” version of the score that premiered at La Scala in 1835 but it seems that even that version lay very high. Probably too high for Malibran’s voice who was ill at the time and found the role uncongenial. The score was designed for Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis in Naples the year before and she was definitely a soprano who sang Donna Anna and Norma and created Elisabetta in “Devereux”. Donizetti said in his letters that he altered the role for Malibran by improving the recitatives and extended scenes -- but probably left the arias in the original high keys. In the banned original 1934 Naples production both Maria and Elisabetta are sopranos. Janet Baker and DiDonato did a lot of transposing and revised ornaments that aren’t in any score from what I know. (I don’t own a “Maria Stuarda” score and certainly not the Univ. of Chicago Press critical edition by Anders Wiklund so feel free to correct me).

            • Fluffy-net

              This is helpful. Thank you.

          • jack_ewing

            Poison Ivy you’re mistaken, no mezzo version of Stuarda? Are you familiar with Janet Baker and Joyce diDonato? The score premiered at Teatro San Carlo in October of 1834 as “Buondelmonte” for Ronzi de Begnis, a soprano. The King of Naples prohibited the opera under the title of Maria Stuarda when he learned that the Queen had fainted at the final dress rehearsal. She was related to both Elizabeth of York and Mary Stuart and found the curse scene too shocking.

            The stretta that ends act 2 in Maria Stuarda is the one Donizetti intended for the original soprano version, recorded by Sutherland, Sills, Caballé, Gruberova etc., not this “critical edition” we now have at the MET, written for Malibran for her 1835 La Scala version. The overture should be restored and that exciting Nella pace del mesto riposo march completely eliminated. It was a Charles Mackerras little invention for Janet Baker’s beheading scene, it doesn;t belong in the opera.

            • steveac10

              Buondelmonte is the definitive version of Buondelmonte (1834). The Met is performing Maria Stuarda (1835).

              While Buondelmonte and Maria Stuarda share largely the same musical DNA, given the circumstances surrounding them I don’t think the Buondelmonte version can be deemed the the same for Stuarda. Firstly, it was it was a hastily produced reworking to a new libretto made under duress to mollify censors, and secondly it bombed. Changes when it finally reappeared as Stuarda have to be considered Donizetti’s final thoughts on the matter. Both to accommodate the new performers (which was the norm for the era) and to fix what didn’t work the first time.

            • Janet Baker and JDD made transposityiona. The version Sondra is performing in the 1835 Scala version which uses the same soprano keys as Maria Malibran sung. The 1834 version was never performed by Donizetti in his lifetime and wad heavily censored.

            • quoth the maven

              Baker and DiDonato both used transpositions. There is no “mezzo version.”

  • DerLeiermann

    Fantastic review. I’m a big fan of Queen Sondra and look forward to see her in Roberto (Not Blanche) Deveraux. In all honestly I thought Stuarda would be a miss for her, but Im so glad she triumphed. By the way I believe she considers herself to be canadian.

    • operainsider

      Technically since Canada is in North America . She is American

  • Krunoslav

    I met Sondra R. once , with her very pleasant Canadian husband. As I recall Michael Schade introduced them. She is from Illinois and called herself an American-Canadian.

  • Chenier631

    I saw SRad do Roberto Devereux at the Canadian Opera Co. in Toronto back in 2014. She was absolutely spectacular. I predict she will have an enormous success with it at the Met.
    Next season, both she and Van den Heever will appear in Toronto as Norma, SRad has the first few performances, Van den Heever the last. I am planning on going for a long weekend to catch the last with SRad and the first with Van den Heever.
    SRad also does Norma in Chicago, and Van Den Heever does it in Dallas.

    Chenier631

  • parpignol

    nice review; hate to admit that SR was more thrilling and more moving that JDD in this role, but I felt it too; Elizabeth’s antic shuffling grew not only wearisome but incongruously comical; and I did think that Youn, of all of them, was the one best attuned to Radvanovsky’s vocal style, and that he partnered her beautifully in their duet in the last act. . .

  • javier

    I did not enjoy Joyce DiDonato as Maria Stuarda and I think they wasted the HD simulcast on her in a performance that I will never go back to watch. Sondra Radvanovsky is the real deal as Maria Stuarda. I hope that Sondra sings Stuarda again somewhere else and they film it.

    • Bill

      Tonight at Maria Stuarda I was a bit disappointed.
      For me Sandra Radvanovsky was not as totally fluid as some others have been in the role -- there were some
      bombastically sung phrases but I think the legato is not really all that elegant and I do not find a great deal of beauty in her middle voice. The high notes were all intact (though she does not hold on to them as long as
      some of the other singers mentioned here have done).
      Sometimes particularly in the middle of the voice
      she was just under the note -- I think it is only the third time I have seen her and of the 3 evenings,
      Trovatore, Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda I liked her best as Leonora -- She is a good technician, can swell notes (to a somewhat greater volume than others such as
      Sills, Gruberova, Ricciarelli but somehow I would prefer
      a more angelic voice (Caballe) -- the voice does not flow with an eveness that I think the role demands.
      Elza van den Heever’s Elisabetta was much more unevenly sung -- perhaps not easy to hold an even voice while doing all the twitching built into the staging. She acts well (as required) but the jerking of the body was quite overdone and became truly annoying after a while.
      Celso Albelo has a nice timbre at times and a reasonable technique and will be serviceable in these types of roles not always sung by the finest of tenors in this fach. He was neither better nor worse in Roberto Devereaux in Vienna but it is a meatier role than Leicester. Youn was reasonably good -- I do not go to this type of opera so frequently but the last
      time I saw it was in a production in Vienna done for
      Gruberova but with Riciarelli and Baltsa who was terrific as Elisabetta. The Met’s production does not seen to be a very expensive one regarding the set -- the costumes were smart except for Elisabeta’s read
      pants suit with an open hooped skirt which looked rather silly particularly with van den Heever twitching all he time. A fair number of empty seats to behold -- audience applauded Radvanovsky lustily --

      • Cicciabella

        “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the red pantaloons of a king…”

  • Candy Cotton

    Is that Jess Thomas or Irene Dalis in the photo?

  • SilvestriWoman

    For me, the great mystery is why Gelb is wasting Bryan Hymel -- who sings the crap out of Bellini/Donizetti -- in Puccini? When I saw Radvanovsky in Anna Bolena here in Chicago, he seems to light a fire underneath of her.

    • steveac10

      I think Hymel casting at the Met since the Troyens has been a matter of “let’s fill our open slots with his open slots” -- even if only moderately appropriate. It’s a step up from the “oops we should have booked this one before everybody else did” approach to the likes of Barton and Fabiano.

      I think what it has come down to with casting at the Met now that the record companies have essentially lost there power to create stars, is that they wait for other companies to create them before they latch on. The Gelb era has been conspicuously lacking in home grown stars. The Met associated talent that headline got their starts in the Volpe area. Now they get potential attractions and toss the really promising Lindemann grads a couple of Gretels or Silvios every season or two and let other companies do the heavy lifting for them. The only post Volpe house grown talent that they’ve shown any loyalty to are the yawn inducing Isabel Leonard, and the now singing elsewhere Lisette Oropesa.

      • And I think we can be reasonably certain that this disorganization has nothing at all to do with a musical director who only rarely shows up for work.

  • Here’s Rad’s “Vil bastarda”, including a couple of glottal attacks.

    Not bad at all.

    https://www.facebook.com/MetOpera/videos/10156594007295533/

  • I was there last night. I basically liked it, despite some reservations.
    http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2016/02/maria-stuarda-sarah-palin-vs-hillary.html

  • antikitschychick

    great reviews CC and Ivy. I’d be interested in hearing a radio broadcast of this. I watched the clips the Met posted and while she sounds great (loved the glottal attacks!) her acting just leaves much to be desired for someone who studied theater. She just makes all of these odd gestures and grimaces; at one point she looks like she is smiling which completely goes against the drama of the piece. The way she sings compromises her ability to act imho and it’s not that she doesn’t know how to act; the problem is she doesn’t have the physical freedom to let her body do the singing and mentally focus on the acting for a prolonged period of time. A real shame. Opera is tough and few can match the demands of the score like she can which is why she’s great to listen to though and has an amazing voice.

    • I don’t think she’s smiling, I think her vocal production is such that when she sings notes a certain way it looks like she is smiling. I notice a lot of singers have these weird tics when they sing certain notes. Anna Netrebko for instance always tilts her head to the side when singing high notes.

      • antikitschychick

        Yes sorry that’s exactly what I meant but I just didn’t clarify that she looks like she is smiling because it’s part of her singing technique/method of vocal production. I know shes not actually smiling. I assume she does it to raise her soft pallate.

        I’ve noticed the head tilting AN does as well although in her case it doesn’t seem to affect the vocal production at all even though you would think it should since her muscles arent completely aligned with the rest of her body and that usually affects the sound in a negative way. Maybe she does it to hear herself better…who knows lol.

  • Opera Teen

    Saw Maria Stuarda last night which I enjoyed. I’ll put a full writeup of it on my blog, but Here is my interpretation of why Elizabeth is lurching about the stage all night: she’s wearing a chastity belt. It’d make sense that the Virgin Queen would do such a thing, and Freud would tell us that all that pent-up sexual frustration would drive someone wild, which it sort of did. Anyways, just a theory, and it completely changed my perspective on the production.

    • manou

      A chastity belt would have been worn by the wife of someone going off to war for prolonged absences -- the husband would take the key away with him, safe in the knowledge that his wife was physically prevented from unfaithfulness.

      It does not seem very likely that the unmarried Queen would subject herself to such an instrument of torture.

      However -- nice try!

      • armerjacquino

        Plus there’s no guarantee anyone ever wore any such thing- no authenticated examples have ever been found.

        This being a McVicar production, there will certainly be a historically accurate explanation, but I don’t think it’s this one.

        • Batty Masetto

          Sadly, it’s not all that well researched, AJ -- Elizabeth was only 9 years older than Mary and Mary was 45 at her death, which meant neither of them was a spring chicken any more. The age difference isn’t played up in Schiller or Verdi, either – in fact Schiller wanted both of them to be viable romantic heroines – it’s just that somehow the tradition has come to insist on an old ugly Elizabeth and a young lovely Mary.

          • armerjacquino

            Why drag Verdi into it?;-)

            • Batty Masetto

              Well, it was one of them Eye-talians anyway. They all sound alike to me.

            • Elizabeth had smallpox which left her face scarred and caused her hair to fall out, so her heavy red wigs and white powdered makeup are historically accurate.

              The other historically accurate part of Maria Stuarda was that Elizabeth was exceedingly jealous of Leicester (although the Leicester/Mary affair was fiction). He married twice but she continued to adore him until his death. She kept his last letter in a box and slept with it by her bedside for the rest of her life.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      Pent-up sexual frustration is overrated. If you read about Elizabeth Tudor’s life experiences, you get the distinct impression that her biggest issue was not sex, but staying alive.

      Mary Stuart was raised gently and then thrust into the cold. It was the opposite for Elizabeth, and she never forgot how precarious her position was.

    • It’s generally accepted, I think, that the “virgin” modifier was meant to be understood as “unmarried woman,” which in itself was pretty spectacular in its novelty.

    • Opera Teen
      • manou

        From the unlikely page of The Tudors,

        http://www.thetudorswiki.com/page/Queen+Elizabeth+I+-+Historical+profile

        some intriguing information, including this:

        “Henri De Valois was 21 when it was proposed that he marry Elizabeth (aged 37). There were rumours he was bisexual & a transvestite. He tactlessly referred to Elizabeth as a putain publique (a “public *****”) and made stinging remarks about their difference in age.

        Upon hearing she limped because of a varicose vein, he called her an “old creature with a sore leg.”

  • Krunoslav

    “If you read about Elizabeth Tudor’s life experiences, you get the distinct impression that her biggest issue was not sex, but staying alive.”

    In glancing at this sentence in the Cher Public section, I at first took its subject to be the star of NATIONAL VELVET and BUTTERFIELD EIGHT.