A complete 1972 performance finds Beverly Sills facing off against Pauline Tinsley; a great 1967 first-act confrontation pits Montserrat Caballé against Shirley Verrett; and Maria’s final scene features Mara Zampieri from 1986.
The Trove Thursday archive is notably sparse when it comes to serious Donizetti, so this week’s offerings are an attempt to make amends. The Met’s canceled revival was to have featured the most common of Maria-Elisabetta combinations: a soprano and a mezzo. When the McVicar production was new, it featured a mezzo Maria and a soprano Elisabetta followed by two sopranos leading the first revival, as one hears in the Sills-Tinsley “pirate.”
It’s widely believed that Sills wasn’t so fond of Tinsley, her first on-stage Elisabetta, which might explain why the English soprano never appeared in another role at City Opera. Tinsley was later replaced by Marisa Galvany who rarely seemed to get her due at the company—usually appearing in the second run: for example, following Tinsley in Stuarda and then Grace Bumbry for both Medea and Nabucco.
Today’s “Figlia impura di Bolena” denunciation comes from the first time Caballé encountered Verrett’s Virgin Queen. They later performed the opera together on stage at La Scala and in concert in London. Verrett initially took on her role earlier in 1967 opposite Leyla Gencer in Florence while later Caballé was sent to her death by many other Elisabettas including Michèle Vilma, Bianca Berini, Viorica Cortez, Anna Reynolds, Nedda Casei (!). Cora Canne-Meijer and the unlikeliest Brigitte Fassbaender.
Vienna’s Stuarda premiered in 1985 with Edita Gruberovà in the title role opposite Agnes Baltsa. whose Elisabetta would become her third most often performed role in Vienna after Carmen and Rossini’s Isabella. Gruberovà would go on to perform Maria 13 more times at the Austrian house and later recorded it with Baltsa for Philips. Zampieri took on Donizetti’s opera at the Staatsoper the year after its premiere for the first of 13 performances there, and this recording captures just her second Viennese Maria.
The van Dam selection promised for this week has been moved to next month. By the way, three of today’s divas also appear in this week’s Ernani quiz!
Donizetti: Maria Stuarda
New York City Opera
30 August 1972
Maria — Beverly Sills
Elisabetta — Pauline Tinsley
Leicester — Enrico di Giuseppe
Talbot — Richard Fredricks
Cecil — Michael Devlin
Conductor — Charles Wendelken-Wilson
Donizetti: Maria Stuarda – Act One Finale
American Opera Society at Carnegie Hall
6 December 1967
Maria — Montserrat Caballé
Elisabetta — Shirley Verrett
Leicester — Edoardo Gimenez
Talbot — Ron Bottcher
Cecil — Alan Baker
Conductor — Carlo Felice Cillario
Donizetti: Maria Stuarda – Final Scene
8 November 1986
Maria — Mara Zampieri
Conductor — Adam Fischer
These three faces of Maria can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.
Bellini’s La Straniera, another American Opera Society-Caballé bel canto collaboration, can be heard here.
The archive listing all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer has been updated.