ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti: Maria Stuarda
WORKS: Maria Stuarda
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato, Elza van den Heever, Matthew Polenzani, Joshua Hopkins, Matthew Rose; Metropolitan Opera/Maurizio Benini; dir. David McVicar (New York, 2012)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564632035
This 2012 Met production by Sir David McVicar turns to the second of Donizetti’s three Tudor operas, all of which he is staging for the New York company. It represents McVicar’s traditionalist approach at its most intelligent, and even if the result seems visually old-fashioned, it’s hard to think of an alternative way of staging the conflict between Elizabeth I and her doomed cousin Mary, Queen of Scots that would provide such narrative clarity alongside theatrical vitality.
The result is handsomely designed (by John Macfarlane), well acted and strongly sung. Elza van den Heever delivers a statuesque Elizabeth, if with tomboyish tendencies; hers may not be the most beautiful bel canto around, but she negotiates the notes with skill. Again, arguably less than vocally ideal as Mary, Joyce DiDonato offers a physically plain, emotionally determined martyr-monarch, her singing closely and impressively aligned with the character’s emotional journey.
The production’s secondary roles – Joshua Hopkins’s Cecil, Matthew Polenzani’s Leicester and Matthew Rose’s Talbot – are all vocally respectable if a trifle dull dramatically, though Maria Zifchak makes something of Mary’s confidante, Hannah. Conductor Maurizio Benini rises above routine to bring flexibility to his conducting, while the Met’s orchestra and chorus consistently fulfil expectations of their international quality.
There is some useful material included in the extras of this HD Live Broadcast edition: a bonus documentary features soprano Deborah Voigt interviewing the cast, as well as footage of Met supremo Peter Gelb talking to McVicar and Macfarlane.