Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
Gaetano Donizetti's Maria Stuarda was delivered with passion, drama and brilliantly controlled movements during its live streaming from The Metropolitan Opera last Saturday.
Maria Stuarda is the 2013 season's opener in the Met's Live in HD series at the Carib Theatre.
The opera is part of a trilogy which seeks to depict the history of the Tudors. The second in the three-part series, Maria Stuarda brings to light the well-documented rivalry between Elizabeth I, the Queen of England (Elza van den Heever) and her cousin Queen Mary Stewart or Maria Stuarda (Joyce DiDonato) of Scotland.
Shortly after the beautiful sounds of the orchestra filled the four-tiered opera house with the overture, the curtains open to reveal a 16th century courtyard with people awaiting the arrival of Elizabeth. She announces her acceptance of the marriage proposal of the brother of the French king.
But she is truly in love with Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, played by Matthew Polenzani who has fallen in love with the younger and more attractive looking Maria. This angers Elizabeth, who also accuses Maria of wanting to take her throne.
On the other hand, Maria is under house arrest for a number of years. She left Scotland for her part in the death of her husband, Danley. She sends a letter to Robert who is forced to show Elizabeth the letter. He does so and asks Elizabeth to free her. Elizabeth refuses but agrees to see her.
Maria's fate is cemented at the end of an incredible scene, ripe with the issues between the two ladies outside Fotheringly Castle.
In spite of the entreaties coming from Robert and George Talbot (Maria's jailer, played by Matthew Rose (Maria's jailer) the two trade insults.
In part two of the opera, Elizabeth is cajoled by the very patriotic William Cecil, played by Joshua Hopkins, into signing her cousin's death warrant. Maria is to be executed when the cannon makes it third sound.
Cecil begs for mercy for Maria but instead the Queen commands him to be present at the execution.
Before her execution, Maria, in another very emotive scene, clings to her rosary and tells Talbot of a past that haunts her.
Now at peace, she turns down the offer of a minister before her execution. She is Catholic.
red dress revealed
She gives away her jewellery and before ascending the steps to the gallows, she removes her black dress and reveals a red one, the colour of Catholic martyrdom - a powerful ending to an awesome production.
The talented cast was led by Didonato in her 250th performance for the Metropolitan Opera.
She portrayed a believably compassionate Maria Stuarda.
Physically, she contrasted well with van den Heever as Elizabeth.
It was a superb performance also for Rose, Hopkins and Polenzani.
John McFarlane's use of predominantly black and grey was effective in reinforcing the mood and atmosphere of the opera.
Maurizio Benini was the conductor for the large orchestra.
The Metropolitan Opera series continues in February with a 1960s twist of Rigoletto.
Set in Los Angeles with a fast car as part of the set, Rigoletto promises to be exciting.