Donizetti: Maria Stuarda

The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD 2012

Joyce DiDonato
Elza van den Heever
Matthew Polenzani
Joshua Hopkins
Matthew Rose

Maurizio Benini, Conductor
David McVicar, Director

DVD Release Date: April 8, 2014

On New Year’s Eve 2012 Joyce DiDonato became the first singer to take the title role in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. With her at its heart, the production became, in the words of Opera magazine, “a high point of the season and of the company’s performance history of bel canto operas”. Gramophone DVD of the Month, August 2014. “DiDonato is an absolute knock-out…spellbinding through a perfect combination of singing and acting.”

The staging is gripping from beginning to end, thanks to committed acting all around . . . But this is Joyce DiDonato’s show, in a role she has made very much her own. She dominates each scene she is in, with phrase after perfectly placed phrase going straight to the heart.Opera Magazine

The production stars the great American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in the title role… [Her] performance will be pointed to as a model of singing in which all components of the art form: technique, sound, color, nuance, and diction come together in service to expression and eloquence.” The New York Times

New Year’s Eve 2012 brought the first-ever performance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, famed for its incendiary, if fictional, confrontation between Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots) and Queen Elizabeth I of England. The performance on this DVD took place on January 19th 2013 and was broadcast to cinemas around the world.

Based on a play by Friedrich Schiller, Maria Stuarda achieved new currency in the 1960s, and the title role has attracted such legendary singers as Joan Sutherland, Leyla Gencer, Beverley Sills and Janet Baker. “To have brought this character to life at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in its history is an incredible privilege,” said Joyce DiDonato. “It is a role that has been inhabited by the best of the best, each star singer bringing a completely different set of strengths to her treacherous phrases and her dramatic journey. To have had the chance to put my stamp on her with such a supportive team will, I’m certain, always remain a career highlight for me.”

David McVicar directed the production with its striking use of vivid colors and stark imagery, and Maurizio Benini conducted a cast that also featured the imposing South African soprano Elza van den Heever, making her Met debut as “a vocally burnished and emotionally tempestuous Elizabeth… Her voice has penetrating depth and character. She turns flights of coloratura passagework into bursts of jealousy and defiance as Elizabeth contends with the threat that Mary, a blood relative, poses to her reign in England” (The New York Times). As the Earl of Leicester, caught between the rival queens, American tenor Matthew Polenzani brought “melting sound and appealing vulnerability to the role.”

The magnificent final scene of the opera sees Mary preparing for her execution. “What can be said about the final 20 minutes of this opera?” asks Joyce DiDonato. “It is like being shot out of a cannon and there is no slowing down or adjusting along the way. Mary is certainly terrified and yet she manages to find a deep reservoir of determination and fortitude that enables her to climb to her death. She has finally found her peace.”

“Joyce DiDonato shows even more the many sides to the character of Mary, Queen of Scots. If you should still need a repost to anyone who doubts the subtlety of the composer’s ability to characterise in music, simply play this disc. Joyce DiDonato brings out all the changing aspects of music and character with singing which is never less than of piercing beauty and truthfulness, especially in the final scene, one of the composer’s greatest inspirations.

-Music Web International

Joyce DiDonato’s central performance is so riveting that it alone makes this disc worth purchasing. Her coloratura is always meaningful (as well as pinpoint accurate) and her since of line is immaculate.  Mary’s descent to the proud by palsied Queen of the final scene is immeasurably moving.”

–Opera Now

As Mary, Joyce DiDonato is an absolute knock-out. She makes a tender impression with her cavatina, the regretful cantabile followed by perfectly placed coloratura in the cabaletta. She holds herself back in the ‘false canon’ that opens the confrontation before, goaded beyond endurance, she lets rip. In prison, shaking uncontrollably, she has a moving confession scene with Talbot; at the scaffold her preghiera builds up to a mighty climax before she forgives Elizabeth and bids farewell to Leicester.  In all of this, DiDonato is spellbinding through perfect combination of singing and acting. This production should be seen by anyone who thinks bel canto opera is nothing but sopranos and tenors standing around, warbling scales.

Gramophone ***Editor’s Choice***

Album info

Release date: April 22, 2014
Number of Discs: 1
Format: DVD / Prime Video
Label: Erato