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Friday, January 04, 2013

When a Bastard is a Bitch or Vice Versa

Maria Stuarda at the Met: Eliza van den Hever as Elizabeth; Joyce DiDonato as Mary

Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda received its Metropolitan Opera premiere last week, 170 years after it was first performed. New York certainly has not been without this dramatic opera about Mary Queen of Scots. Beverly Sills sang the unhappy queen (to the delight of legions of other...queens) in the 1970s. Montserrat Caballe and Shirley Verrett played Mary and Elisabeth (Elisabetta thank you very much) at Carnegie Hall in the 60s.

Beverly Sills comments on Maria Stuarda




The Met brings us the wonderful Joyce Di Donato and a soprano from South Africa called Eliza van Hevel.
The source for Donizetti's opera is not history by Friedrich Schiller's drama Maria Stuart. Any dramatist who eschews a confrontation scene between Mary and her cosing, Elizabeth I is a fool. No fool Schiller.In fact, the two ladies never came within 100 miles of one another.  History tells us that the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, the widowed Queen of France,was the heir to Elizabeth-who was considered by the Catholic world a 'usuperer'. Elizabeth was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, for whom Henry VIII has abandoned Roman Catholicism.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587)

Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) and his librettist Cesare Bardari agreed with Schiller. Mary and Elizabeth had to meet and get into a vocal/vernal bitchfest.And so they do-in the park near Fotheringay-where Mary has been imprisoned for years. The meeting begins with biting courtesies but deteriorates quickly. Elizabeth calls Mary "shameless." And finally,the Scottish Queen snaps-in Italian no less:

Figlia impura di bolena, parli tu di disonore           
Memetrice indegna oscena!                                          
In te cada il mio rossor!
Profanta, e il trono inglese
Vil bastarda, dal tuo pie!

Beverly Sills, New York City Opera, 1972
Impious daughter of Anne Boleyn                                                                          
Do you speak of dishonor?
Lying, guilty obscene woman!
I blush for you.
The English throne is profaned
Vile bastard, by your foot!

Here's the scene sung in English, with Dame Janet Baker and Rosalind Plowright:



Montserrat Caballe (Maria) and Bianca Berini





At the New York City Opera, Ashley Putnam and Marisa Galvany





And the greatest voice of all, Joan Sutherland, with Huguette Tourangeau, Amsterdam
(with horrible production quality--sorry)




Alas, I'm aware of no video with Beverly Sills: I think she takes this scene hands down. Here's the audio at least:



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