The Royal Opera House Muscat (Oman) Presents:
December 12 & 14, 2013
Gaetano Donizetti wrote three operas loosely based on the lives of three Tudor Queens – Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart, and Elizabeth I. The Welsh National Opera presents a new production of Maria Stuarda, the second opera of the so called Tudor Trilogy. This fascinating story imagines a confrontation between two women pitched in a battle for the British Isles: Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Gaetano Donizetti’s riveting opera transports us to a Britain at war with itself where the two cousins – and adversaries for the British throne – face off in a series of intensely dramatic confrontations.
This half-truth, half-fiction story brilliantly illuminates the ironic parallels between its two heroines and offers a poignant look at pride, uncertainty and personal lives being swept up in the fate of nations.
Welsh National Opera, 12th & 14th December 2013, Royal opera House Muscat
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Designer: Madeleine Boyd
Lighting Designer: Matthew Haskins
Elisabetta (Elizabeth), Queen of England: Adina Nitescu
Giorgio (George) Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury: Alastair Miles
Guglielmo Cecil (Lord William Cecil): Gary Griffiths
Roberto (Robert), Earl of Leicester: Bruce Sledge
Anna (Hannah), Kennedy Maria’s companion: Rebecca Afonwy-Jones
Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart), Queen of Scotland: Judith Howard
SYNOPSIS:The Court awaits the arrival of Queen Elizabeth, who is expected to announce her marriage to the Duke of Anjou. Elizabeth reveals that she is still undecided on whether or not to unite the thrones of England and France by this marriage, but assures her Court that she will only act for the good of the people. Aside, she confesses her secret love for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Talbot and the courtiers then plead for mercy towards Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, imprisoned at Fotheringhay, but Elizabeth is unwilling to relent, a course in which she is encouraged by Sir William Cecil. Leicester arrives and is ordered by Elizabeth to take her ring to the French envoy as a token of her provisional acceptance of the marriage proposal. Deeply hurt by his cool reaction to this news, the Queen departs. Talbot tells Leicester of a meeting with Mary and gives him a portrait of her, along with a letter begging for his help. Leicester vows to secure Mary’s freedom. When Elizabeth returns she demands to see the letter he is holding. Despite her anger at Mary’s aspirations to the English crown and her intense jealousy of Leicester’s affections, she reluctantly agrees to visit her.
Mary and her companion, Hannah, recollect their early life in France. Hearing the sounds of the Royal Hunt, Mary realizes that Elizabeth is in the vicinity. Leicester arrives and explains that the Hunt is only a pretext for Elizabeth to visit Mary and persuades her to be submissive if she hopes for mercy. As the two women meet for the first time, each feels instant hostility towards the other. Mary humbles herself but Elizabeth responds by accusing her of treachery, murder and debauchery. Mary, taunted beyond endurance, denounces Elizabeth as the unlawful daughter of Anne Boleyn. Cecil urges Elizabeth to sign the order for Mary’s execution, following her complicity in the Babington plot to assassinate the Queen, but Elizabeth is still undecided; she cannot bring herself to condemn an anointed monarch. Cecil eventually succeeds in persuading Elizabeth to sign the warrant.
When Leicester learns that Mary has been condemned to death he makes a final plea for her life, upbraiding Elizabeth for her cruelty when she refuses to yield. He is then detailed by the Queen to witness Mary’s execution. Mary is visited by Talbot and Cecil; the latter hands her the death sentence and leaves her alone with Talbot. He tells her of Elizabeth’s decision that Leicester is to witness her execution. Mary becomes distraught and imagines that she sees the ghosts of her former husband and lover, Darnley and Rizzio. Talbot urges her to place her trust in Heaven and to prepare to face her death with resignation.
A waiting crowd watches the preparations for Mary’s execution. Mary bids them farewell and they join her in a final prayer for heavenly pardon. Mary forgives Elizabeth and prays for the welfare of England. She breaks down when Leicester arrives, protesting her innocence and asking him to support her as the hour of her death approaches. A final cannon shot is heard and Mary is led out to the scaffold.