Donizetti: Maria Stuarda

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."

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