More Tudor queens

confrontationToday’s MetHD broadcast of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda was a bit of a mixed bag.  There were some really good performances.  Joyce DiDonato in particular gave what may well have been a truly great performance and I would have loved to have seen it live.  David McVicar’s production was much better than his Anna Bolena; visually interesting and with some strong dramatic ideas.  However the good was pretty seriously undermined by another really awful piece of video directing by Gary Halvorson.  I guessed it was him after about ten minutes. The incessant use of the nose cam and the incredibly irritating low level tracking shots were a dead give away.  It was a big disappointment since the last two shows I saw, La Clemenza di Tito and Les Troyens, were filmed by Barbara Willis-Sweete and had given me some faint hope that the Met was capable of self analysis and improvement in this area.  Hope that was, alas, sadly dashed today.

glorianaMcVicar’s production is quite interesting (at least as far as one could tell).  His Elizabeth is a curiously masculine and informal figure.  The antics at her court and her willingness to be “one of the boys”; even to the point of rather being brow beaten by her courtiers are very unhistorical but do set her up as an interesting dramatic contrast to the more feminine, and in some ways more regal Mary.  He has the perfect executant in Elza van den Heever who manages a very masculine posture and way of moving throughout.  It’s a bit like Henry VIII in drag but it’s effective.  Most of the rest of the production is unfussy, bar a few McVicar clichés like cheeky chappy acrobats and a giant executioner.  McVicar, rightly I think, concentrates on the relationships; the Elizabeth, Mary, Leicester love triangle, the conflict between Cecil and Talbot and, above all, the central one of the queens’ view of themselves and each other.  It explodes in the great confrontation scene where each of them lay out their position with vehemence and a sense of being utterly right; as both, in their own terms, are.  From then on the scenes follow with a certain inevitability but the pathos is well handled.

cecilThe performances were all helped by the singers clearly buying in to McVicar’s concept.  Both DiDonato and van den Heever in particular entirely characterised what was needed.  Add in that DiDonato sang both as dramatically and as beautifully as I could ever imagine and I think we can count that as a truly great performance.  Van den Heever also showed terrific vocal power and some subtlety too to match her fine acting.  I don’t think she’s exactly a bel canto natural but she was good in this role and she’s only 33 so I think we can expect some really good things in the future.  The men were all fine too.  I particular enjoyed Matthew Rose’s sympathetic Talbot but Joshua Hopkins was also good as an appropriately cold Cecil and Matthew Polenzani made the most of the rather daft Leicester.  With the Met orchestra and chorus and a bel canto specialist in Maurizio Bernini on the podium everything came together just fine.

Shame about the camera work.  This could have been awesome.

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8 thoughts on “More Tudor queens

  1. I was absolutely blown away by this opera! But now that I come to think of it I do remmber being somehow annoyed by the fact there were some strange close ups in this. But the performers definately made up for that, at least for me. I was a mess at the end, it was really quite something, probably the best Maria Stuarda production I’ve ever seen.
    But the role it self of Leicester is kind of ridiculous, he’s one of those typical man that really cannot read women at all and thinks that he can hahahah
    But I loved it!

    • Well, we’re certainly on the same page with regards to the video directing – once again, a lost opportunity to provide the HD audience with at least some idea of what this production looked like within the theatre! I’m less convinced that this is a role for JDD. Yes, very well-acted, and I guess very good singing. However I really wonder about a mezzo (even a high one) in this role. I enjoyed the freedom at the top of the range that Serena Farnocchia had in the COC production of a couple seasons back. JDD just doesn’t have this (and shouldn’t be expected to given her voice type) and a lot of the higher, sustained tones to my ear sounded rather unsupported – I’d be very curious to hear from someone who heard it live as to whether her voice carried at the MET!

  2. I saw the final performance in the house from orchestra standing room and Joyce DiDonato’s voice was strong and clear back there.

    This was the best production I’ve seen at the Met this season, excellently sung and acted.

    • Thank you! Great to have an opinion of someone who was actually in the house! I am very conflicted as to the value of these HD transmissions. While I don’t seem able to resist the chance to see these MET productions (almost) live, I’m constantly second guessing my reactions keeping in mind that I’m hearing these voice through a very artificial medium. I do think that this instalment of the Tudor trilogy was better staged (even though by the same director) and acted than Anna Bolena, and I think a lot of that is due to the performers (sorry, but JDD is much better in this regard than AN) in question. It will be interesting to see what happens with Roberto Devereux in a season or two.

  3. Pingback: The Met’s Maria Stuarda on DVD | operaramblings

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