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  • Your reaction: Maria Stuarda

Your reaction: Maria Stuarda

What did you think of Moshe Leiser's and Patrice Caurier's arresting new production of Donizetti's Tudor tragedy?

By Lottie Butler (Assistant Content Producer)

6 July 2014 at 12.11pm | 78 Comments

http://www.flickr.com/photos/royaloperahouse/14385763550/

What did you think of Maria Stuarda? Maria Stuarda runs until 18 July 2014. Tickets are still available. A co-production with Polish National Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, and Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona. Generous philanthropic support from Lord and Lady Laidlaw, Susan and John Singer and Michael Hartnall.

This article has 78 comments

  1. Kevin Grainger responded on 6 July 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

    Fabulous singing but poor production. This seems to be current norm at ROH. The booing was totally justified. A confused, cheap-as-chips affair but Joyce was superb and Ismael had abs to die for (he sang well too)

    • The booing was AN UTTER DISGRACE. I remonstrated with one of the ring-leaders, but he just shouted at me. I agree the production was minimalist, but the point of it is to enable us to concentrate on the psychological drama, the interaction between the characters and especially the confrontation between the queens.

  2. David Jamieson responded on 6 July 2014 at 7:11pm Reply

    This performance was crass and an insult to the audience and singers. Two very fine performances by the Queens but the awfullness of the production defied description. How the management allowed this beggars belief and reflects badly on their competence,Costumes, sets modern v. period etc etc it was one of the worst!!

    • Chris responded on 6 July 2014 at 11:02pm

      can you please explain why you thought this production was an "insult" to the audience and the singers? is it because it wasn't a pretty, boring period production or is it because you missed the point of it?

  3. Paul O'Keefe responded on 6 July 2014 at 8:55pm Reply

    World class singing but an utter turkey of a production. We pay for this (unseen), and Directors get paid very handsomely. What is one supposed except boo if ROH keeps misjudging things to this dire extent. I didn't think productions could get weaker after the last two acts of Manon Lescaut but I was wrong.

    • Chris responded on 6 July 2014 at 11:07pm

      again, if you're going to be so harsh on somebody else's work, can you please elaborate?

  4. Mark responded on 6 July 2014 at 9:13pm Reply

    The whole production of ‘Maria Stuarda’ was ridiculously distracting, disrespectful to the work and the composer and insulting to the splendid cast. That the audience vociferously expressed its disapproval of the production and the inept team responsible was no surprise. It was galling to see the directors smiling and laughing. They will still receive a totally undeserved and substantial fee. This production should never have been allowed on stage.

    • Chris responded on 6 July 2014 at 11:15pm

      what was a disgrace was the booing. the directors were smiling out of awkwardness. i cannot believe the disrespect some people have for somebody else's work. the singers also seemed taken back by the booing. the performance was so electrifying, it was obviously also due to the production, but that is probably something people are not willing to admit because the sets didn't look "pretty" enough

  5. Matteo Gallanti responded on 6 July 2014 at 9:48pm Reply

    Finally also London audience is able to boo, the production is so ugly, so unclever, so cheap
    And the signing is so good
    such a disproportion: ROH stop hiring incapable directors!

  6. Jay responded on 6 July 2014 at 9:54pm Reply

    A bel canto delight. Couldn't have asked for two more splendid, indeed outstanding, performances from the two queens, absolutely superb, brava Joyce and Carmen, and bravo to Ismael too who looked every inch the romantic hero. Excellent supporting cast added heft and harmoniously complemented the leads. The music was truly fabulous, sublime even.
    As to the sets, well they weren't anywhere near as bad as those for Manon Lescaut in my view, so I thought the booing a bit over the top this time. However, a very spare Westminster backdrop followed by a Prisoner Cell Block H set and a clinically white-tiled, contemporary American-style execution room within it rather rammed the point home and almost down our throats a little. Surely the directors can give the audience a bit of credit - show, don't tell, is the old adage in storytelling - and we can understand Mary is a prisoner without setting the second half in an obvious prison. That said, I thought the use of the projector was clever and at times very beautiful and moving, for example the field of flowers.
    I do hope the ROH takes note of the disaffection of audiences for this relentless desire for very stark and modern sets, we do need a bit of variety now and again, and a bit of old fashioned lavishness.
    I also hope people won't be put off by the audience reaction to the sets as the performances were out of this world.

  7. Herbert Kammermeier responded on 7 July 2014 at 12:32am Reply

    I can only think of two possible reasons for thís shameful and aggressive reaction part of the audience showed against the production team: Those sitting on the far right side of the stage could hardly see what happened in the cell where Maria was executed. I concede this is an annoying mistake which can hopefully be mended. Still, it doesn't justify the booing. The second reason could be this: The realism of the claustrophobic atmosphere in Maria's prison was so nightmarish and oppressive that it was hard to endure for those who like to enjoy the "cosy" atmosphere of a traditional production. They must have been deeply agitated by their emotions - that is why they resisted it. But this is the greatest compliment a production can get when it touches the audience in their core. I myself found it one of the most intelligent, gripping and deeply moving opera productions I have ever seen, and I was glad that I met Mr Cautier outside the ROH and could congratulate him. BTW, if this production was already "too much" for you, wait for IDOMENEO which will be directed by the notorious "berserk" Martin Kusej...

    • Mark responded on 7 July 2014 at 2:57pm

      Realism!? It was precisely because the production had no 'realism' on any level that so many people properly had contempt for it. As for the autistic psychobabble, you and the directors might enjoy going for lunch together?

    • I agree, a 'traditional' production would have been too 'cozy' - a prison scene NEEDS to be oppressive and claustrophobic. I may have already mentioned this in a previous reply, but - I didn't think the production was wonderful, I thought it was 'OK', certainly fit for purpose. The minimalist staging enables the audience to concentrate on the psychological drama and the interaction between the characters. One particularly poignant piece of realism was that just before the execution Maria has to discard her velvet dress, and she sits there in her shift while the executioner CUTS HER HAIR. This was so sad......were people not moved by this?

    • dehggial responded on 11 July 2014 at 5:34pm

      I for one am definitely waiting for Kusej's Idomeneo! Got my ticket and all :-D

  8. bill worley responded on 7 July 2014 at 9:44am Reply

    Another load of junk.. Booing was completely justified as the Directors clearly had not read the libretto. Surely somoene at ROH asks whether the paying public will actually like a production. After this, the disgusting Manon Lescaut and an unspeakable Don Giovanni I have decided not to renew my Friends' subscription.

  9. John Kidd responded on 7 July 2014 at 9:50am Reply

    I actually thought it was the production that was a disgrace, not the booing. If paying audiences are insulted to that extent, they are entitled to react... 'Arresting' is not the word for it. The directors should hang their heads in shame for giving that for the singers to work with... But who were valiant beyond the call of duty!

  10. Giacomo responded on 7 July 2014 at 11:39am Reply

    I joined the booing and it was fully deserved. The boos were only at the end, directed at specific people and there was no interruption to the performance. It's not a North Korean political rally and when presented with rubbish like this more people should boo.

    Only singers two in 2 costume, the others there to confuse. I almost find it hard to criticise the staging because there was almost none. It looked like the total budget was under £100 with a few tables and chairs borrowed from the staff canteen.

    This is BAD.

    • Well frankly the booing DID sound like a 'North Korean political rally' - or like the Two Minutes' Hate in 'Nineteen Eighty Four'. OK, people have the right to express their opinion,, but they don't have the right to drown out the opinion of others. The booing seemed to originate in the standing places behind us in the Amphitheatre, and went ON AND ON.; I remonstrated with one of the ringleaders, but to no avail. They had no right to DROWN OUT THE APPLAUSE.

    • Giacomo responded on 7 July 2014 at 4:59pm

      For the record, no performer was booed and I emphasise the booing did not interrupted the performance. The booing was all for the directors who unusually showed their faces but it didn't last long as they hid amongst the performers making it difficult to direct feeling.

      No one boos at North Korean rallies, my reference to North Korea is:
      http://www.wnyc.co.uk/story/was-north-koreas-no-2-killed-for-not-clapping-hard-enough/
      http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/supreme-leader-kim-jung-executes-uncle/

      Fortunately for us clapping is not obligatory and we have every right to express dissatisfaction.

  11. Ditlev responded on 7 July 2014 at 11:52am Reply

    I haven't seen the production yet but the issue of booing is very interesting and would surely merit an article by the online team here? Personally I never boo a performer unless I feel they are blatantly underprepared, in which case their lack of respect for their audience and colleagues deserves to be shamed. The fact that they might be mediocre performers or having a bad night is not enough of a justification to boo and humiliate them , in my opinion - they have to have been actively disrespectful towards their audience to justify it. With directors I feel the situation is essentially the same, except that allowances (or doubts) do not need to be made for poor health on the day - we know that what we are seeing represents their final statement on the work. I can think of several new productions I've seen recently in London and elsewhere which I found bland and lacking in ideas, but which still basically worked and therefore I didn't boo. If a production is technically incompetent and intellectually incoherent - such as the Jonathon Kent 'Manon Lescaut' - then I do feel booing is appropriate because the director and the opera house management have not invested the appropriate energy into making sure that the show makes sense and is visible to the audience. Applause is a default response these days, but as audience members we have already paid the performers for their services - applause exists to give praise so why shouldn't people boo in exceptional circumstances when they feel ripped off?

  12. Andres responded on 7 July 2014 at 1:54pm Reply

    The production was just dismal. Dire estate of opera if four, FOUR, houses have to chip in to finance such cheap (and, worse, cheap looking) sets. And within those sets, the only thing the directors did was scatter sofas and chairs around the stage so the singers would walk around, sit or knock them. Total amateurism, laziness and lack of ideas - that's why the booing happened, not because there was a mixture of modern and old times - see Ariadne which was not booed and it did mix times as well.

  13. Tim responded on 7 July 2014 at 1:54pm Reply

    I was very lucky to see the final general rehearsal of Maria Stuarda. Joyce was totally mesmerising and Giannattasio was incredibly impressive too! I can't say I'm surprised that the production met with such disapproval, and while booing leaves a nasty taste, I can understand why some choose to express themselves in this way.

    I'm personally a fan of modern/ minimalist productions and more often than not prefer them to potentially stuffy period pieces. I did however find this production lazy and extremely off putting in places. For me it's not about period versus modern, it's about making sure that whichever style the production team opts for, they do it well.

    I also saw Manon Lescaut, and again the singing was superb. I didn't mind that the context had been updated, and for one scene in Act II it worked incredibly well. But the point is, it didn't work for either Acts I or III and so the whole thing felt conceited. Don't just have one strong idea, and let the rest of the production suffer as a result.

    We're really fortunate that the ROH engages such a wide variety of production talent. There are always going to be stronger and weaker production, and risks need to be taken. My only request would be, if it’s clearly not working (as was the case for Maria Stuarda)… then work to improve it, without ploughing on regardless. Surely, it’s Kasper Holten’s responsibility to make that judgment, and bear the criticism when productions get it so wrong.

  14. bill worley responded on 7 July 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

    Tim - I agree totally with your view although I did not like Manon Lescaut either. The one thing I will say is that Kaspar Holten will argue all the decisons about Maria Staurda took place before he got to CG which I suppose is fair enough. It does not excuse anyone else not intervening before it was too late. As I have said, does someone ask if the paying public will like it. Judging by the reaction on Saturday, the majority did not. While I understood why people booed and it was justified, I did not jin in as I could not be bothered. I did not applaud any of the singers either again I couldn't be bothered. A comment earlier said that the singers looked surprised at the booing. I did not get that impression. Production team seemed to be saying "so what". Unfortunately we now live in an age of Director's opera and no one cares what the audience wants.

  15. Steve W responded on 7 July 2014 at 3:17pm Reply

    I booed the Directors on Saturday, for the first time in 20 years of opera going. They presented themselves on stage for the audience reaction, and they got it. The production was an insult, to composer, to singers, and to the audience who'd been so looking forward to it.

  16. Tony boyd-Williams responded on 7 July 2014 at 5:21pm Reply

    Might I respectfully refer to Mark Valencia's review of this production in Whatsonstage.com? .

  17. Phillip Wood responded on 7 July 2014 at 8:09pm Reply

    I too booed the production team on Saturday, the first time I have done so in more than 40 years of opera going. Time moves on and so does opera production, I am far from wedded to traditional productions, however this travesty was purely arrogance on the part of the directors, who showed no special insight with a mish mash of styles that lacked coherence but smacked of ego. It really was an insult to the intelligence of the audience and more so to work of Donizetti and Schiller. To parade the production team for applause at the end was a step too far for those of us who booed. It is quite insulting for others to say it was an attempt to attempt to drown out applause or that it was organised, it was simply an honest response to directorial arrogance. It should also be remembered that we are now stuck with this production for some time to come assuming of course that is is revived. Either way a complete waste of our money.

  18. Herbert Kammermeier responded on 8 July 2014 at 12:41am Reply

    Let me just add a few more remarks. First: Yes, whereas the singers got all the applause and cheers they could dream of (and well deserved it was, especially for Joyce Didonato's outstanding performance!), the boos were exlusively directed at the production team. So the evening was not a desaster at all! Second: If some comments complain about the directors' "arrogant" reactions and their smiles, may I ask what would be the "appropriate" reaction when you enter the stage after an obviously extraordinary successful first night and run against a wall of boos and vocal rejection? Would you show gratefulness and understanding for this "verdict", which was in no way unanimous, but none the less audible? Third: In my mind booing is not a very civilised way of expressing one's opinion. How about being silent instead - no applause, no bravo, just a soundless "no, thank you". And my final point is very pragmatic: As the production team show themselves on stage only on first nights, the booers have done their job on saturday, and all the other nights will be full of bliss and enthusiasm after a thrilling night at the opera - or as the director Patrice Caurier added to his autograph: "Vive l'opéra!"

  19. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 8 July 2014 at 8:20am Reply

    Michael Church's review in The Independent is also significant.

  20. Mark responded on 8 July 2014 at 9:14am Reply

    This production should never have reached the stage.I totally agree with this part of the review in The Daily Telegraph.
    'Sadly, this enthralling interpretation is framed by a roundly booed production in almost every respect so execrably crass as to bring the judgement – if not the sanity – of those responsible into question.'
    That a succession of productions at ROH have met with hostile reactions suggests that heads should roll.

  21. Steve W responded on 8 July 2014 at 9:37am Reply

    My overall view of the production was that it was just incoherent, crass and perverse... As if the Directors just dissappeared up their own backsides and naively expected an appreciative audience to follow. I'd be rather glad if the booing makes them think twice as at least it would give it purpose. I'm sorry they spent months on something that turned out so dismal but I would hope that next time they make the effort to see things from the point of view of an audience member who sees a production once or possibly twice... A few hours of anticipated pleasure, not months getting blinded by their own assumed intelligence and creativity. Almost no one goes to the opera to see the work of a Director, they go to see an opera, a story unfold... They go to hear a composer and listen to particular favourite singers interpret that composer. Interpretation isn't self aggrandising imposition. My main regret about the booing is the extent to which it must also inevitably have tarnished the opening night pride and joy of the singers.

  22. Steve W responded on 8 July 2014 at 10:40am Reply

    The last thing want to say on this is about hatred. The core of the opera is two women ultimately hating each other to the point of death. I wanted to love the production but I actually hated it. It is for the Directors to say how they feel, about the opera, and about the audience reaction to their efforts at presenting it, but they seem to have ended up being hated by a good proportion of the audience. Some people thrive on provoking negative attention, others thrive on handing it out... Without wishing to sound sentimental, I just hope that next time Caurier and Leiser are invited to direct for ROH, we can all feel just a bit more 'love'...

  23. Gwyneth Macaulay responded on 8 July 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

    I was blown away by Di Donato's an Giannattasio's performances - and the rest of the cast and de Billy's conducting were all excellent. The Telegraph, FT and Guardian reviews on these have said it all. But I was sadly disappointed by the incoherent Leiser-Caurier-Fenouillat-Cavalca team offering.
    There is nothing wrong with minimalism; Carsen's production of The Carmelites (especially his use of a silent crowd in drab modern kit depicting the brooding mob) never detracted from the drama and feeling of being 'there' with the nuns during the Paris reign of terror. Also Fulljames' scruffy bunker/gantry at the end of time worked well as the setting for Quartett (although a much lesser opera). There is also nothing intrinsically wrong with modern interpretation or out of period costume. New productions can often bring fresh insight and relevance to established great works. A few examples: McVicar's Salome and Ribeiro's Mozart and Salierie or (at the ENO) Alden's Peter Grimes and McBurney's Magic Flute, or (at Glyndebourne) Pelly's Hansel and Gretel.
    Although admittedly there have been several turkeys. I think that the opera goer wants to be engaged, moved and often challenged by not only the music, the words, the vocal and acting abilities of the cast - but also by the concept and/or staging of the work. Experimentation for its own sake is wrong and lazy. One would hope that directors actually read what the composer and librettist (and/or playwright) intended when a work was originally written and learn something about the relevant social/political context.
    Having read what a previous contributor has said I am now worried that the new Idomeneo will be re-invented in a public toilet!

  24. Jimmy H responded on 8 July 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

    I was at the first night and was genuinely shocked by the booing. I was not the only one - sitting close to the front as I was, I could see the dismayed reaction instantly on Joyce di Donato's face and from that point on I think she just wanted to get off the stage. She certainly looked like the cheers meant very little to her once the boos had been heard. It's amazing to me that people feel they can praise a singer's interpretation to the skies without placing it in the context of the hard work they have done in rehearsal with the director, as if the performance was entirely separable from the production. When you are dealing with a singer who is as gifted an actor as Joyce di Donato this is doubly true - her work with the directors will have been incredibly detailed and informed her performance throughout the evening. People should remember that by booing a producer they are also booing the interpretation of the singer. If you booed on Saturday night, then you booed Joyce di Donato. I'm sure that's how she sees it.

    • Herbert Kammermeier responded on 8 July 2014 at 8:04pm

      Sadly enough I have to agree 100%. That's exactly what I saw and felt as Ms Didonato's reaction when the booes against the production team swept away all her joy and her gratefulness after a triumphant first night.

  25. Lady K responded on 8 July 2014 at 3:57pm Reply

    I feel the booing was justified. Although I understand that di Donato was performing the edition used by the legendary Maria Malibran, it was not an outstanding performance. Di Donato sings sweetly, and acted well but did not sweep this listener away. Maria Stuarda has become a vehicle of the greatest bel canto sopranos and within LIVING memory we have heard Sutherland, Sills, Gruberova, Devia "own" this role ... so along comes di Donato with her small voice and short top and we are supposed to swoon? Why? Because she is young and slim and pretty? I realize Mezzo roles can seem limiting to an ambitious singer who has tired of singing Rosina and Octavian but expanding that fach would be far wiser than seeking out Soprano roles that do not go above high B. For Miss Di Donato, all notes above the staff are sung by emission and not by floating it on the tone. Compare her singing of the great Prayer in the last act of Maria Stuarda with the singing of Beverly Sills and you clearly hear the difference. Now that Miss Di Donato has performed the stunt of singing Maria Stuarda, I sincerely wish she would hang it up and leave it alone. Malibran was the Maria Callas of her day and she blazed across the stages of Europe in the bel canto hey day with a voice and personality that made audiences wake up and pay attention. From written accounts, she sang with a white hot intensity. Miss Di Donato is a far cooler personality and just not right for the role of Maria Stuarda.

    Sadly, the production also was an insult to Donizetti ... I personally have no problem with "minimal" productions with spare sets which allow us to focus more on the psychology of a piece, but when the production reveals only that the designer has never read the libretto or seen any other production of the opera, then they DO deserve to be booed. WHERE in the libretto does it say to set Maria Stuarda in an insane asylum? Did the designer REALLY think they were being clever? And WHO at the ROH thinks "Hey! we have money to burn!!! Let's trash Maria Stuarda!" Am I the only one to notice that productions of Wozzeck and Lulu are never set anywhere except for where the libretto dictates? Why is that? And WHY are insane asylums the favorite location of EuroTrash Designers to set all their other productions?

    Yes, this production deserved to be booed on many levels.

    • David-G responded on 9 July 2014 at 12:19am

      Lady K - I am sorry that you do not recognise greatness when you come across it.

    • ReJoyce the Voice responded on 9 July 2014 at 9:01am

      "along comes di Donato with her small voice and short top and we are supposed to swoon? Why? Because she is young and slim and pretty?"

      Methinks the LadyK doth protesteth too much. And is "well jel" of the younger, prettier woman, as I believe the young 'uns would have it.

  26. Ian Greenwood responded on 8 July 2014 at 5:35pm Reply

    Poor Joyce. Second time in just over a year that she has been given a turkey in which to sing and perform.

  27. H.M. Fairweather responded on 8 July 2014 at 6:41pm Reply

    I spent a not inconsiderable amount travelling to London on the train and booking a Hotel for two nights. I loved every aspect of the production which was only tarnished at the end by the loutish and thuggish booing. Is there real any need for this when the singing is of such a high quality. I will make sure that I do not attend any more first nights

  28. Janet Shell responded on 8 July 2014 at 8:05pm Reply

    I saw the Dress and it was as if the tenor was in the wrong opera. maybe he got better for the opening night, but he was singing flat and was miscast to me - looked pretty but singing did not cut the mustard. Maria and Elisabetta drove the show - but the production was static and I am astonished about that having worked with these directors: they are usually fantastic. This leads me to the conclusion that the opera itself is one to listen to and not watch. I personally preferred the final act where at least there was something else to look at - ie the chorus and those pretty lights and I liked the white box - the design was more interesting - but I spent the entire time willing for something to happen! My 19 year old daughter enjoyed it though.....maybe there is something in that

  29. David Barchan responded on 9 July 2014 at 6:09am Reply

    I saw Maria Stuarda this evening and I'm afraid that as soon as the curtain went up to reveal the executioner in modern dress apparently beheading an inept bloodless tailor's dummy I feared we would be in for an evening of directorial crassness and sadly my fears were justified. It got worse with the opening scene in front of a blurry Palace of Westminster backdrop with a crude cut out "door" through which the cast could enter and leave but my biggest criticism is why it was thought a jolly good idea in the first place to update the action to what seemed to be the late 20th century but keep Elizabeth stuck in Tudor costume? Her dress looked as if she was carrying a large table around with her underneath! I found the anachronisms most distracting and even irritating. The direction seemed also not to pay heed to the libretto either - in the last scene Maria is granted a request which is that Anna should lead her to the block. In fact at this point Maria is already standing right next to it! They should have kept the production within the original period in which it was intended to be, and if the costume department IS going to "do" Tudor could they please try to avoid a comedy dress for Gloriana?

    That said, and having been so negative about the production, all is forgiven when the standard of the singing is taken into account. DiDonato was flawless and her singing was simply breathtaking. All the cast were excellent in my opinion, so much so that I would dearly love to see this a second time - but as a concert performance to avoid suffering the execrable production. Thumbs up for the stellar cast and for DiDonato's glorious voice in particular but a firm thumbs down for the production.

  30. bill worley responded on 9 July 2014 at 9:35am Reply

    Lady K - to your list of excellent singers who truimphed in the title role I would add Dame Janet Baker. Her interpretation both dramatically and vocally was supurb. Also the production by John Copley was good. At least he read the libretto.!!

  31. Geoff responded on 9 July 2014 at 11:21am Reply

    Saw this last night. Not sure what all the fuss is about, the production was ok and didn't get in the way, indeed the last scene was effective and moving and, as it happens, rather better conducted than the rest of the evening (perhaps as it has possibly the best music of the opera). Not for the first time I can't help the feeling that some of the people who write on here never go the theatre or even read the newspapers: I am astonished that someone thinks this production is "set in an insane asylum". Surely anyone with even the flimsiest knowledge of the current US justice system will have recognised the key visual references (the directors seem to have worked backwards from their idea for the finale, the repeated blinds and so on). In fact I had a most interesting conversation afterwards about the different death cell protocols currently in place around the world: it did the work no harm for us to be reminded that it is at the end about a particularly ghastly state execution.

    As to the comments about "poor Joyce", those of us who came to the Insight evening with the directors learned that she had asked them to direct it (that is pretty much how things work in opera: the biggest star - whether they are a singer, conductor, producer or even a "star intendant" - gets to influence the choice of works and team, and so it has always been).

    For me perhaps a 4 rather than a 5 star evening - even with the divine Joyce somehow it was not as compelling musically as one would hope but then this is admittedly a tricky piece to pull off (one, dare it be suggested, perhaps not as great as some other Donizetti operas - I saw Mara Zampieri battle it out with Agnes Baltsa and even they couldn't quite make ones hair curl) But I wouldn't mark it down for the production.

  32. naomi layish responded on 9 July 2014 at 2:23pm Reply

    Pappano: please sack Holten.
    Please sack Holten.

    Please sack Holten. For how much longer can he abuse our patience.?

    Why must we pay to sit through glorious vocal performances with our eyes tight shut??

    • Bill Worley responded on 9 July 2014 at 4:17pm

      Naomi - sadly it is not up to Pappano to sack Kaspar Holten although it's a nice idea. as I said in an ealier post, I don't think Mr Holten can be balmed in any way for the debacle that was "Maria Stuarda" as all the decsions on the production would have been made before he took up post.

  33. Geoff responded on 9 July 2014 at 5:21pm Reply

    Someone who claims on the internet to be a "Writer, Journalist, Historian" has just added to the ignorant calls of "Sack Holten", as if

    (a) these productions you don't like, which pre-date Kasper Holten (presumably commissioned by Elaine Padmore, why is no one calling for her to be dragged back and lynched I wonder?) are a reason to "sack" a subsequent Director of Opera

    (b) Sir Anthony Pappano is in a hire-or-fire position over the Director of Opera (the "Writer, Journalist, Historian" is listed as a "freelance" so is perhaps not very worldly, she is certainly not very informed about the workings of the institution she feels so confident in lobbying)

    (c) such a "sacking" would anyway be a proportionate response to the productions in question.

    I am reminded of a press conference back in the early 1980s to welcome the arrival of Lorin Maazel as Director of the Vienna Opera. It was immediately obvious that the Viennese "community" was set on driving Maazel out - yet he hadn't even started in the job yet. This was generally felt to be because of local anti-Semitism, so I wonder what is behind these present destructive and foolish shouts of "sack Holten, sack Holten"?

    In any case the level of comments on here is getting a little embarrassing, so I think I'll stop contributing.

  34. John M. responded on 9 July 2014 at 7:06pm Reply

    I saw the second performance. As others have noted, much of the singing was a joy to hear. I did not find the production as awful as others have done but was disappointed that no new insights were offered. We all go to the opera for different reasons and bring different things away from it. There is nothing wrong with wanting a traditional staging nor is there anything wrong with updating. A traditional staging can still deliver a message. If you do update then let it mean something, which was sadly often not the case in this staging. Very little was illuminating or arresting - the beheading of the dummy at the start was crass, the final tableau weak. The two queens in Tudor garb worked for me; they are after all two women who have been judged by history and are trapped in history but whose conflict resonates today. For me Manon Lescaut was much worse - I felt that a view was being imposed here which did not fit the story. I find ML is more about the consequences of personal choice rather than the sex trade and sexual exploitation in the 21st century. Let's hope that next season's new productions buck the current trend. Finally, some of the comments above are no more than personal attacks on other contributors; it's getting a bit like reading the vituperative personal attacks made on youtube.

  35. naomi layish responded on 10 July 2014 at 10:49am Reply

    I feel I should respond to the attacks on me for my (admittedly desperate) call for
    Pappano to dismiss Holten. Whoever commissioned the current production of Maria Stuarda , and when, I find it difficult to believe that no one now in office can disclaim responsibility for a series of disasters (Onegin, Don Giovanni, Manon Lescaut and now Maria Stuarda) . All these productions have been roundly
    condemned by the majority of critics , the opera lovers who contribute to this website and even a past director of the opera house. Holten is director of opera
    and must take responsibility for his own and other productions . As for my own supposed ignorance: I have been an opera buff all my life, know the score and libretto of most operas , and I maintain that the recent productions ignore or both. I am not calling for a 'lynch'- merely for a return to respect and attention to music and words.

  36. Roy Hiscock responded on 10 July 2014 at 4:27pm Reply

    I'm not sure if this is strictly relevant: saw the performance on 5 July. Musically fine, production somewhat odd: but here's my point. I was sitting in the amphitheatre lower slips (as usual) and musically found the balance between pit and stage exemplary. In much the same place (though on the left of house, not the right) for Manon Lescaut, the balance was not always good, with the orchestra somewhat overwhelming the singers at times (yes, yes, I know that there is a difference between Puccini's and Donizetti's orchestra, and I stress: the dominance was only at times and not necessarily at orchestral climaxes). With the broadcast of ML (Tuesday 1 July) the balance was perfect - I have rarely enjoyed a broadcast as much - and as this was live I assume that the balance was not achieved merely technologically. I suspect that the imbalance in the House was to do with the set design (rather than my seat), which in ML disadvantaged the singers. Has anybody else found similar oddities? If so, could we at least require directors and designers to consider what acoustic effect their staging might have?

  37. a mac responded on 11 July 2014 at 12:48pm Reply

    The comments seem to be creating more drama than the opera! As an inept production as you are ever likely to see ! (although I am going to see again next week!). A pity as the producers' previous form as been far better than average.

    The main problem is the production is wrong for London. To us Queen Elizabeth 1st is an iconic character as is, to a certain extent Mary Stuart. They are seen as "real persons" and this makes it hard to do anything other than a broadly "historical" take on it. The Met and McVicar - I think realised this was likely to be a factor in America and played safe

    I doubt the French, Polish or Spanish co-production houses will see it in the same negative light. After all would we care that much about the depiction of Louis 14th or <> or Phillip II in an opera?

  38. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 11 July 2014 at 2:15pm Reply

    I have already commented twice, and that was to refer to two positive reviews in the national press .Interesting that there have been no observations in respect of such positive reviews. I would also regard myself as an opera buff having attended performances for over fifty years and during that time having had the privilege of being actively involved with another major opera company who -back in the eighties -were also being subject to unkind criticism on account of some of their productions. What is interesting is that anyone new to these operas (including many young people ) thought such productions were original, exciting and such that they encouraged them to want to see more opera.
    I restfully submit it is the same today wherever opera is performed-and certainly in Covent Garden .Exciting to hear the positive comments during the intervals and afterwards Back in the 1960's,an actor experienced in Shakespeare said that the problem many audience members had was that they attended a performance with preconceived ideas . His excellent advice was that before the play began, one should forget one had ever read or seen the play before.
    Sound advice indeed. and so it should be with opera. My wife and I have been privilege to see many performances in the UK ,France and Italy during the past ten years and we feel the standard of performances is par excellence. We approach each staging with a completely open mind and (without being in any way naïve) we are never disappointed.
    The performances of Eugene Onegin and Don Giovanni were not only a musical treat but bold, original and sent us back to the libretto when we marvelled at the freshness of interpretation.
    We have not yet seen this Maria Stuarda (a treat in store ) but are well acquainted with the talents of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier.Both are highly talented and well respected in many countries.
    The insulting remarks aimed at them and Kasper Holten (long may he be Director of Opera at Covent Garden ) may be summed up in the words of Jane Austen-
    "Badly done ".
    I remain even more of an opera buff because of the many talented directors in today's world plus the countless singers and conductors -especially Sir Antonio Pappano . Membership of the Friends of ROH is worth every penny . Bravo to all concerned!

  39. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 11 July 2014 at 10:35pm Reply

    It does occur to me that some may feel that I am not able to defend this staging when I have not yet seen it. However, the reviews I have mentioned,plus the positive comments suggest it is a production to be seen, and that this staging is both bold and innovative. The production photographs are also exciting and remind me of many such stagings across the channel
    In addition, the work of these two talented directors is always worth seeing and may be (as I have previously suggested ) countless newcomers may have now been stimulated to want to see more such productions let alone more opera. such results are beyond measure.
    Might I also please warmly commend the excellent article by Guy Dammann in this month's edition of the ROH Magazine ?

  40. Marie Dreux responded on 12 July 2014 at 8:33am Reply

    Last night's Maria was simply stunning, vocally and in the powerful acting performances of the Joyce Didonato and Carman Giannatasio.
    The production was patchy, and certainly ugly. I too, find the contemporary need of directors to ram every unsubtle message down the audience's throat insulting. For an excellent, straight-forward production which still allowed the psychological drama to unfold and yet was historically coherent, the recent Roberto Devereux in Zurich, with a still amazing Edita Gruberova, was head and shoulders above this one from the ROH. Yes, last night had some powerful moments, but in the end I think that was more due to the singers than the directors.

  41. Warren Wint responded on 12 July 2014 at 9:19am Reply

    Saw the performance last night and have to say it's the best thing I've experienced all year. Performances were amazing and I'm glad I'm going back for a second helping on Monday night.
    Word of warning to those seated on the far right of the stage; the third act sight line is poor due to the 'cube' set for Maria's execution.
    All in all I'd say it was 'gooosepimply great'

  42. IanJ responded on 12 July 2014 at 9:48am Reply

    I was so looking forward to last night's performance, and Joyce DiDonato and Carmen Giannattasio did not disappoint, they were wonderful, as was Matthew Rose. The orchestra was on fine form. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the performances was completely overshadowed by the appalling mise en scène. I am not against innovation and modern settings (Dialogues des Carmélites was fantastic and surprising) but the setting has to make some sense, and this made absolutely none. No doubt Kasper Holten would say that it's a good thing to challenge the audience's preconceptions of a piece, and I would not disagree in principle, but this was not a challenge, it was an insult to the audience's intelligence. Wednesday's La Bohème was the highlight of the week, but the much-loved John Copley production is coming to an end and I have great fears for what's going to replace it: will it be a production set in a post nuclear war wasteland, or a refugee camp controlled by the Taliban? We spend £xxxxx/year at the ROH, but after this and a ludicrous Manon Lescaut, I'm beginning to think that we're being taken for a ride.

    • IanJ responded on 13 July 2014 at 3:18pm

      My apologies for some of my remarks in the above post. I was, and remain, disappointed by the production, but some of my remarks, particularly the last one, were uncalled for. I will refrain from commenting after a sleepless night!

  43. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 13 July 2014 at 4:19pm Reply

    At the end of the day, perhaps all the above may summed up in Prince Orlofsky's aria from Die Fledermaus:
    "Chacun a son gout".

  44. Roger Flury responded on 14 July 2014 at 5:56pm Reply

    I can only visit ROH on rare occasions, and after experiencing Rusalka, I can - to some extent - sympathize with many of the comments recorded here about the Maria Stuarda production.
    However, booing is crass and rude. I've witnessed it in many theatres and it always leaves a nasty taste. It is far better to express dissatisfaction by simply not applauding any element that displeases (for whatever reason).
    I was particularly pleased to note that someone mentioned Dame Janet Baker's English language performance of Mary Stuart which still remains vividly in my memory as one the truly 'great evenings' at the opera.
    Finally, I do want to congratulate the Royal Opera for allowing and publishing the comments on performances. It's a brave company that will share such diverse opinions and it is to be commended - even though it may raise the blood pressure sometimes!

  45. stephen ratcliffe responded on 15 July 2014 at 3:40pm Reply

    I went last night. Production wasn't that bad (not in the Rusalka, Manon Lescaut class). Singing was stupendous. Miss di Donatao is a treasure - haven't heard bel canto like this in an age. Return soon please. Rest of cast good too.

  46. steve howell responded on 17 July 2014 at 4:34am Reply

    Just seen performance on 16th July.

    I wouldn't have booed the production, partly out of respect for the singers, who were wonderful, especially Joyce Didonato and Matthew Rose, but also since it was so bland and colourless it didn't merit such a strong reaction as booing.

    All I kept thinking throughout was that the 2 'queens' were, in fact, a pair of inmates of a secure psychiatric unit and the rest of the cast were the management and staff (the men in grey suits, the chorus in modern mufti) playing along with their delusions of grandeur. Mary doesn't actually get beheaded at the end, and they go through the same performance day after day.

    Thinking along these lines cheapened the experience for me and reduced the emotional impact, the opposite of what a production should achieve.

    Frustratingly, we caught a glimpse of what could have been, during one spine-tingling moment when Maria, Talbot, Hannah and the chorus joined hands through the execution cell window. Where was that flair and imagination during the rest of it?

    Joyce Didonato will doubtless, and rightly, sell out every ROH production in which she appears. This shouldn't make the production teams think they can get away with second-rate work.

  47. Jonno responded on 17 July 2014 at 10:53am Reply

    Wonderful singing all round, but I decided to enjoy the final scenes with my eyes closed rather than look at the ugly production a moment longer.

  48. Damian R responded on 17 July 2014 at 11:16am Reply

    I went last night, and found it an extraordinary night. The singing was consistently some of the best I've heard. And you really could hear it - it's the first time in ages that the music has not had a relentless audience accompaniment of coughing, rustling and shuffling. The quality of the singing made people listen and concentrate - wonderful!

    As for the production - it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. The modern sets were a bit drab, but I found the really jarring aspect was the mixture of modern and period. Far better to have had the Queens in modern dress too and have done with it. Having them in period costume came across as a cheap theatrical trick, and seemed to imply that Miss DiDonato and Miss Giannattasio needed these props as a fillip to their acting. They didn't - both had superb stage presence.

    Certainly, I didn't find the production anywhere near as bad as the recent Manon Lescaut and Parsifal, both of which were truly repellent.

    However, it would be good to see intelligent productions return to Covent Garden - not just period, but cogent modern interpretations too. The problem with the current crop of poor productions is that they will sell out with big names like Kaufmann or DiDonato, but revivals with lesser singers will really fall flat.

  49. Mike responded on 17 July 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

    Just when you think it can't get any worse than the recent disaster that was Manon Lescaut, this ugly and incoherent production comes along and almost makes you forgive what you saw only a couple of weeks back.

    Wonderful singers, a total waste of a production! I would have much preferred to see this as a concert opera and pay less!

    I have to say, though, that DiDonato is an absolute diva! Bravo!!!

  50. C. Maeder responded on 17 July 2014 at 5:34pm Reply

    Just seen Stuarda last night! Caurier and Leiser are bad news and the Opera House should have known that. Even more so as this is not a new production, so someone at the Opera House should hang for this mess.I do like modern production if well done. (See Willy Deckers production La Traviata or his Don Carlo) But this was neither. The Directors have not even looked at the libretto.The production, modern or traditional was full of mistakes. Kaspar Holten should have stop this from going ahead and for technical reasons should have been given as a concert performance. We could have even more enjoyed the singing which was stunning, specially, Joyce Di Donato. We felt sorry for these fine singers.

    • Nigel responded on 20 July 2014 at 9:56pm

      Just to clarify, for C. Maeder and others.
      This was a new production, and would have been booked before Kasper Holten took over, so whether you like the production or not, perhaps best not to make ill-informed comments just in order to justify criticism of the current management.
      ( Although a joint production, it was created in June / July for the ROH stage, and will be seen in the future in Warsaw, Barcelona and Paris).
      As for my own view of the production - well, not my favourite, but it certainly brought the best out of the performers, and that has to be a strong point in its favour.

  51. Ann responded on 17 July 2014 at 8:04pm Reply

    Having agreed with many of the comments about Manon Lescaut I was prepared to be similarly irritated by Maria Stuarda last night but in the event I found it one of the most exciting evenings at ROH for a long time.. Certainly the mix of Tudor and modern costumes was initially a bit of a shock but soon fell into place . My only real concern was for Joyce when she had to climb onto a chair to sing!Surely proof (after her accident in the Barber of Seville several years ago) that she is the ultimate trouper as well as an extraordinary singer. .

  52. Lawrence B responded on 18 July 2014 at 7:22pm Reply

    I am an occasional visitor to CG but I am not an opera buff...(whatever that is)..I just enjoy what I experience. I have seen the production of Maria Stuarda and for me it was a most wonderful evening. I cannot believe the rudeness and arrogance of people who apparently booed. What right do you have to denigrate and humiliate other people in such a way. I also find some comments on this thread about individuals utterly inappropriate. Yes the music and singing were wonderful but clearly there is a difference of opinion on the staging. It was challenging but for me that was what it was meant to be…rather than some twee period set. If you cannot cope with being challenged with the unexpected then do not go to first nights; wait for the reviews and then book your tickets having been better informed to avoid situations that you are uncomfortable with. Some have commented on their rights to expect what they want because they have paid for their ticket: to them remember that it is the UK tax payer together with generous benefactors who have to a large extent paid for your experience. I totally agree that CG productions at the end of the day need to satisfy the audience (in some sort of collective way) but surely those who claim such cultural appreciation can express themselves in a more constructive way to the production directors than some of expression we have seen here.

  53. Sebastian Petit responded on 18 July 2014 at 9:46pm Reply

    Some extraordinarily unpleasant and ignorant remarks above. I do not understand the current conservative cry against "ugly" productions. I found the sets both spectacular and completely apt for the director's vision of what is, in Puccini's version, a pretty seamy tale. Many people seemed to be mixing Puccini's version with Massenet! And now all this stupidity over the Stuarda production which I found both well thought out and moving. Yes, the sets were bleak but that doesn't mean they were wrong. And as for the stupid calls for Kasper Holten's head - Just grow up! Kasper is the best addition to the house team since Pappano's arrival. Leave him alone! By the way kudos for extra dimness to the person who called Pappano "Anthony"

  54. Peter Erdos responded on 19 July 2014 at 10:24am Reply

    Finally I managed to see the last performance last night. Having read all the superlative reviews of the musical side, I was certainly not disappointed. The two Queens were truly superb, singing and acting their hearts out. Joyce's assumption of the role has deepened since her beautiful performance in the Met it was very heartfelt and touching. Why, oh why not have a concert performance, why waste money on a completely useless and irrelevant production, it remains a mystery. We know the 2 producers are very good on comedy, we greatly enjoyed their "fille du regiment" "Elisir" and "Barber of Seville", also they have a hilarious " Le Comte Ory in Zurich, but "Maria Stuarda is not in that category.I can only hope that this production will never return together with the Manon Lescaut, Onegin , Vepres siciliennes and all the other recent failed ones.

  55. Stephen Diviani responded on 19 July 2014 at 12:50pm Reply

    Saw it last night. Glorious singing/acting. The audience, as Damian remarked above, were silent, enraptured. Electric. No idea why people got so enraged by the production, it was pretty inoffensive really. Anyway, a tremendous night at the opera: my thanks!

  56. Roberto responded on 19 July 2014 at 7:33pm Reply

    I was full of anticipation last night: my first Stuarda in any opera house. I found it a very exciting evening. Not sure if it was the rarely performed belcanto opera, the outstanding performance of the singers or what. But I have rarely witnessed such an overwhelming manifestation of enthusiasm at the ROH where, the audience often applauds in an almost perfunctory manner. Yesterday night, one could hear the temperature running high, as it were. In the most extraordinary moments , such as Maria's confession, one could sense people holding their breath, fully hanging on every note Di Donato was singing (I loved her rubbing her hands, bit like Lady Macbeth, I think). I will remember last night forever. What I will also remember, alas, is the pathetic production. I am not questioning, of course, the idea of mixing two different eras. It's the sheer ugliness of some scenes and lighting that really put me off. I really wonder whether this was made on a budget? And a really cheap one at that... The leather sofas in the opening scene reminded me of those used in Falstaff. In the he last scene, after meeting friends and crowd, Maria exits left. One would expect her to return with another costume (preferably a black robe covering a red petticoat), properly attired for her last big number. What was the purpose of her leaving otherwise? Wrong! The same blue costume worn in all the other scenes. Mind you, Elizabeth didn't have a better luck either. I guess that now that Di Donato, after Houston and the Met, has given her debut as Stuarda here in London, this production will be shelved until some bits and pieces will be recycled in other - hopefully better - productions.

  57. Christine Bates responded on 20 July 2014 at 11:29am Reply

    I had anticipated seeing this opera ever since the David McVicar production relayed from the Met. Much lies in our expectations, and as commented previously, perhaps better not to have expectations.

    I knew all was not going to be as I'd hoped because I attended the Insight evening when it was mentioned that for her opening aria Joyce would be standing on a chair (No! Don’t do it Joyce!!). We were thus braced for anything. I found many of the ideas distracting, mainly, I believe, because the two main characters and history are so well known to us in the UK, and this production required a great leap of faith. But, I managed to get a return for the final performance, and, for the first time ever, returned during the run to see the opera again. I was blown away by Joyce DiDonato’s performance, simply stunning. It made me re-assess the boo-ers, and the impact their actions have on the artistes. After her lauded Met performance in Maria, Joyce had the enthusiasm to put that interpretation aside and try something new - perhaps that’s a lesson for us all.

    David McVicar said something like: ‘If you love these operas, they will love you back’. Perhaps Leiser and Caurier did not love this opera enough to give it the appropriate treatment for a UK audience. It should have been the hottest ticket in town.

  58. Meunier responded on 21 July 2014 at 11:06am Reply

    I saw Maria Stuarda four times. Much as I did with the likes of Sutherland and Vickers I try to attend as many Didonato performances as I can. There is always so much to learn from their detail.

    I became - as far as one is able - acclimated to this Maria Stuarda production. However, I continued to be amazed at its lack of detail in terms of the setting that the producers themselves had obviously (or so I supposed) dictated. What high security prison in this country (I ask you - and them) has locked doors that open inwards where the officer opening such would be at immediate threat.) That surely is a basic tenant in any such design. Moreover, what civilian (regardless of their title) pushes a such a prison door open. (Look, ma, no keys.) Apart from that fact, how many civilians HAVE keys? Very few that I'm aware of. What women's prison I wonder has NO officers? None that I'm aware of. And suddenly the crowd comes through the door of their own seeming free discretion. Assuming that they had already cleared security, they would NEVER be allowed to merely wander. If the security staff had been introduced into this production I think it could have enhanced the drama. None of Elizabeth's courtiers were also accompanied. Why? What reality were the design/directorial team attempting to heighten? Where was the ROH Director of Productions when these production details/designs first being discussed and later reviewed? I wonder why the very fine Met production - whose director and designer were both themselves Scots - for the moment UK citizens - might not have been shared with the ROH as a joint venture/co-production.

    Far too many questions were left unanswered for (at least from the response above) by a burgeoning many.

    Blessedly what saved the proverbial day for me - that which makes oh,so many operatic nights - was the God-given glory of the heavenly music wrought by Joyce Didonato in every situation. She is a whirlwind of inspiration that can it seems overcome any and all obstacles. Brava BIG TIME. I long to see her back at the ROH soon ... and so look forward to her upcoming Barbican performances. Happily there IS a God it seems.

  59. noel patrick responded on 22 July 2014 at 5:14pm Reply

    My wife and I attended the final performance of Maria Stuarda on Friday 18th July, 2014.
    We had come a long way, travelled in the extreme heat, and having read some of the production reviews prior to attending were a little apprehensive. What rubbish had been penned by some reviewers, their heads (or brains) must be lodged somewhere unmentionable!
    The whole performance was brilliant-never mind 5 stars-105 stars would be appropriate. We got it from beginning to end, and enjoyed the staging-especially the projection of flowers over Maria Stuarda personally, and then the whole stage. In imagination from prison to countryside.
    The cast from chorus to supporting leads were excellent, but Joyce Didonato is a singer decended from the opera heavens above.
    Thank you 'all' at the Royal Opera House for a memorable and wonderful evening, which was worth the arduous journey.

    • christine Bates responded on 23 July 2014 at 9:54am

      So pleased you enjoyed the final performance, as you say, it was a memorable and wonderful evening. Like you, by the time I got to see the performance I was sort of 'braced' and felt I knew pretty much what to expect - if I'd seen it without knowing about the furore I may have been disappointed. Elizabeth 1 staggering to pour herself a gin, or turning up from the hunt in totally unsuitable attire detracted I felt from the drama. When she threw the chicken leg there were audible titters - not really the reaction required during the confrontation scene! But, as you say, great, terrific singing, and I shan't forget that evening in a hurry - and it certainly got us all talking!

  60. Peter Stell responded on 2 August 2014 at 7:18am Reply

    I came from Australia for the final night July 18 and was thrilled to hear a memorable cast. All were great but Di Donato absolutely excelled, what a privilege. The production, however, highly disappointed. Please, no more modern amateurish adaptations, it does not work and many serious opera goers are unfairly let down. Watching the NY Met production with Di Donato, by comparison, I applaud the integral sets and designs. ROH, do better!

  61. 16 year-old opera lover responded on 17 August 2014 at 8:03am Reply

    Beautiful singing, terrible production. Sometimes, a modern production doesn't work for some operas and sometimes period 'twee' pieces are what is required. Although, I do not agree with the booing, it sometimes is necessary. How else do you expect the directors to know they've done wrong? Silence is often times mistaken for affirmation, 'they were silent, so they weren't really bothered', etc.

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