Mary, Queen of Scots, has been imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I of England. The Earl of Leicester urges Elizabeth to meet with Mary and be reconciled, but Elizabeth grows jealous of Leicester’s admiration for her cousin.
Gaetano Donizetti’s historical opera Maria Stuarda was banned by the authorities in Milan after its 1835 premiere, due to its perceived inflammatory content. The opera lay neglected for over a hundred years until 1958, when a performance in Donizetti’s hometown of Bergamo re-introduced it to the opera repertory. Maria Stuarda has since grown steadily in popularity. It is recognized as containing some of Donizetti’s most moving music, including Mary’s confession duet with Talbot and her poignant aria in the final scene of the opera, as she calmly faces her approaching death.
Maria Stuarda provides a magnificent showcase for the two singers playing Mary and Elizabeth, particularly in their extended duet in Act II. Famous pairings for the roles of the regal cousins have included Joan Sutherland and Huguette Tourangeau, both of whom starred in the first production of Maria Stuarda at Covent Garden in 1977, and Janet Baker and Rosalind Plowright, who sang the roles for ENO.
News and features
18 July 2014
This tumultuous period of British history inspired a host of 19th-century operas.
16 July 2014
Maria Stuarda wasn't the only of the composer's operas to raise official hackles.
11 July 2014
Cast includes Joyce DiDonato, Carmen Giannattasio, Ismael Jordi and Jeremy Carpenter, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
7 July 2014
Composers have long been inspired by the work of playwrights.
6 July 2014
What did you think of Moshe Leiser's and Patrice Caurier's arresting new production of Donizetti's Tudor tragedy?
4 July 2014
The Italian soprano tells BBC Radio 3 about how she approaches opera's twin demands of singing and acting, and the challenges of wearing a two-stone costume.