April 07, 2014

Joyce DiDonato’s Maria Stuarda triumphs (musically) in game of thrones

The regal mezzo took on Donizetti’s condemned queen for the New York Metropolitan Opera — now on DVD.

“It is like being shot out of a cannon and there is no slowing down or adjusting along the way,” Joyce DiDonato reflects on her final 20 minutes of anguished yet glorious singing in Donzetti’s Maria Stuarda. On New Year’s Eve 2012, the American darling of bel canto became the first singer ever to grace the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera in the title role, the traditional yet visually bold premiere production directed by David McVicar.

She says her character’s journey to the executioner’s block is a musical and dramatic tour de force. “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.”

Based on Elizabeth I’s imprisonment and condemnation of Mary Queen of Scots, a rival to the throne, Donizetti’s 1835 tragedy has everything: plotting and political intrigue, a royal love triangle and a fierce showdown between two queen divas. DiDonato says the persecuted heroine, who has been interpreted by legendary mezzos and sopranos from Maria Malibran to Joan Sutherland, “requires every element of great bel canto singing: every dynamic range, elegant coloratura, rich legato, immensely difficult phrasing, and a deep emotional palette that asks for profound expression.”

Also featuring the imposing South African soprano Elza van den Heever and vocally agile Matthew Polenzani, and with Italian maestro Maurizio Benini at the podium, this performance from January 19, 2013 was broadcast in high definition to cinemas around the world.

“To have brought this character to life at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in its history is an incredible privilege,” DiDonato enthuses. “The task of creating this very real, noble, and passionately proud character through the voice alone is one of the greatest experiences of my career to date.”

DVD out now.