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'Maria Stuarda' latest of the Met's Live in HD series

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Sparks fly between Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, in the Metropolitan Opera's first-ever production of "Maria Stuarda" by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), which opened on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 2012, and will run in the repertory through Jan. 26, 2013.

"Maria Stuarda" will be simulcast as part of the Met's Live in HD series this Saturday, Jan. 19, at 12:55 p.m., with an encore showing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6. The lyric tragedy in two acts will be sung in Italian with English subtitles and will have an approximate running time of three hours and 30 minutes.

This performance will be transmitted live in high definition and surround sound in four theaters in West Virginia: Cinemark Theater at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Great Escape in Nitro; Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown; and Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg, as well as Cinemark Theatre in Ashland.

Mary Stuart, Catholic queen of Scotland was beheaded in 1587. She had been forced to abdicate her throne by the Scottish nobility and flee her kingdom. She sought asylum from her cousin Queen Elizabeth I in England. However, Elizabeth imprisoned Mary for many years. English Catholics saw Mary as the rightful heir to the throne as opposed to Protestant Queen Elizabeth. "Two queens, one throne; the future of England at stake." (Huffington Post)

The libretto (script) by Giuseppe Bardani is based upon Andrea Maffei's Italian-language translation of Friedrich Schiller's tragic play of the same name. Historically, the play is inaccurate for at least two reasons -- Elizabeth and Mary never met and the alleged love interest both women have for Robert Dudley is a creation of the playwright.

"But in the opera, the music pretty much trumps history, and in Maria Stuarda Donizetti's confrontation scene between the two women at the end of Act I, a furious sixteenth century cat fight in which each hurls invectives at the other, makes terrific drama." (Huffington Post)

Vocally expressive of the text as well as capable of virtuosic bel canto (beautiful singing) American mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato sings the title role of Mary.

Making her Metropolitan debut, soprano Elza van den Heever sings the role of Elizabeth I. She even shaved her head to get into the role of Elizabeth and to accommodate the queen's wigs. She studies voice with Sheri Greenawald, who lived for a time in Charleston, W.Va.

Tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the role of Robert (Roberto) Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and bass Matthew Rose sings the role of George (Giorgio) Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, who is loyal to Mary.

Larry Stickler is a professor of music at Marshall University.