Whether you believe that Mary Stuart was the most amoral, conniving and ruthless female of Elizabethan England or the most tragic victim of overwhelming and relentless circumstances and doomed to tragic grandeur, her life is one of the great historical dramas.
It was the kind of life that was perhaps made even more interesting because of the contradictions and controversies that rage to this day. It was a story made for opera (and later film,with Glenda Jackson as Liz and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary) and has been dramatized for the stage most famously by Schiller in 1800, then the musical theatre by Gaetano Donizetti in 1835 and into our own with Thea Musgrave's 1977 composition.
It was inevitable perhaps that she was marked for both exceptionalism and martyrdom: To be tied to three great kingdoms such as France, Scotland and England by marriage or birthright; to marry three times with mounting and catastrophic results; to live in an unending enmity with a powerful sister always wary of the dangers that haunted her reign; to be the focus of religious fanatics, to be pursued by men both bewitched by her beauty and grace and even more enthralled with power.
From the unceasing fear of rebellion of Queen Elizabeth's advisors or the Scots nobles terrified of a triumphant return, it speaks volumes that neither exile nor impoverishment (she left Scotland literally with nothing and had to barter for clothes with the family silver), nor the forging of the Casket Letters to implicate her in the murder of her second husband, or finally even the strategic abandoning her to the wilderness of Bolton Castle followed by almost 19 years of virtual imprisonment. None of this was enough, only her death would suffice.
The new Metropolitan Opera production features the lavishly gifted mezzo Joyce DiDonato as Maria Stuarda (or Mary, Queen of Scots); Elza van der Heever as Queen Elizabeth I; Matthew Polenzani as Leicester; Joshua Hopkins as Lord Cecil and Matthew Rose as Lord Talbot.
Tune in for this bel canto classic, Donizetti’s "Maria Stuarda," this Saturday live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera at noon on KPAC and KTXI.
- For more information go online to: www.metoperafamily.org