Stylish and memorable
'Maria Stuarda' at Grange Park Opera,
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL
British opera companies seem to have a curious affinity with Donizetti's Maria Stuarda; English National Opera has mounted two productions of the work (the first for Janet Baker) even though early 19th century Italian serious opera (as opposed to comic opera) is one of the weakest areas in their repertoire; British Touring Opera recently included a new production on its UK tour and now Maria Stuarda has surfaced at Grange Park Opera.
Certainly Donizetti wrote other operas based on episodes in Scottish and English history, though these are rather less popular with British opera companies; perhaps the opera's popularity owes something to the charisma of the eponymous heroine, Mary Queen of Scots. Donizetti's opera, based on Schiller's play, does make free with history but the characters of the opera are recognisably the historical characters of popular imagination.
Majella Cullagh in the title role of Grange Park's 'Maria Stuarda'. Photo © 2005 Alastair Muir
This means, of course, that the opera's plot is not quite that of the stereotype Romantic Italian opera. There is no mad scene; the love interest (between Maria and Lord Leicester) is relatively discreet; the heroine does not die for love, she goes off at the end of the opera to be executed; and one of the central highlights of the opera is a scene where the two divas hurl insults at each other. So perhaps it is this rather atypical plot which helps the opera achieve its popularity.
Copyright © 23 June 2005
Robert Hugill, London UK