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Lively but Disciplined

ROBERT HUGILL reviews a performance
of Donizetti's 'Maria Stuarda'


Donizetti's Maria Stuarda is not such a rare visitor to London as some of the other operas performed by the Chelsea Opera Group, but their performance on Saturday 24 November 2007 at Cadogan Hall was welcome nonetheless.

During Donizetti's lifetime the opera had a troubled history. Banned in Naples just before its première, the work's rehearsals had been troubled. It was finally given its first performance in Milan with Maria Malibran in the title role. Insufficiently rehearsed, the work made little impact. Planned London performances failed to materialise because of Malibran's death.

Donizetti seems to have taken little further interest in the opera and the modern score of the piece is based on the surviving score for the Naples fiasco. If he had been involved in further performances, Donizetti would surely have revised the work.

One of its biggest drawbacks is the way Elisabetta (Queen Elizabeth the First) evaporates after Act 1. She opens Act 2 with a strong trio and then disappears. This means that singers must make a lasting impression in Act 1 and some do this with exaggeration. Not Sally Silver, who gave a beautifully sung account of the role. Silver's repertoire is mainly in the coloratura area; she has sung Lucia for Scottish Opera. But her voice has a distinctly spinto cast, which is ideal for the role. Her Elisabetta was spirited, sexy and dramatic in the famous meeting between the queens which closes Act 1.

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Copyright © 1 December 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK


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