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Ensemble

Musically Thrilling

'Maria Stuarda' at San Diego Opera,
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN

 

Gaetano Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda is loosely based on the last years of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived from 1542 to 1587. William Shakespeare was twenty years old when the Scottish queen was executed, but the subject of her reign was much too controversial to grace the stage in his time. Even in the nineteenth century, it was either heavily censored or shut down by city officials.

A scene from San Diego Opera's 'Mary, Queen of Scots' ('Maria Stuarda'). Photo © 2008 Ken Howard
A scene from San Diego Opera's 'Mary, Queen of Scots' ('Maria Stuarda'). Photo © 2008 Ken Howard

Mary was born in West Lothian, Scotland, to King James V of Scotland and his French-born wife, Mary of Guise. Unfortunately, James died before the baby was one week old, so eventually the young child went to live in France. Mary became queen of Scotland while still a baby and was betrothed to the dauphin of France as a small child. The dauphin became King François II when he was sixteen years old. He and Mary, who was then seventeen, had been married shortly before. They loved each other and their union might have changed history down to the present day, if the king had not died within a year.

Angela Gilbert as Mary Stuart and Reinhard Hagen as Talbot. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard
Angela Gilbert as Mary Stuart and Reinhard Hagen as Talbot. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard

Although as a widow, Mary was no longer queen of France, she was still queen of Scotland. She returned there to the dismay of English Queen Elizabeth I who rightly considered her a threat to her throne. As the daughter of the second marriage of Henry VIII, many considered Elizabeth to have been born out of wedlock according to the regulations of the Catholic Church. Thus, Mary and her supporters thought Elizabeth had no right to the throne of England.

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Copyright © 10 March 2008 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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