San Francisco-trained soprano Elza van den Heever made her Metropolitan Opera debut as "Elisabetta" in the company’s new David McVicar production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda this past New Year's Eve alongside mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and tenor Matthew Polenzani. Elza is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship Program. Donizetti’s dramatic power struggle between two queens with two sets of religious beliefs and only one possible, bloody outcome will be transmitted live around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series on Saturday, January 19th. The San Francisco Bay Area simulcasts begin at 9:55 a.m. at select theaters.
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Maria Stuarda is the second of three bel canto operas by Gaetano Donizetti, commonly known as his “Tudor Trilogy.” Originally premiered in 1835, Maria Stuarda is based on Friedrich Schiller’s play Mary Stuart, which focuses on the final days of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was viewed as a challenger to Elizabeth I’s throne and beheaded in 1587.
“In this mid-point opera we are really focusing on the relationship between two queens in the same moment and the political impossibility of these two women co-existing on the same small island,” said David McVicar. “It’s based on the Schiller dramatization of Mary’s story which contains the great, mythical scene – which never actually happened in history – when the two queens meet and have a cataclysmic showdown. It crackles with drama, it crackles with romance and it’s a very, very powerful mid-point in the trilogy of these three operas.”
Maurizio Benini, who opened the Met’s 2012-2013 season in September 2012 leading the new production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, returns to conduct.
For Maria Stuarda, Mr. McVicar works with fellow Scotsman, John Macfarlane on set and costume designs. Mr. Macfarlane’s previous work at the Met has included the much-loved fantastical sets and costumes for Hansel and Gretel. Elza van den Heever went to extraordinary lengths to portray the legendary Queen, shaving her head in order to better suit the elaborate wigs and high forehead depicted in portraits of the Monarch. Mr. McVicar says that this new production embraces the romance of Maria Stuarda, rather than realism: “When we did the production of Anna Bolena last season at the Met, we went for the ’nth-degree of historical accuracy, particularly in the costuming. With Maria Stuarda being a different type of opera, we’ve gone for a visual style that is freer, that is more romantic and which somehow, rather than reflecting history, reflects the romantic nature of this retelling of the story and the sweeping romantic nature of Donizetti’s music.”
The Met: Live in HD series is the world’s largest provider of alternative cinema content. Now in its seventh season, it is currently reaching its widest-ever global audience having expanded to reach more than 1,900 theaters in 64 countries around the world. Following the worldwide live transmission on January 19th hosted by Deborah Voigt, “Encore” screenings of Maria Stuarda will be held in the US on February 6th at 6:30 p.m. local time and in Canada on March 18th at 6:30 p.m. local time.
Click here for theater locations: The Met: Live in HD