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September 2013 Guides

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Met in HD: Maria Stuarda

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By Larry Stickler
 · January 17, 2013

Sparks fly between Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, in the Metropolitan Opera's first-ever production of Maria Stuarda by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), which opened on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2012, and will run in the repertory through January 26, 2013.

Maria Stuarda will be simulcast as part of the Met's Live in HD series this Saturday, January 19 at 12:55 pm, with an encore showing on Wednesday, February 6 at 6:30 pm. The lyric tragedy in two acts will be sung in Italian with English subtitles and will have an approximate running time of three hours and thirty minutes.

This performance will be transmitted live in high definition and surround sound in four theaters in West Virginia: Cinemark Theater at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Great Escape in Nitro; Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown; and Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg, as well as Cinemark Theatre in Ashland, Kentucky.

Mary Stuart, Catholic queen of Scotland was beheaded in 1587. She had been forced to abdicate her throne by the Scottish nobility and flee her kingdom. She sought asylum from her cousin Queen Elizabeth I in England. However, Elizabeth imprisoned Mary for many years. English Catholics saw Mary as the rightful heir to the throne as opposed to Protestant Queen Elizabeth. Two queens, one throne; the future of England at stake. - (Huffington Post)

The libretto (script) by Giuseppe Bardani is based upon Andrea Maffei’s Italian-language translation of Friedrich Schiller's tragic play of the same name. Historically, the play is inaccurate for at least two reasons, Elizabeth and Mary never met and the alleged love interest both women have for Robert Dudley is a creation of the playwright.

But in the opera, the music pretty much trumps history, and in Maria Stuarda Donizetti's confrontation scene between the two women at the end of Act I, a furious sixteeth century cat fight in which each hurls invectives at the other, makes terrific drama.-  (Huffington Post)

Vocally expressive of the text as well as capable of virtuosic bel canto (beautiful singing) American mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato sings the title role of Mary.

Making her Metropolitan debut, soprano Elza van den Heever sings the role of Elizabeth I. She even shaved her head to get into the role of Elizabeth and to accommodate the queen's wigs. She studies voice with Sheri Greenawald, who lived for a time in Charleston, West Virginia.

Tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the role of Robert (Roberto) Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and bass Matthew Rose sings the role of George (Giorgio) Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, who is loyal to Mary. 

Greeks, Trojans, Carthginians!

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By Larry Stickler
 · January 3, 2013

Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse from the Met's production of Les Troyens

Greeks, Trojans, Carthaginians - what a cast! Beware of that giant wooden horse!

The vast epic masterwork Les Troyens (The Trojans) by French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) will be the Metropolitan Opera simulcast this Saturday, January 5. Because with interviews and intermissions this simulcast will last 5½ hours, the matinee will begin at 12 noon.

Berlioz wrote his own libretto (script) based on the Latin epic poem Aeneid by Virgil. Berlioz believed that the integration of poetry and music was much more powerful than either art or music alone. This spectacular five-act opera includes twenty-two roles and a huge chorus and orchestra.

Part I (The Fall of Troy) includes Acts 1 and 2 and is set in and around the walls of ancient Troy. Soprano Deborah Voigt will sing the role of Cassandre (Cassandra), Trojan prophetess and daughter of Priam. The role of Chorebe (Corebus), betrothed to Cassandre, will be sung by baritone Dwayne Croft. Bass Julien Robbins will sing the role of Priam, King of Troy. Tenor Marcello Giordani will sing the role of the Trojan hero Ence (Aeneas).

Part II (The Trojans at Carthage includes Acts 3,4, and 5. Aeneas has escaped Troy and travelled to Carthage, North Africa, where he meets Didon (Dido), the widowed queen of Carthage, sung by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham.

I personally have never seen a production of Les Troyens and I am looking forward to this simulcast. Because it is a massive undertaking to stage this work, Berlioz himself never saw the entire opera on stage during his lifetime.

The present Met production by Francesca Zambello was last seen during the 2003 season. Maestro Fabio Luisi will conduct the cast of stars and the large-scale musical forces.

A true composer of the Romantic period, an author of a book on orchestration and a believer in the unity of music and poetry, Berlioz was able to use the orchestra itself as a character to highlight the drama. The orchestra is large for loud warlike outbursts but can be used in small combinations for soft tender moments.

Le Troyens will be transmitted live in high definition and surround sound into selected movie theaters around the world this Saturday, January 5 as the first simulcast of 2013. It will be shown in four theaters in West Virginia: Cinemark Theater of the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Great Escape in Nitro; Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown; and Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg, as well as Cinemark Theater in Ashland, Kentucky.

Area opera lovers who are unable to attend the showing of Les Troyens on January 5 at noon, have the opportunity to see the encore performance only at the Cinemark in Huntington Mall on Wednesday, January 23, at 6:30 pm


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