Donizetti - Mary Stuart / Baker, Plowright, Rendell, Tomlinson, Opie, Bostock, Mackerras, English National Opera
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The ill-fated Queen of Scots has always exerted a powerful fascination: she has appeared on stage, film and television and in countless novels and biographies. Donizetti's opera offers a great singing-actress untold opportunities. Mary portrays a memorable range of human emotion in the scenes leading to her execution - optimism, regret, love, remorse, despair and in the climactic scene of the fictitious encounter with her persecutor, Elizabeth I, the royal pride and defiance that are her undoing.
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I much prefer the Maria Stuarda from La Scala, with Anna Caterina Antonacci and Mariella Devia, although the staging and the costumes are not as nice (not as expensive). If you like Janet Baker, you may want to buy Owen Wingrave (1970) or The Beggar's Opera (1963), both in The Britten-Pears Collection (Decca), both available from Amazon.
The English translation serves its purpose well and lets us see the involvement of all the principles in the drama. Above all, recommnded for Dame Janet.
Janet Baker was at the very height of her powers in this performance giving a truly mesmerizing account of Donizetti's Mary Stuart. She is able to meet every vocal challenge Donizetti throws at her. From full throttled high notes as well as low ones to unearthly pianissimos and everything in-between. Her floritura and embellishments are great; she uses them wonderfully to express the character's emotions, feelings, thoughts and memories. The fictional confrontation scene with Plowright is thrilling! Those girls really have a go (vocally) at each other. (I know that there are "purist" that object to this scene because it lacks historical accuracy. It does NOT bother me a bit! I feel that this IS opera NOT a history lesson making for some very exciting "melt the stage-lights" singing between the two female leads-ain't that what opera is all about?? To me it is! Plus not too many operas are known for their historical accuracy.) Rosalind is stupendous as ElizabethI displaying why she was (at that time) to go on to greater things becoming one of the leading sopranos of her day.
The secondary roles are all handled very well. However, as in so many of Donizetti's operas the ladies are the real show with Janet and Rosalind putting on a jolly good one!
The DVD picture and sound qualities are marvelous capturing a beautiful production wonderfully!
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