Maria Stuarda

The Music of Maria Stuarda

April 12, 14, 18, and 20, 2012, at 8 pm
Matinée April 22 at 2:30 pm

POV's Best of Youtube

Discover the sensational drama and glorious music of Maria Stuarda in these selections from Youtube.

Let's begin with one of the greatest interpreters of the role, singing the most sublime moment from the opera.

Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera il suono Odi
Awaiting her execution, Maria and her supporters pray to God for forgiveness. Beverly Sills, one of the greatest interpreters of the role, sings the glorious Preghiera (prayer) in this transcendent scene. The Preghiera is famous for an extremely long high G sustained over seven measures and rising in a crescendo to high B flat (beginning at 2'35" in this recording; Ms. Sills holds the soaring high note for some 20 seconds).

Deh! Tu di un'umile preghiera il suono
Ah! You hear the sound
Of a humble prayer, oh kindly God of mercy.
Receive me in the shadow of your pardon
For my heart has no other shelter.
Freed from suffering,
Freed from torment,
Bountiful heaven has forgiven you.

Beverly Sills as Maria Stuarda
John Alldis Choir, London Philharmonic, conducted by Aldo Ceccato, 1971.


Maria Stuarda: Cavatina Oh nube! che lieve per l'aria ti aggiri
and Cabaletta Nella pace del mesto riposo.

Imprisoned at Fotheringhay Castle, Maria Stuarda rejoices in being out under the open sky and sings nostalgically of her happy youth in France.

O nube! che lieve per l'aria ti aggiri
Oh cloud! Lightly drifting in the sky, bear my affection, carry my sighs
To the blessed land that once nurtured me.
Ah! come down, please, take me up upon your wings, Take me to that land,
take me away from my suffering!

Trumpets announce the arrival of Queen Elisabetta's hunting party, and Maria's mood abruptly changes to dread at the thought of meeting her cousin.

Nella pace del mesto riposo
In the peace of my sad seclusion
She will strike me with a new terror.
I asked her, yet dare not see her,
I cannot find such courage in my soul!
Let her stay on her throne and be adored,
as long as her gaze is far from me,
Too sorely am I despised;
In everyone's heart pity for me remains silent

The double aria (Cavatina - Cabaletta) forms the traditional solo scene in the Bel Canto operas of the early and mid 19th century. The first part, the Cavatina, is a slow, contemplative aria, designed to to express the character's feelings and show off the singer's breath control, soft singing, and long vocal line. Then something happens on stage to change the situation and trigger a contrasting Cabaletta, a faster, more vigorous aria that shows off the singer's virtuosity and expresses different, more intense emotions.

Mariella Devia: Maria Stuarda.   Paola Gardina: Anna
La Scala Chorus and Orchestra, Antonino Fogliani, conductor.
Pier Luigi Pizzi, stage director, set design, costumes.
Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 2008


The two queens meet for the first time.
A meeting has been arranged between Elisabetta and Maria, using a royal hunt as a pretext. The hunters arrive at Fotheringhay where Maria is imprisoned. Introductory passages of recitative establish that both women are jittery about the meeting, and that Elisabetta is jealous of Leicester's fondness for Maria. The tense sextet, È sempre la stessa, begins two and a half minutes into the recording as the two queens eye one another warily and all the characters, united in unease, express their separate emotions. When Maria humbles herself by kneeling before Elisabetta to ask forgiveness, Elisabetta provokes Maria, reminding her of her sordid past, accusing her of adultery and the murder of her husband.

This is an opulent 1982 English language production by the English National Opera. Although there is debate about presenting operas in translation, this production is exceptional for its dramatic impact and a strong cast led by the mesmerizing Janet Baker.

Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots): Janet Baker
Elisabetta, Queen of England: Rosalind Plowright
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, favourite of Elizabeth, in love with Mary: David Rendall
George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, friend of Maria: John Tomlinson
Sir William Cecil, Lord Chancellor, enemy of Maria: Alan Opie
Anna Kennedy, Maria's companion: Angela Bostock
Charles Mackerras, conductor
Chorus & Orchestra of the English National Opera
Producer (Director): John Copley
Designer: Desmond Heeley


Confrontation Scene

Watch a baker's dozen of performances featuring the climactic moment when the gloves come off between the two queens.

Finally provoked beyond endurance by Elisabetta's taunts, Maria loses her head and flings at her cousin the worst possible invective. Her venomous insults carry a pointed reminder that many still believe Elisabetta's claim to the throne to be illegitimate. Elizabeth calls the guards to take Maria away.

Figlia impura di Bolena, Parli tu di disonore?
Meretrice indegna, oscena, In te cada il mio rossore.
Profanato è il soglio inglese, Vil bastarda, dal tuo piè!

Impure daughter of Boleyn, Can you speak of dishonour?
Obscene, unworthy whore, My shame falls upon you,
The throne of England is defiled, Vile bastard, by your foot!

The Singers
Edita Gruberova, Sonia Ganassi
Montserrat Caballé, Bianca Berini
Elena Mosuc, Stefania Kaluza
Ashley Putnam, Marisa Galvany
Edita Gruberova, Agnes Baltsa
Elena Mosuc, Katarina Karnéus
Katia Ricciarelli, Glenys Linos
Mariella Devia, Laura Polverelli
Daniela Dessi, Agnes Baltsa
Christiane Weidinger (Monte Carlo 1993)
Patrizia Ciofi, Marianna Pizzolato
Mariella Devia, Anna Caterina Antonacci
Joan Sutherland, Huguette Tourangeau


Preghiera: Ten performances of the soaring high G in Maria's final prayer
Awaiting her execution, Maria and her supporters pray to God for forgiveness. Above is a selection of ten different performances of the spine-tingling portion of the Preghiera in which Maria sustains a long high note over the chorus.

Tolta al dolore, Tolta agli affanni,
Benigno il cielo ti perdonò.
Freed from suffering, Freed from torment,
Bountiful heaven has forgiven you.

The Singers
Montserrat Caballé
Joan Sutherland
Tiziana Fabbricini
Patrizia Ciofi
Mariella Devia 2008
Elena Mosuc
Janet Baker
Katia Ricciarelli
Edita Gruberova
Mariella Devia 2009


Above, Joan Sutherland in a sizzling concert performance of the Cabaletta Nella pace del mesto riposo with Margreta Elkins
Conductor Richard Bonynge, Covent Garden, 1975


Introduction to Maria Stuarda from San Diego Opera Talk: Nick Reveles explores the historical background and music of the opera.


The Plot of Maria Stuarda in one minute with Brenda Harris and Judith Howarth (Minnesota Opera)


Explore Maria Stuarda

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