Say what you will about Donizetti's embellishments of the story of Mary Stuart, they do bring his characters to life in a quite wonderful way. It is through art – music, literature, painting, tapestry, architecture – that we experience much of the past. It is through art that history is both transformed and enriched, and that the legacies of lives lived long ago can touch us here today.
Director Maria Lamont and designer Camellia Koo have chosen to frame this production of Maria Stuarda through the legacy of art, to capture the complexity of an historic time through the lens of modern sensibility.
In this production of Maria Stuarda, the setting of the opera takes place in a Tudor mansion that has been transformed into a present-day museum. The staff and workers of the museum are preparing an exhibition of the lives of the two Queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. As they assemble artifacts, portraits and relics, they relive the final months of Mary Stuart's life.
Below: portraits and tapestries being used in the production.
Above Left: The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in her coronation robes, patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine. Painted by an unknown artist about 1600, it is probably a copy of a lost original, c. 1559, also by an unknown artist. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Above Right: Mary, Queen of Scots in Captivity, c. 1610. This is one of a number of portraits of Mary that are known as Sheffield portraits. Painted after Mary's death, it was inspired by an original by Nicholas Hilliard c. 1578, when Mary was a prisoner at Sheffield House, one of Talbot's many large houses. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Right: The Unicorn in Captivity 1495-1505 (Detail). Among the most beautiful and complex works of art from the late Middle Ages, this is one of seven hangings known as The Unicorn Tapestries. Woven in fine wool and silk with silver and gilded threads, the tapestries depict scenes from a hunt for the elusive, magical unicorn, here finally captured, fenced in, and tethered to a pomegranate tree. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.