Mary Stuart review - The Australian

Melbourne Opera’s Maria Stuarda: Bel canto game of thrones

Performing Italian bel canto repertoire in English invariably sacrifices stylistic character and introduces awkward syllabic subdivisions.

Surmounting such challenges, this compelling revival by Melbourne Opera of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda redresses decades-long local neglect.

Having conducted Victoria’s vanguard 1975 production, Richard Divall brings sparkling clarity to the orchestral accompaniment, while Christina Logan-Bell’s historically informed, elegant designs evoke regality and solemnity, the omnipresent Tudor rose coupled with impressionistic vaulted beams and ornate stonework.

Spatially constrained but musically robust, chorus contributions superbly convey collectivised grief at the impending regicide, while Rosamund Illing channels comedic cattiness into Elizabeth’s vengeful outbursts and jealous asides but struggles with diction. Henry Choo proves an earnest love interest, sweet-toned and keen on rapid vibrato, and a vocally assured supporting cast (Phillip Calcagno, Caroline Vercoe, Eddie Muliaumaseali’i) approach the swiftly flowing drama with poignancy and veracity.

In the title role, Elena Xanthoudakis is a clear standout, bravura coloratura flurries and stratospheric ascents coupled with impressive carrying power, vivid characterisation and a superb display of fury when maligned by accusations of promiscuity and treachery.

SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

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