Production Company: Melbourne Opera
Director: Suzanne Chaundy
Musical Director: Raymond Lawrence
This was a thrilling night at the opera!
Maria Stuarda centres on a mythical confrontation between Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who Elizabeth suspected of being involved in a plot to assassinate her. Mary had been imprisoned by Elizabeth, and her friends thought that bringing them together could pave the way to her being released. Of course, this was never going to happen in an opera.
So we had two fiery Queens and two Australian sopranos with international careers to bring them to life. They certainly did that and the fireworks were wonderful.
Helena Dix played the hapless Mary, who ends up being executed. Her pianissimo singing was beautiful, and she had the power to match Elizabeth. Her final aria was touching. Eleanor Greenwood has a more dramatic voice and was an imperious Elizabeth. Their confrontation was electric.
The locals were not overshadowed by the international stars. Three were reprising their roles from 2015, when it was sung in English. Tenor Henry Choo was in fine voice as Leicester, while Eddie Muliaumaseli’i’s sonorous bass voice was a pleasure, as always, as Lord Cecil. Caroline Vercoe was a sympathetic companion to Mary.
As Talbot, Christopher Hillier’s powerful baritone was the best I’d heard him, though he needs to reign in that big voice when dueting with Mr Choo.
There were several arias, but the opera seemed to abound with wonderful duets and ensembles, generally well balanced. The orchestra, under Raymond Lawrence, was in fine form and supported the singers throughout. He was also responsible for the thrilling chorus singing, which displayed lots of light and shade.
The sets and lighting were effective and I particularly liked the opening of the last scene with the execution block in a spot and the rest of the stage in darkness. The costumes were spectacular. The Tudor Rose featured prominently.
This is a short season of an opera not to be missed.
– Graham Ford, Graham Ford Reviews