DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda — Paris 1972

Music composed by Gaetano Donizetti. Libretto by Giuseppe Bardari after
Andrea Maffei’s translation (1830) of Friedrich von Schiller’s
Maria Stuart.

First Performance: 30 December 1835, Teatro alla Scala,

Principal Roles:
Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra Mezzo-Soprano
Maria Stuarda, Regina di Scozia Soprano
Anna Kennedy, Nutrice di Maria Mezzo-Soprano
Roberto, Conte di Leicester Tenor
Lord Guglielmo Cecil, Gran Tesitore Baritone
Giorgio Talbot, Conte di Shrewsbury Bass


Act I

The Palace of Westminster

A tourney has been given in honor of the French ambassador, who is
negotiating with Elisabetta concerning a marriage proposal from the King of
France, which she is contemplating through a sense of duty to her subjects,
while secretly pining for Leicester, whose absence from court she notices.
Talbot, who is in charge of the royal prisoner, tries to intercede with
Elisabetta on behalf of Maria, imprisoned in Fotheringay Castle since fleeing
from Scotland. But the Queen is torn between sympathy for Maria and fear that
she is plotting against her; Cecil warns against the perils of pity.

Leicester arrives and she gives him a ring to take to the French
Ambassador as a token of her acceptance of the offer of marriage, but is
incensed when Leicester seems unmoved by the commission. Privately Talbot
gives Leicester a portrait of Maria and a letter from her and Leicester
resolves to free the woman he loves by any means. He gives Elisabetta the
letter, which is a plea for a meeting with her, and he urges her to consent,
pointing out that she can use a hunting party in the vicinity of Fotheringay
as a pretext. His enthusiasm for her rival’s cause reminds Elisabetta of
Maria’s attempts on the English throne and when Leicester waxes unwisely
lyrical about Maria’s charms, the Queen exults that she has been brought

Act II

The grounds of Fotheringay Castle

Accompanied by Anna, Maria walks in the park, rejoicing in her limited
freedom, but remembering sadly the happy days of her youth in France. The
sound of the approaching royal hunt terrifies her, and she regrets having
asked Elisabetta for a meeting, but, supported by Leicester and his
assurances that Elisabetta had been moved by the letter, she agrees to stay
and face her.

Elisabetta also views the occasion with mixed feelings, on the one hand
rejecting Cecil’s urgings that she execute Maria and on the other enraged by
the fervor with which Leicester argues her rival’s case. As the queens
confront one another, each is already convinced that the other is haughty,
but Maria makes an effort and humbles herself to ask for clemency. Elisabetta
is obdurate, and her references to Maria’s murdered husband and aspersions on
her honor provoke Maria, despite Leicester’s attempts to calm her, into
taunting Elisabetta with being a bastard and a “vile, lascivious harlot.”
Furious, Elisabetta advises her to expect her death sentence, but Maria
exults in her temporary triumph.


Scene 1. The Palace of Westminster

Although mortally affronted, Elisabetta hesitates to sign the death
warrant, despite the urgings of Cecil that her safety and that of the realm
depend on Maria’s death. Only the arrival of Leicester provokes her into
signing. His prayers for mercy only provoke her into ordering him to witness
the execution.

Scene 2. Maria’s apartment in Fotheringay

Maria is still exultant over her humiliation of Elisabetta, though fearing
that Leicester may be in danger from her wrath. Cecil brings the death
warrant. She refuses his offer of a priest, but admits to Talbot that she is
oppressed by the recollection of her sins. He reveals that he has taken holy
orders so as to hear her confession.

She confesses to guilt over the murder of her husband, Darnley, and also
seems to admit complicity in the Babington plot (not only to free her but
elevate her to the English throne by murdering the Queen). Talbot gives her

Scene 3. A room next to the execution chamber

Maria’s friends lament her fate, and she, facing death calmly, tries to
comfort them and give them strength. As the cannon sounds the signal for her
execution, Cecil asks for her last requests. She forgives Elisabetta and
prays for a blessing on her and the kingdom. She tries to calm the
grief-stricken Leicester and hopes that her innocent blood will placate the
wrath of Heaven. She goes resolutely to her death as her friends grieve over
her fate.

[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]

here for the complete libretto

image_description=Mary Queen of Scots
first_audio_name=Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda
product_title=Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda
product_by=Cecil: Enric Serra; Elisabetta: MichËle Vilma; Giorgio Talbot: Maurizio Mazzieri; Hannah: Ruth Beginian; Maria Stuarda: Montserrat CaballÈ; Roberto: JosÈ Carreras. Chorus & Lyric Orchestra of the ORTF. Nello Santi, conducting. Live performance, 26 March 1972, Paris.