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Donizetti: Maria Stuarda - Orchestra & Chorus of the Teatro Alla Scalla
Donizetti Maria Stuarda - Orchestra Chorus of the Teatro Alla Scalla
Actors: Anna Caterina Antonacci, Mariella Devia, Paola Gardina, Francesco Meli, Simone Alberghino
Director: Carlo Tagliabue
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     2hr 31min

Two queens on one island. A recipe for disaster. Especially as both have a legitimate claim to the other's throne. They are, after — all, related... So the power politics are the name of the game. And, for reasons of state,...  more »


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Actors: Anna Caterina Antonacci, Mariella Devia, Paola Gardina, Francesco Meli, Simone Alberghino
Director: Carlo Tagliabue
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Classical
Studio: Arthaus Musik
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 02/24/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 31min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: German, English, Italian, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Ageless Devia at her best
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The particulars:

Maria: Mariella Devia
Elisabetta: Anna Caterina Antonacci
Anna: Paola Gardina
Leicester: Francesco Meli
Talbot: Simone Alberghini
Cecil: Piero Terranova

Conductor: Antonino Fogliani
Director, set, costumes: Pier Luigi Pizzi
La Scala, 2008
Arthaus Musik 138 mins plus bonus

I love MARIA STUARDA. Of his Tudor operas, I rate it second after ROBERTO DEVEREUX as a music drama. Anna Bolena, in spite of its sublime music for the title role, as whole I find not as musically compelling than Donizetti's later works; it is less original and cohesive as whole.

While the music of Elisabetta and the other characters is not as memorable, the music for Maria herself is magnificent, finely characterized, and reaches heights of greatness. There is the nostalgic, wistful "O nube che lieve per l'aria," with its ascending-descending melody; the peerless last act, where Maria has a succession of one stunning number after another. The meditative, deeply felt larghetto of "Quando di luce rosea," the urgent duet with Talbot; the gorgeous, rapt "Deh, di un umile preghiera," which has a true religious fervor; the penitent "D'un cor che muore," and lastly, the *maestoso* "Ah se un giorno da questo ritorte," which burns with inner fire and a great nobility.

Not least, STUARDA has one of the most brilliantly dramatic confrontations between the the two queens, in a highly explosive encounter: the "Figlia impura di Bolena" sequence is a thoroughly febrile, hair-raising moment of drama.

Maria is the most lyrical of the 3 queens and the least adorned by decorative writing. It has served as a showcase for many excellent sopranos: Leyla Gencer (one Dina Soresi was the first Maria in the 20th century), Montserrat Caballé, Belle Silverman, Joan Bonynge, Edita Gruberova, and now, Mariella Devia.

The lost autograph was found in of all places, Stockholm, a number of years ago, and the performance reflects this. There are indeed numerous differences in several places throughout the score, in a departure from the by-now familiar version (derived from several, and supposedly "corrupt" sources) which has been used throughout the years in performance and recordings. I do not have the resources to compare the two scores side-by-side, and since different versions seem to be used for every performance available in any format, would be a major undertaking; but a Donizettian, familiar with the music, can discern the diffrences easily on his own. The most notable examples are that of Maria's cabaletta, "Nella pace del mesto riposo," and the final "Ah! se un giorno da queste ritorte;" both melodically take different courses from the versions we're used to hearing. They're not necessarily better; just different. I find myself preferring the final aria in its commonly heard incarnation, though; it strikes a more fatalistic and higher pitch of tragedy. However, the most striking variant is the finale to Act Two, after Maria has denounced Elisabetta as a "vil bastarda." In many ways the passages are similar, but unlike the wide intervals of high emotions of the usual one we're used to hearing, this one appears to seethe on a much more restrained level. It makes for a very interesting comparison, one which will depend on the taste of the listener.

This is, I think, the 3rd commercial video release of STUARDA. The first 2 can be handily discarded. The film by Petr Weigl is a bizarre experiment that fails utterly: it takes both Schiller's play (in German) and Donizetti's opera, and incorporates both into the same performance, intercutting them abruptly into one another: it's a disaster. The Dynamic DVD has two very notable artists: Sonia Ganassi as Elisabetta and Joseph Calleja as Leicester. But a gaping hole is left by the Maria of Carmela Remigio, she of the one octave-attractive voice and personality. She isn't horrible by any means (appealing voice and presence): just a bona fide amateur.

The void in the catalogue has now been filled and then some by this new release.

Production by Pizzi: minimalist. Barring the astro-turfed, plastic tree-ed opening scene for Maria, we have your generic grates, grilles, and stairs. Gorgeous costumes, of the period. Lots of leather-clad courtiers (Castro District residents take note) and Catholic Ladies Dressed in Black. Reasonable attempt at staging.

From the bottom: Workaday Cecil. A young, baritonish, average Talbot. The Leicester, Francesco Meli - the Elvino on the Dessay SONNAMBULA. Nice voice, a bit tight on top, fine presence ("Keeping Up Appearances" ' Rose would describe him as "dishy"). None of these men would be described as exceptional singers (Meli a notch above), but they are competent enough.

Antonacci, an excellent, elegant Elisabetta, is a great foil for for Devia's more humble Maria. She takes care not to be the beastie baddie bitch, and looks agonized at having to sentence her sistah girl to the chopper. Antonacci has a more character-type voice than one of true technical precision. The voice has a bit of a flutter, but is not unsteady, and she is an expressive artist. It's too bad Elisabetta's music is so conventional: her music doesn't linger in the memory (and isn't "excerptable").

This release's principal distinction is brought about by the (largely) ageless Mariella Devia. I would say that this release, (meaning on video) does the greatest justice to her art (the LUCIA from Scala, 1991 is a fine document, but Devia, while splendid vocally, is, histronically a bit on the low-temperature side).

To put on a point on it, Devia, at 60, is just fricking unbelievable. There is scarcely a soprano 10, 20, 30 years younger who is singing as well as she does still. From the moment of her entrance, an aura-glow of a Special Occasion takes place. She is one of Italy's glories.

For those of us who have followed Devia's career for a long time, we will note what a *shrewd* self-judge she is, in the same way Dorothy Kirsten was - in knowing precisely how the voice will best function.

I say this as a fact, not criticism: Devia's middle-lower range, within the context of a line, has lost some of its sonority and strength (from natural consequences of age, not faulty vocal production). Some of the individual phrases that occur on low are just fine, but wending down in a line that has begun on a higher tessitura, the body of the tone tends to disappear; "dal tuo pie," sung *come scritto* (instead of the octave up), loses impact (she might have best elected for the octave up tranposition). But elsewhere, to solve low-lying considerations: Devia simply raises the line, the phrase, the note: her upper register is mainly undiminished, in fact, it peals out with amazing freedom and power. And she often adds interesting bits of crowning notes to heighten the expression and edge. Her judicious, aware knowledge of where and how she has made these textual decisions is a sign of her absolute self-discernment. These are the kind of adjustments that Donizetti would have understood, as, after all, most composers wrote to the strengths and weaknesses of any given singer.

The role is a near perfect fit for Devia. Her voice finds its best repose in the gilding of a line, and here, she exemplifies the sympathetic mien of the character. The limning of "O nube che lieve per l'aria" is expert, suave and buoyant; she captures the joy of her recall. "Da tutti abbandonata" has her showing that fine, plushy tone you know in her "Verranno a te." For the "Figlia impura di Bolena," her denunciation begins well enough, with brisk, biting sarcasm; but at "Profanato, e il soglio inglese" to the end of the section, the tone loses focus, so that some of the impetus is lost.

Act 3 though has her going prodigiously from one scene to another. Devia invests deeply in the line of "Quando di luce rosea," creating a poignant sense of regret. The Preghiera is just gorgeous, pristine: the high A is held crescendoed, and goes upward without a break in breath. She successfully creates some variants to detract from the low-lying "D'un che muore," while keeping the sense of the piece's mood.

However, Devia pulls out all the stops for a splendid "Ah, se un giorno da queste ritorte," where she floods the melody with the most dulcet of tones, conveying a sense of burning urgency; she has a way of shading the tone to impart a tear without sobbing. Most fascinating of all, she alters the second verse's melody with some spectacular variants to capitalize on the undiminished power of her upper register, and it heightens that urgency most persuasively. By the way, Devia ends both acts 2 and 3 with the familiar sopracuti: both are spot-on. I love the staging here: Maria puts her head on the chopping block, and the leather-adorned bald slave-master-executioner lifts up the slicer ~~~ then, darkness.

Histrionically, this is the most involved performance of Devia's that I've seen so far. Maturity seems to have given her a more purposeful reaction to the music, and her physical responses are more free, spontaneous than I've ever seen her. You might wish for a bit of Scotto-Seize-The-Moment grandeur in the "Figlia impura di Bolena," but, for the most part, Devia's unfussy acting is in an honest, direct response to the music.

The 10 minute backstage mini-docu is a tantalizing glimpse of the stars and staging.

Unhesitatingly recommended. You will not hear many singers who sound this good at age 60.

Anna Caterina Antonacci is spellbinding!
ravennamoon | Naples, Italy | 03/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Anna Caterina Antonacci is Elizabeth, Mariella Devia is Maria Stuarda.
These two brilliant stars shine in this powerful opera by Donizetti.
This is an excellent production--a somewhat sparse set, but effective,
and wonderful costumes.
These are roles great sopranos can sink their teeth into---and
in this dvd, you will be as intrigued with the story as the
ravishing music and singing! Enjoy!"
Devia: the greatest belcanto singer of the age
J. Luis Juarez Echenique | Mexico City | 04/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is the real thing: Belcanto in excelsis!
For sheer sense of style, individuality, understanding of what she is singing and technical magnificense, Mariella Devia is without peer. And if you consider that she is past 60, it is obvious she is a living miracle.
It doesn't matter that the staging is rather modest, with Devia and the also stupendous Anna Caterina Antonacci living their roles to the full, this is a must-have DVD. In this age of girls-next-door trying to be prima donnas, here you have the real thing: Great Divas."
El Critico | Aventura, Florida | 05/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ever since the night in the middle 1970's when I heard Beverly Sills at New York City Opera sing this piece, I became an ardent fan of this opera and I have collected any LP,CD and DVD of this work that I have come accross and I must say that this DVD does not disappoint.
As a DVD is the best so far, the other available ones do not come near to this production.
In spite of the unusual staging I found it great in every aspect, musically, vocally, the costumes are stunning, all together, a well deserved 5 Star rating.
Ironically Beverly Sills according to her autobiography considered this piece the least interesting of the Three Donizetti Queens and she only sang it and recorded so she can say that she did the complete Donizetti Queens Trilogy.
On CD there are more choices of this work besides Sill's: by Caballe, Sutherland and Gruberova (my favorite on CD)among many others.
Now, if you want an interesting and different experience watch the DVD
of "Mary Stewart" by ENO (English National Opera) with Dame Janet Baker as Maria and Rosalind Plowright as Elisabetta.
It is in English, but all the music is there, the translation is
excellent and fits the score to perfection. This DVD is readily available
from Amazon but you must search for Janet Baker DVDs.
Once more, I highly recommend this DVD."