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Opera in English - Donizetti: Mary Stuart / Mackerras, et al

Album Summary

>Donizetti, Gaetano : Maria Stuarda
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"A smashingly good show. Baker and Plowright are not names that come to mind when many people think of 19th C. bel canto scores, yet they are very compelling...Holding everything together is the baton of Mackerras...the loving, songful, caressing way he shapes the music...Tempos, dynamics, rhythm--these and other niceties are handled very well and help to create a strong theatrical atmosphere. Naturally you should have this in your collection..." --Mark, American Record Guide

The Times
Here are Janet Baker and Rosalind Plowright firing on all cylinders as the rival queens of Scotland and England ... Charles Mackerras is the superb conductor; would that he had given us more Donizetti while at the Coliseum.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
This revival celebrates the association of Janet Baker and Charles Mackerras within the context of the ENO company and one of its most memorable productions. For those who saw this, the set will call the stage back to mind with wonderful vividness; but the appeal goes well beyond that, preserving a performance stamped with the strong individuality that confers the status of a gramophone classic. This brought a personal triumph for Janet Baker and it impresses afresh by the distinctiveness of her vocal characterisation. It isn't every singer who reflects, or re-creates, the distinctive identities through vocal colour and 'registration'. Everyone who was there will remember the 'Royal bastard!' in confrontation with Elizabeth, but equally powerful, and more regal, is her command - 'Be silent! Leave me!' - to the Lord Chancellor of England who brings to Fotheringay news of her condemnation to death. By contrast, the quieter moments can be immensely moving, as, for instance, in the line in which she acknowledges an unexpected generosity in her great opponent. In that role, Rosalind Plowright gives what surely must have been one of the supreme performances of her career.

The writing for Elizabeth makes immense demands of the singer, and in these fearsome opening solos the technical challenges are triumphantly met. John Tomlinson's massive bass commands attention (which it doesn't then always reward with evenness of production). The male soloists have not the most grateful of roles, but Alan Opie's Cecil shows its quality in the duet with Elizabeth, and David Rendall endows the ineffectual Leicester with plenty of Italianate ardour. The chorus has limited opportunities, and has certainly been heard to better advantage on other occasions.

A word of warning must be added concerning texts which involve cuts and adaptations. The transpositions are defended as standard practice when an exceptional mezzo-soprano (such as Malibran) took a soprano role, in the present instance merely conforming to the lower orchestral pitch of Donizetti's time. However, it's unlikely that at this date the set would be bought or rejected with this kind of consideration foremost. What remains are the strong positives, most notably the vitality of Mackerras's conducting and the glory of Baker's singing. Also, for those to whom this is a priority, the opera is given in clear English.


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Works Details

>Donizetti, Gaetano : Maria Stuarda
  • Performers: Janet Baker (Mezzo-soprano); Angela Bostock (Soprano); Alan Opie; Rosalind Plowright (Soprano); David Rendall (Tenor); John Tomlinson (Bass)
  • Conductor: Charles Mackerras
  • Ensemble: English National Opera Orchestra
  • Notes: London Coliseum, London, England (04/01/1982/04/10/1982)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1834