Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart)
  • Gaetano Donizetti. Tragedia lirica in two acts. 1835.
  • Libretto by Giuseppe Bardari, after the play Maria Stuart by Friedrich von Schiller.
  • First performance at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 30th December 1835.
CHARACTERS
Elisabetta (Elizabeth), Queen of England soprano
Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart), Queen of Scots soprano
Anna (Hannah Kennedy), her lady-in-waiting mezzo-soprano
Leicester (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester) tenor
Talbot (George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury) baritone
Cecil, Lord Burleigh bass
Herald bass

Queen Elizabeth considers marriage to the Dauphin, but is in love with Leicester, who is persuaded by Talbot to arrange a meeting between Queen Mary and the English Queen. Elizabeth is now jealous of Leicester’s attachment to her cousin. She visits Mary at Fotheringay, where she has been held prisoner, but the meeting brings conflict between the two, with Mary eventually stung into reproaching Elizabeth for her illegitimacy. At Westminster Cecil urges Mary’s execution, while Leicester pleads for her life, arousing Elizabeth’s jealousy once more. The death warrant is taken to Fotheringay, where Mary makes her confession to Talbot, now revealed as a priest, and goes to her execution, witnessed, as the English Queen had commanded, by Leicester.

Leicester’s love for Mary is reawakened when Talbot hands him a miniature of her. This he expresses in the first-act Ah! rimiro il bel sembiante (Ah! I see again the fair likeness). The scene between the two Queens is a remarkable one, with Elizabeth angry at a woman she sees as sempre la stessa, superba, orgogliosa (always the same, haughty, proud), while Mary is provoked into reminding her of her parentage, figlia impura di Bolena (tainted daughter of Anne Boleyn). Most moving of all is the final scene, in which Mary utters her final prayer and faces death with noble serenity.