Oct 14, 2007

Which is the best recent Maria Stuarda?

is the question I'm on since my last encounter with this Donizetti's opera (my biaised point of view, of course).

Here are the contenders:

1. 2007, Opéra de Lyon

Maria Stuarda: Ruth Ann Swenson
Elisabetta: Iano Tamar
Leicester: Dario Schmunck
Talbot: Giovanni Furlanetto
Conductor: Evelino Pidó
Choeurs et orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon

Broadcast on France Musique Oct.13, of the Sept.28th performance, available on request by mail.

Fantastic Talbot, average Leicester & Elisabetta, great Maria Stuarda.
Ruth Ann Swenson was almost booed in Paris for her shy high notes; since I've never been a fan of high notes anyway (too aggressive to my sensitive ears), I must admit I prefer the performance she gave this year rather than the one in New York in 2001, where, no doubt, her high notes were totally different.
Conducting good, with some moments of brilliance and some way too slow and heavy.

2. 2006, March 30, Roma
(photos of the production here, review in Italian here)

Maria Stuarda: Mariella Devia
Elisabetta: Enkelejda Shkosa
Leicester: Claudio Di Segni
Talbot: Enrico Turco
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Orchestra del Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

Bad Leicester, average Elisabetta and Talbot, disappointing Maria Stuarda (Devia definitelly not at her best here); horrific conducting; there's a difference between a dynamic rythm and rushing things up that Riccardo Frizza has no clue about whatsoever.
The tempi are dreadful and a disgrace to Donizetti's music.

Definitelly a version to forget.

3. 2005, April 2, Geneva
(review in French here and there, YouTube extract here and there [dress rehearsal])

Maria Stuarda: Gabriele Fontana
Elisabetta: Joyce DiDonato
Leicester: Eric Cutler
Talbot: Giovanni Furlanetto
Conductor: Evelino Pidó
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Choeurs du Grand Théâtre

Pidó conducts as he always does; no surprise here and no real differences from this year's performance in Lyon or the 1999 one in Parma.
Joyce DiDonato is a great Elisabetta; Eric Cutler is disappointing, switching back and forth from mediocre to good. Giovanni Furlanetto also doesn't live up to my expectations (especially since his performance in Lyon); Gabriele Fontana is also average.

4. 2003, November, Liceu, Barcelona
(review in spanish from Mundoclasico here, YouTube extract here and there)

Maria Stuarda: Edita Gruberova
Elisabetta: Sonia Ganassi
Leicester: Juan Diego Flórez
Talbot: Simon Orfila
Conductor: Friedrich Haider
(review in French here)

Fantastic JDF, good conducting.
I have a problem with the timbre of Edita Gruberova, so after a while, I find it painful to listen to her; Sonia Ganassi average and forgettable, so is the performance of Orfila.

5. 2001, May 13, Carnagie Hall, New York

(review of Anthony Tommasini from the New York Times here)

Maria Stuarda: Ruth Ann Swenson
Elisabetta: Lauren Flanigan
Leicester: Gregory Kunde
Talbot: Patrick Carfizzi
Conductor: Eve Queler
Opera Orchestra of New York
Opera Orchestra Chorus

Ruth Ann Swenson's voice at her prime, but her performance is too cold and monolithic; she definitelly lacks any kind of emotion.
Gregory Kunde is an unbearable Leicester, Patrick Carfizzi a less than average Talbot. Eve Queler's conducting is way to heavy and swampy (strange way to describe it, I know, but it really feels like all the musicians are stuck in a wet, low and spongy land).

The performance really falls flat.

6. 2001, October 5, Stockholm

Maria Stuarda: Lena Nordin
Elisabetta: Ingrid Tobiasson
Leicester: Joseph Calleja
Talbot: Anders Bergström
Conductor: Pier Giorgi Morandi
Royal Opera House Stockholm

A real surprise here; good conducting (with moments of greatness), good Elisabetta, good Talbot, good to great Maria Stuarda, suprisingly great Leicester: I don't like Joseph Calleja's timbre and way of singing, but it works great in the role of Leicester. Had Juan Diego Flórez not sung the role, he would be my top performer.

Definitelly a recording to keep.

7. 1999, March 18, Teatro Regio di Parma

Maria Stuarda: Giusy Devinu
Elisabetta: Enkelejda Shkosa
Leicester: Juan Diego Flórez
Talbot: Simone Alberghini
Conductor: Evelino Pidó

Great JDF, though I prefer the performance he gave in Barcelona in 2003, that has more nuances; good Maria Stuarda; forgettable Elisabetta; the Pidò conducting pretty much the same as always.

New productions still to come in 2008:
  • Milano, Scala, January 15, 18, 20, 22, 26, 30, February 3 & 7
    Beginning of sale: Nov.15

    Maria Stuarda: Mariella Devia
    Elisabetta: Anna Caterina Antonacci
    Leicester: Francesco Meli
    Talbot: Carlo Cigni
    Conductor: Antonino Fogliani

  • Liège, Théâtre Royal de Wallonie, April 30, May 3, 6, 8 & 11.

    Maria Stuarda: Patrizia Ciofi
    Elisabetta: Marianna Pizzolato
    Leicester: Danilo Formaggia
    Talbot: Federico Sacchi
    Conductor: Luciano Acocella

Productions I haven't been able to hear:
  • 2006, October, Berlin, Staatsoper Unter den Linden

    Maria Stuarda: Elena Mosuc
    Elisabetta: Katarina Karnéus
    Leicester: José Bros
    Talbot: Christof Fischesser
    Conductor: Alain Altinoglu

  • 2005, April, Caen (France), coproduction with Geneva

    Maria Stuarda: Gabriele Fontana
    Elisabetta: Marianna Kulikova
    Leicester: Eric Cutler
    Talbot: Giovanni Furlanetto
    Conductor: Nicolas Chalvin

  • 2003, January, Teatro Campoamor Oviedo
    (review in French here)

    Maria Stuarda : Ángeles Blancas
    Elisabetta: Judith Borrás
    Leicester: Joseph Calleja
    Talbot : Alberto Arrabal
    Conductor: Roberto Tolomelli

  • 2002, December, Opernhaus Zürich
    (press reviews in German here)

    Maria Stuarda: Angeles Blancas
    Elisabetta: Carmen Oprisanu
    Leicester: Fabio Sartori
    Talbot: László Polgár
    Conductor: Marcello Viotti
    Chor des Opernhauses Zürich
    Statistenverein am Opernhaus Zürich
    Orchester der Oper Zürich

  • 2002, January, Teatro Valli - Reggio Emilia
    (review in French here, in italian there)

    Maria Stuarda: Carmela Remigio
    Elisabetta: Sonia Ganassi
    Leicester: Joseph Calleja
    Talbot: Riccardo Zanellato
    Conductor: Francesco Maria Carminati
    Orchestra Stabile di Bergamo "G. Donizetti"
    Coro del Circuito Lirico Regionale della Lombardia
    Performance in Bologna recorded on CD

So, what's the chosen version?

    Best overall performance: Stockholm, 2001

    Best Maria Stuarda: Ruth Ann Swenson, Lyon, 2007
    Best Elisabetta: Joyce DiDonato, Geneva 2005
    Best Leicester: Juan Diego Flórez, Barcelona 2003

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