As the headnote above informs, this recording of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda was taken from the August 3, 2007 performance at Sferisterio Opera Festival in Macerata, Italy. It is therefore an open-air production, which usually means – as is the case here – that the sound reproduction has a slightly drier, somewhat less potent effect on the ear. That said, it is still clear and powerful enough when the volume control is given a boost. The most important thing, of course, is the performance itself, and it is a good one.
Maria Pia Piscitelli, in the title role, turns in a knock-out performance. Her big numbers in the beginning of Act II (tracks 14-16), Guarda: sui prati appare, O nube! che lieve per l'aria ti aggiri and Nella pace del mesto riposo, are all stunningly delivered, and her high notes here and elsewhere exhibit both power and beauty. Moreover, her dramatic skills are fully convincing from her first appearance in the Second Act to the impassioned final scene. Laura Polverelli, in the role of Elizabetta, begins a bit tentatively but gets stronger as the performance goes along. Others in the cast also turn in fine work, particularly Roberto De Basio as Leicester.
Conductor Riccardo Frizza leads the proceedings with a knowing hand, choosing appropriate tempos and drawing fine work from the chorus and orchestra. The production features rather barren scenery-the same sets are used throughout, with big central steps and sloping walkways, and little else within view. Yet, the whole is quite atmospheric and effective. In fact, I have no qualms at all about stage director Pizzi's conception of the work. The costuming appears to be historically accurate too, with red and black dominating, but with a sort of regal golden outfit for Elizabetta. The camera work is quite intelligently conceived, as well.
As many have already observed, this is a fine Donizetti opera, a work though that has suffered neglect over the years, alongside Lucia di Lammermoor and L'Elisir d'Amore. To me, it is nearly at the level of Lucia and thus probably deserves greater attention. In sum, this DVD is a fine rendition of this Donizetti masterpiece. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2009, Robert Cummings