1. The continuation of the trilogy
Although Donizetti did not actually write the Three Queens operas as a trilogy, they did in fact become a three-piece set over the course of history. Together, they tell the story of three defining chapters in the life of Elizabeth I of the House of Tudor. Where Elizabeth was no more than a child in Anna Bolena, in Maria Stuarda she has ascended to the throne. But she is troubled by past events and the fact that she is regarded as a bastard child by many of the people around her. Her cousin and rival, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has no qualms about taking advantage of Elizabeth’s insecurities.
2. Jetske Mijnssen’s psychological approach: women of flesh and blood
Stage director Jetske Mijnssen returns to Dutch National Opera after the success of Anna Bolena. In her psychological take on Maria Stuarda, Mary Stuart is not a pious Catholic martyr, nor is Elizabeth the villain of the story. Mijnssen’s staging shows us two women of flesh and blood. Because they have layered personalities, today’s audiences can relate to their emotions and empathise with both of them.
3. Mary, Queen of Scots: Kristina Mkhitaryan
‘In my end is my beginning’. This was the epitaph-like motto Mary Stuart embroidered in captivity not long before her execution. True enough, by her death, ordered by her own first cousin, she would be saved from oblivion and immortalised in world history. Russian soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan will make her debut in the lead role. Her earlier performances with Dutch National Opera were in the roles of Eritrea in Eliogabalo and Liù in Turandot.
4. Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen: Aigul Akhmetshina
Elizabeth I went down in history as a cold and heartless person, but thanks to talented mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina’s warm timbre and charisma, she becomes a woman scarred by past trauma. Ahkmetshina may be young – she was born in 1996 – but she is taking the international opera world by storm, singing one great mezzo role after another in the most prestigious opera houses. Maria Stuarda is her first collaboration with Dutch National Opera and her first time performing the role of Elisabetta.
5. Bel canto
Bel canto is Italian for ‘beautiful singing’ and refers to the vocal style that reigned supreme in the time of composers such as Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti. Characterised by elegance and finesse, bel canto is an expression of the virtuosity of the human voice. But bel canto is more than high, florid singing, long melodic lines and floods of rapid notes curling their way up and down the scale: everything revolves around emotion and human relationships. And who better to bring this to life than conductor and bel canto specialist Enrique Mazzola?
Maria Stuarda is performed from 6 until 28 May in Dutch National Opera & Ballet.