Performance information

Performance information

Maria Stuarda

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)

2 hours and 55 minutes, including one interval

The performance is sung in Italian.
There are English and Dutch surtitles.

Tragic opera in two acts



Giuseppe Bardari

Musical direction
Enrique Mazzola
Stage direction
Jetske Mijnssen
Set design
Ben Baur
Costume design
Klaus Bruns
Lighting design
Cor van den Brink
Lillian Stillwell
Luc Joosten



Maria Stuarda
Kristina Mkhitaryan
Aigul Akhmetshina
Ismael Jordi
Anna Kennedy
Sílvia Sequeira*
Giorgio Talbot
Aleksei Kulagin
Lord Guglielmo Cecil
Simon Mechlinski

* Dutch National Opera Studio

Netherlands Chamber Orchestra

Chorus of Dutch National Opera

Chorus master
Edward Ananian-Cooper

Co-production with
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (Valencia) & Teatro di San Carlo (Napels)


Production team

Assistant conductor
Elda Laro
Assistant directors
Jean-François Kessler
Noah van Renswoude
Assistant chorus master
Ad Broeksteeg
Assistant set design
Felicia Riegel
Peter Lockwood
Alessandro Amoretti
Daniel Ruiz de Cenzano Caballero
Repetiteur (intern)
Raphael Amoretti
Language coach soloists
Alessandro Amoretti
Language coach chorus
Hilde Cortese
Stage management
Merel Francissen
Emma Eberlijn
Pieter Heebink
Sanne van de Vooren
Master carpenter
Jeroen Jaspers
Lighting manager
Peter van der Sluis
Props master
Niko Groot
Sound engineer
Florian Jankowski
First make-up artist
Pim van der Wielen
Costume supervisor
Lars Willhausen
First dresser
Sandra Bloos
Children supervisor
Manon Wittebol
Artistic planner
Vere van Opstal
Naomi Teekens
Surtitle director
Eveline Karssen
Surtitle operator
Irina Trajkovska
Production manager
Nicky Cammaert
Set supervisor
Sieger Kotterer
Orchestra representative
Jurrien Loman


Chorus of Dutch National Opera

Esther Adelaar
Lisette Bolle
Bernadette Bouthoorn
Jeanneke van Buul
Caroline Cartens
Kitty de Geus
Melanie Greve
Oleksandra Lenyshyn
Simone van Lieshout
Tomoko Makuuchi
Sara Moreira Marques
Elizabeth Poz
Janine Scheepers

Irmgard von Asmuth
Elsa Barthas
Anneleen Bijnen
Daniëlla Buijck
Rut Codina Palacio
Johanna Dur
Yvonne Kok
Fang Fang Kong
Maria Kowan
Myra Kroese
Itzel Medecigo
Sophia Patsi
Marieke Reuten
Klarijn Verkaart

Thomas de Bruijn
Wim-Jan van Deuveren
Frank Engel
Milan Faas
Ruud Fiselier
Livio Gabrielli
Robert Kops
Roy Mahendratha
Tigran Matinyan
Richard Prada
Mirco Schmidt
François Soons
Julien Traniello
Rudi de Vries

Ronald Aijtink
Peter Arink
Jorne van Bergeijk
Jeroen van Glabbeek
Julian Hartman
Agris Hartmanis
Sander Heutinck
Dominic Kraemer
Richard Meijer
Matthijs Mesdag
Christiaan Peters
Jaap Sletterink
René Steur
Harry Teeuwen
Rob Wanders



Demi Wals (dance captain)
Alina Fejzo
Lili Kok
Evaldo Melo
Isabelle Nelson
Renzo Popolizio
Laia Vancells Pi
Luigi Vilotta


Child extra’s

Billy Maan
Yara Swaab


Netherlands Chamber Orchestra

First violin
Ionel Manciu
Tijmen Huisingh
Philip Dingenen
Melissa Ussery
Sasha Raikhlina
Beverley Lunt
Vanessa Damanet
Anna Sophie Torn
Zen Hu-Gothoni
Kilian van Rooij

Second violin
Alessandro Ruisi
Laura Oomens
Paulien Holthuis
Siobhán Doyle
Stephanie van Duijn
Olga Caceanova
Catharina Ungvari
Maria Gilicel

Luba Tunnicliffe
Berdien Vrijland
Minna Svedberg
Elias Zaabi Saez
Frank Goossens
José Moura Nunes

Sietse-Jan Weijenberg
Jan Bastiaan Neven
Giorgos Kotsiolis
Anastasia Feruleva
Charles Watt

Double bass
Annette Zahn
Joaquin Clemente Riera
Larissa Klipp

Leon Berendse
Liset Pennings
Ellen Vergunst

Juan Esteban Mendoza Bisogni
Maria Dolores Martínez García

Leon Bosch
Peter Cranen

Susan Brinkhof
Dymphna van Dooremaal

Fokke van Heel
Márton Kóródi
Christiaan Beumer
Edward Peeters

Gertjan Loot
Sven Berkelmans

Bram Peeters
Rafael De Jesus Afonso
Jelle Koertshuis

Theun van Nieuwburg

Matthijs van Driel
Lennard Nijs

Sandrine Chatron
Jaike Bakker

The story

Follow the link below to read the story of Maria Stuarda.

Maria Stuarda: the story

When the French King asks for the hand in marriage of Elisabetta, the protestant Queen of England, she feels torn between her duty to her people and her love for the Earl of Leicester. But this is not Elisabetta’s only dilemma; for years, she has been holding her cousin prisoner: the Scottish Catholic Maria Stuarda. Elisabetta’s advisers urge her to have Maria Stuarda executed as the Scottish Queen is a claimant to the throne of England. Despite the threat she poses, Elisabetta remains undecided.

As the tensions between the two queens continue to rise further, Maria finds an ally in none other than the Earl of Leicester. Drawing from his loyalty to Elisabetta and his love for the Queen of Scotland, he attempts to mediate between the two, but his efforts only fuel Elisabetta’s suspicions and jealousy.

The two queens become embroiled in a religious, political, and personal struggle, which culminates in a fierce confrontation between the two rivals. When Maria insults Elisabetta in the heat of the moment with the words “figlia impura di Bolena… vil bastarda!” (impure daughter of Boleyn… vile bastard!), she seals her fate. Efforts by her allies to save her are to no avail and Maria is condemned to death and led to the scaffold.

She had claims to three thrones, but lost all her power

Follow the link below to read more about the historical Mary Stuart.

She had claims to three thrones, but lost all her power

She was only six days old when her father, James V of Scotland, died and she inherited the Scottish throne. Six years later, her mother sent the young queen to France, where she received a strict Catholic upbringing and rigorous preparation for her future duties. She was destined to marry the French crown prince, the future Francis II, which she did in 1558 when she was aged just sixteen. As it happened, aptly enough, the reigning Queen of England, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII from his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon died that same year. She was succeeded by Elizabeth I, the so-called bastard daughter of Henry VIII from his second marriage to Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth would eventually become Mary Stuart’s greatest rival.

As a great-granddaughter of Henry VII, Mary Stuart, urged on by her advisors, believed she had a claim to the English throne. However, this claim was purely a political statement and was not backed by military action by the French and Scottish armies. It was limited to the symbolic act of the inclusion of the English crown in Mary Stuart’s coat of arms alongside those of France and Scotland. Mary also styled herself Regina Franciae, Scotiae, Anglicae et Hiberniae in public and in all official documents. These provocations made her a permanent threat to Elizabeth’s royal power.

Maria en deuil blanc, François Clouet, ca. 1560
Maria en deuil blanc, François Clouet, ca. 1560

One year after Mary Stuart’s marriage to the crown prince, King Henry II of France was fatally injured in a tournament and his son Francis II succeeded him as the new monarch. Mary Stuart was now Queen of France and Scotland and consequently at the peak of her power although still only an adolescent. But she lost power even faster than she had gained it. Her mother Mary of Guise, who had ruled Scotland as her regent in her absence, died one year later. That same year saw the demise of her spouse, the weak child-king Francis II of France, whereby Mary lost the French throne and was forced to return to Scotland.

In the turbulent years that followed, Mary Stuart’s subsequent two marriages played a key role in her political downfall. Mary Stuart’s actions were carefully monitored by the Elizabethan court, concerned that she might contract a marriage that would turn Scotland into a beachhead for a strong Catholic nation — such as Spain, whose king Philip II was proposing his son Don Carlos as a serious candidate. Elizabeth did everything within her powers to prevent such a marriage, at one point even putting forward her own beloved Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Eventually, in 1565, Mary Stuart married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, another great-grandchild of Henry VII. However, her happiness did not last long. At first, she showered honours on Darnley and styled him Rex Scotiae, but his “heart of wax”, as Mary Stuart later called it, became consumed by vain pride and a lust for power. He demanded the crown and wanted to rule Scotland alongside Mary.

Jetske Mijnssen & Kristina Mkhitaryan tijdens een repetitie
Jetske Mijnssen & Kristina Mkhitaryan (Maria Stuarda) | Photo: Ben van Duin

Mary Stuart, who was pregnant by this point, responded by cutting her husband off from all affairs of state and entrusting her political policy to David Rizzio, her secretary from Piedmont. She also appointed the ‘iron’ soldier Lord Bothwell as commander of her troops. The situation escalated and got completely out of hand when a jealous Darnley plotted with Scottish nobility to murder David Rizzio in a brutal attack. Mary Stuart is suspected of retaliating by plotting the murder of her own husband, conspiring together with Bothwell, with whom she had started a passionate relationship by this time. The customary period of mourning had not even ended when Mary Stuart married for the third time, her new husband being no other than Bothwell, Darnley’s alleged murderer. This turned the people of Scotland against their queen, whereupon Mary Stuart appealed to the bond of friendship that Elizabeth I had previously vowed in writing: Mary asked her for protection, aid and political asylum. Although she had not received a concrete commitment from Elizabeth, on 26 May 1568 Mary Stuart crossed the border and set foot on English soil. She was not yet twenty-six, but she had already lost all her true political power.

Based on Alex Mallems’ De clash der koninginnen
Translation: Clare Wilkinson

From little whore to Virgin Queen

Follow the link below to read more about the historical Elizabeth I.

From little whore to Virgin Queen

“Can I put to death the bird that, to escape the pursuit of the hawk, has fled to my feet for protection? Honour and conscience forbid!,” wrote the historical Queen Elizabeth I to her advisors. These words unmistakably encapsulate the crisis of conscience she faced. An examination of the historical facts reveals the complicated position in which Elizabeth found herself and suggests that the dilemma of whether to grant mercy or order Mary’s execution may have reminded Elizabeth of her father’s blood-soaked legacy.

The taint of the bastard clung to Elizabeth from birth, as servants called her “the little whore, daughter of the great whore”. Her father Henry VIII had his first marriage to the Catholic Catherine of Aragon annulled because she was only able to give him a daughter. In 1533 he married again, wedding an already pregnant Anne Boleyn, who had been lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. Elizabeth was born a few months later. Neither the divorce nor the new marriage was recognised by the Catholic Church. The monarch soon responded in kind: in 1534, he got Parliament to pass the Act of Supremacy, establishing a separate state Church of England with the King as its head and breaking all relations with the papacy. Henry VIII later had Anne Boleyn executed in 1536, when Elizabeth was not yet three years old. Just one year later, the Catholic Mary Tudor, Henry’s daughter from his first marriage, was rehabilitated and brought back to court. Meanwhile, the Protestant Elizabeth was downgraded from Lady Princess to Lady Elizabeth.

Regenboogportret van Elisabeth I, Isaac Oliver, ca. 1600
Elizabeth I, Isaac Oliver, ca. 1600

Bitter wars of religion

After the death of her father, bitter wars of religion continued to dominate the sixteenth century. During the reign of the boy-king Edward VI, Henry VIII’s only legitimate son who was born out of his marriage to his third wife Jane Seymour, Protestantism was consolidated as the state religion. However, this was followed by a fierce Catholic reaction during the reign of Mary Tudor, with implications for the Protestant Elizabeth. The greatest ambition of the fervently Catholic Mary was to restore Catholicism in England. She married Philip II of Spain and introduced a cruel inquisition of Protestants – after the continental model. The numerous executions, certainly by England’s standards at the time, earned her the moniker ‘Bloody Mary’. At first, efforts were made to convert Elizabeth to Catholicism. There were even plans to marry her off to a suitable (i.e. Catholic) candidate; the proposition of a marriage to the Infante of Spain, the young boy Don Carlos, is the most illustrious example. Later, when there was the threat of a rebellion in England against Mary I and her husband Philip II, Elizabeth was wrongly accused of involvement in the plot, whereafter she was consigned to the Tower of London for over two months – living in constant fear of death on the scaffold.

Aigul Akhmetshina (Elisabetta) & Ismael Jordi (Leicester)
Aigul Akhmetshina (Elisabetta) & Ismael Jordi (Leicester) | Photo: Ben van Duin

Change of Fate

No less a person than Philip II of Spain himself would eventually play a crucial role in Elizabeth’s fate. His marriage to Mary I remained childless, putting Elizabeth first in line to the English throne. Mary Stuart was second in line, and at that point both Queen of Scotland and a claimant to the French crown. But political considerations clearly outweighed religious interests for Philip II, as rather than enabling the union of the English, Scottish and French crowns under the Catholic Mary Stuart, he preferred to back the Protestant Elizabeth as his wife’s successor. This would ensure that the kingdom of England would not unite with France. Under pressure from Philip II and Spain, Elizabeth’s right of succession to the English throne was even officially restored and confirmed: making that the very pinnacle of Mary Stuart’s power which led indirectly to the salvation for her subsequent rival Elizabeth.

Based on Alex Mallems’ De clash der koninginnen
Translation: Clare Wilkinson

Two queens, one crown

Follow the link below to read more about the conflict between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I.

Two queens, one crown

The two most legendary queens of European history each achieved eternal fame through the actions of the other. After all, Mary Stuart is largely remembered for the way she met her end, executed on the orders of Elizabeth I, who – driven by an instinct for survival – listened to her head rather than her heart.

Chastened by her childhood experiences, Elizabeth was well prepared for the task she faced. She prioritised the national interest and put an end to the Catholicising policies of her predecessor, Mary I. However, the Catholic Mary Stuart was still first in line to the throne after the ‘Virgin Queen’, who had deliberately chosen not to marry. Moreover, religious fanaticism dominated European politics during this period. The pope praised the massacre of six thousand Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day as a worthy deed and elevated the assassinations into a hallowed act, the Spanish regime of Philip II and his ambassador Mendoza had made “killing the queen” a political priority, and various Catholic conspiracies targeting Elizabeth, in which Mary Stuart was implicated, were openly supported by the Pope and Spain.

Kristina Mkhitaryan (Maria Stuarda) & Aigul Akhmetshina (Elisabetta)
Kristina Mkhitaryan (Maria Stuarda) & Aigul Akhmetshina (Elisabetta) | Foto: Ben van Duin

After the English Parliament had exerted considerable pressure, the decision was taken to put Mary Stuart on trial. Initially her royal immunity seemed to pose an obstacle to the plans, but the English peers eventually found a way round. They undertook not only to ensure the death of anyone who conspired against Elizabeth but also to hold any claimant for whose cause the conspirators were acting personally responsible for the conspirators’ actions. Parliament gave these decisions legal force in the Act for the Security of the Queen’s Royal Person, with the sentence to be pronounced by twenty-four judges appointed by the Crown and the threat of the axe as a deterrence. The implication of the Security Act was clear: in future, Mary Stuart’s royal status would not save her from prosecution. On the contrary, if an attack on Elizabeth were to succeed, rather than ascending to the throne, Mary Stuart would end up on the scaffold.

To turn the innocent Scottish queen into a guilty party, the English spymaster Walsingham exploited a conspiracy involving a few naive provincial Catholic nobles. For as long as it took him to collect the damning evidence, he offered them the opportunity to correspond with Mary Stuart. Parliament needed three elements of proof to make the killing of Mary Stuart ‘legal’. Firstly, the conspirators needed to have demonstrably plotted an attack on Elizabeth. Secondly, Mary Stuart needed to have been explicitly aware of the plan. And finally, she needed to have approved the planned assassination in writing. Eventually, Walsingham was able to provide irrefutable proof of each of these three points. Mary Stuart was transferred to Fotheringhay Castle, where she appeared before a court of English noblemen. As the crowned Queen of Scotland, she appealed to her right as a sovereign to have to answer only to God, but her pleas were in vain. On 25 October 1586, she became the first anointed queen to be sentenced to death.

Kristina Mkhitaryan (Maria Stuarda) & dansers
Kristina Mkhitaryan (Maria Stuarda) & dancers | Photo: Ben van Duin

After Mary Stuart’s execution on 8 February 1587, over three months after her sentence, Elizabeth I of England continued consolidating her own power. She died a natural death in 1603, having ruled England for forty-five years. Mary Stuart’s son James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth as James I of England, bringing about a union of the crowns and fulfilling his mother’s old dream. He had his mother’s body reburied in the royal crypt in Westminster, where her carved tomb effigy was placed close to that of Elizabeth. In this way, the two queens, who never truly met in real life, were symbolically united in death.

Based on Alex Mallems’ De clash der koninginnen
Translation: Clare Wilkinson

Trailer Maria Stuarda

Maria Stuarda en Elisabetta

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