Met HD Broadcast – Maria Stuarda

Ages ago, I went to my third ever Met HD broadcast, of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. This was the first time this opera has ever been performed at the Met. I can’t help but feel that this is a fairly big omission from their repertoire. Donizetti is underrated, in my opinion.

Anyway, back to the performance itself. Joyce DiDonato (in the title role) was spectacular, but I feel that equal credit should go to Elza van den Heever as Queen Elizabeth, Matthew Polenzani as Leicester and the composer himself for making me enjoy it so much. Nobody in the cast was significantly better than the others, but they were all wonderful and together they made the performance outstanding.

Joyce DiDonato as Maria Stuarda

The production was very good – it created the right atmosphere without interfering too much with the singing and acting. In terms of directing, all was well apart from the whole Queen-Elizabeth-walking-around-like-an-old-woman thing which didn’t work for me; it felt very over-emphasised. But maybe I just want to say that just for the sake of saying something negative.

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Met HD Broadcast – Un Ballo in Maschera

On Sunday, I went to see my first ever Met HD broadcast- an repeat of Un ballo in maschera. The cinema was, disappointingly, very empty and I was the youngest person there by about 40 years, which I thought was quite sad. This might have been partly because the cinema doesn’t advertise their Met broadcasts very much and I had some difficulty finding out if the Met performances were being shown in my town at all!

The singing was all very good, although the singer who stood out a tiny bit for me was Sondra Radvanovsky. She managed to get the emotions across that little bit more simply and strongly than the others. However, everyone performed wonderfully and, I should add, my judging may not be completely fair, as I have never listened to this opera before and so am not sure this particular performance compared with others.

The staging, however, I did have some more clear thoughts on. In this production, it had been returned from the setting fo Boston to that of Sweden, where it fits in much better. There were some parts of this production I liked, and some that I didn’t. The idea of the painting of the Fall of Icarus worked well enough and it was clear what it symbolized: the king who believed he could not be assassinated. I didn’t, however, see this theme being used in any other way except from the painting and also in the pageboy Oscar, played by Kathleen Kim, who wore white wings in some parts of the opera. I couldn’t understand what relevance this had or how it was meant to tie in to anything else. In terms of acting, Dmitri Hvorostovsky was particularly excellent as the troubled Renato.

My main irritation though, was the camera direction. There were several moments when it focused on the principals standing around and doing nothing, when the chorus appeared to be doing something worth seeing. They didn’t seem to realise that we might want to see anything other than close ups of the lead singers’ faces, whether they were singing or not.

Overall, a good performance by all, although the production didn’t quite seem to know its purpose. The intervals were interesting, especially watching  Joyce Didonato rehearsing for what promises to be a wonderful performance of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.