Starting April 16, elegant voices will loft their humble pleas to the “Regina,” but they will be referring to the Italian word for ‘queen’ – not the capital of neighbouring Saskatchewan – as the tale about the fiery entanglement of two historical queens in the opera Mary Stuart (Maria Stuarda) makes its anticipated Alberta debut.
The Edmonton Opera will present Gaetano Donizetti’s stunning bel canto (beautiful singing) – a tale of pride, rivalry, jealousy, and betrayal. A pensive drama, familial tragedy, and budding climax await Edmonton audiences as the rift in a love triangle grows ever more acute. The love story, as it was first sung in 1835 Milan, is just as relevant today in 2016, except the consequences of love and power are now vastly different.
This frequent, desperate plea can be heard throughout the performance, changing gears in the dialogue of Donizetti’s tragic Tudor opera. The plea, delivered to Elizabeth I of England, provides momentary relief in between moments of mounting emotional tension, slicing through the thick suffocation of the viscous mess faced by Mary, the Queen of the Scots. Director Maria Lamont reprises her interpretation of the famous opera with a twist, boasting two strong female leads with renowned sopranos Kathryn Lewek and Keri Alkema singing the parts of British monarchs Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, respectively. The team includes conductor Robert Dean, designer Camellia Koo, among other notables.
Although I must admit that this was my first true opera experience, I endeavoured to enter the musical arena without any prejudices or preconceptions. What I can offer is a newcomer’s experience to the opera and what my impressions were. I infer that Donizetti himself would have approved of this rendition, as Lewek and Alkema are a vocal tour-de-force, highlighting the acoustics of the building. Lighting was used masterfully for mood-setting in the preview show, and will likely continue to illuminate the scene on opening night. Also of note, Lamont and Koo innovate with their skillful use of imagery, especially of large portrait paintings.
Watching this opera in its native Italian as a non-speaker of the Italian language definitely enhances the theatregoer’s experience (spoiler alert, there are English subtitles). In this setting, the audience can appreciate important nuances and subtitles lending meaning to the story, full of intrigue that is robustly displayed through the power of body language, gestures, and untamed emotion.
Perhaps you have seen Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth. Perhaps you are interested in the history and diplomacy of Tudor England. Perhaps you are a frequenter of live entertainment. Or, perhaps you will experience it much like I did, having stumbled blindly into my first opera with no opera knowledge at all, and finding that I enjoyed Mary Stuart upon my first viewing, and actively wondering if I should enjoy it a second time. I’ve learned that there is much, much more to opera than I could have imagined; I truly recommend this show to younglings, middlings, and old alike. Mary Stuart is a wonderful opportunity to experience some of opera’s finest in our own “backyard” auditorium.
On April 16, 19, and 21, this frequent, desperate plea will captivate visitors at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
Photography courtesy of Nanc Price.