For the first time in twenty years, Melbourne Opera will stage a new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Mary Stuart, the banned historical drama of the rivalling queens Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Neglected for nearly a century, the period performance has been revitalised in all of its Tutor-romance and feuding glory with internationally acclaimed opera sensations Elena Xanthoudakis and Rosamund Illing as the two Queens.
Mary Stuart follows the dramatic story of Mary, Queen of Scots’ (Elena Xanthoudaski) imprisonment and execution by her envious cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England (Rosamund Illing). It will be performed in English.
Director Suzanne Chaundry (Opera Australia, Red Stitch Actors Theatre) says the powerful production fundamentally examines the differences between the two queens. Elizabeth dubbed ‘The Virgin Queen’ was historically renowned as one of England’s greatest rulers while her cousin Mary, had multiple marriages and abandoned her country and throne for an illicit love affair. Ultimately Mary’s plight for romance led to the act of regicide by her jealous cousin Elizabeth.
“So much of the drama of this piece lies in the opposition of their natures. Elizabeth sets out to prove herself as equal to any man. Mary, on the other hand, was seen as recklessly emotional. Both were ambitious and single minded,” Suzanne Chaundry says.
International soprano Elena Xanthoudakis says she is excited to be performing in a rare opera that has demanding roles for two leading ladies and is particularly looking forward to hurling insults in the famous confrontation scene. It was this derogative banter that ultimately led to the play’s ban in Milan and its premiere in 1835.
Supported by a team of creative women and talented performers, Suzanne Chaundry has created a production that is a sensory feast, with period costumes and sets, and atmospheric lighting designs to take the audience back to time where Queens ruled and conquered.
Mary Stuart continues Melbourne Opera’s commitment to performing rare European masterpieces.
Wednesday September 2nd, 5th, 8th and 12th
The Athenaeum, 188 Collins St, Melbourne
Alexandra Theatre, Monash University
Sat, September 19, 8pm
First published on Milkbar mag.