A successful Maria Stuarda in Valencia with Eleonora Buratto and conductor Maurizio Benini

SpainSpain Donizetti, Maria StuardaGeneralitat Valenciana Chorus and Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra / Maurizio Benini (conductor). Palau de Les Arts, Valencia, 19.12.2023. (JMI)

Director – Jetske Mijnssen
Sets – Ben Baur
Costumes – Klaus Bruns
Lighting – Cor van den Brink
Choreography – Lillian Stillwell

Maria Stuarda – Eleonora Buratto
Elisabetta – Silvia Tro Santafé
Leicester – Ismael Jordi
Talbot – Manuel Fuentes
Cecil – Carles Pachon
Anna Kennedy – Laura Orueta

The Palau de Les Arts continues its appealing season with this opera by Gaetano Donizetti, part of the so-called Tudor Trilogy. It is not an opera that is performed much unless there is a soprano (or mezzo-soprano) with enough strength to cope with the demands of the role. This has happened in recent years with Sondra Radvanovsky or Joyce DiDonato in the title role.

I have always felt that the opera needs a spinto soprano, or at least a full lyric soprano, since a light one cannot cope with the score, and especially with the insults that Maria Stuarda hurls at Elisabetta, when they meet in Fotheringay. It was Maria Malibran who premiered the opera, and she was not exactly a light soprano. It is true that for years Edita Gruberová played these characters, but it is also true that she did whatever she wanted with the score, and she played Maria Gruberová more than Maria Stuarda.

Silvia Tro Santafé (Elisabetta) © M. Lorenzo & M. Ponce

The performance I attended in Valencia had two very different parts: the first half, which was correct but without special brilliance, and the second one, which could really be enjoyed in both vocal and musical terms.

The production (in cooperation with Dutch National Opera and Teatro San Carlo) by Jetske Mijnssen is a traditional one, not disruptive like so many other modern versions. The sets are mainly the same throughout: a large space with bare side walls that close towards the back of the stage. Props are added, such as the large tapestry in the center of the stage for the Fotheringay scene, and the costumes are attractive.

The stage direction is fine and focuses on the personalities of the two queens, who are placed on stage together on many occasions beyond the scene of their meeting. The final scene stands out: the chorus is placed on the darkened sides of the stage with small lamps.

Italian maestro Maurizio Benini conducted Anna Bolena here last year, and I have always considered him to be a true specialist in bel canto operas. His reading also had two parts: in the first, there was less brightness and feeling than one expects, but the second part was wonderful, full of life and emotion. The orchestra was remarkable, and the chorus was brilliant.

Eleonora Buratto (Maria Stuarda) and Ismael Jordi (Leicester) © M. Lorenzo & M. Ponce

Eleonora Buratto as María Stuarda was terrific – a full lyric soprano, and an excellent singer who knows how to use her voice. She fell a little short in her imprecations to the Queen, ‘Figlia impura di Bolena’, but the rest was very good, especially in the prison scene, her duet with Talbot and, of course, in the final scene. She had already triumphed last year in Anna Bolena and has done it again.

Elisabetta was Valencia mezzo-soprano Silvia Tro Santafé who did well, but she plays in a different league than the protagonist. Her voice is not of the highest quality, but she is a strong singer and performer. I did miss other mezzo-sopranos whom I have heard as the character.

Leicester was played by tenor Ismael Jordi. I had seen him in the part nine years ago at Covent Garden and, on this occasion, his performance was remarkable. His voice is not extraordinary, but it runs smoothly, and he sang with gusto.

Manuel Fuentes did well as Talbot, and Carles Pachon as Cecil had a sonorous voice.  Laura Orueta was correct in the part of Anna Kennedy.

José M. Irurzun

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