The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006–…): Season 7, Episode 8 - Donizetti: Maria Stuarda - full transcript

Accusations and hostilities are hurled back and forth between Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth.


[ Singing in Italian ]

Hello, I'm Deborah Voigt.

Welcome to today's performance
of "Maria Stuarda,"

Donizetti's historical opera

about the fateful clash

between two storied
queens of English history,

Maria Stuarda
of the title --

also known as
Mary, Queen of Scots;

and Elizabeth, the reigning
English monarch

who fears that the exiled Mary
threatens her crown.

The action takes place over
a span of more than a decade

in the late 1500s.

For this afternoon,
the Met has been transformed

into an operatic version
of a stark and dramatic

Elizabethan stage.

Imagine the historic
Globe Theatre

housed inside the Met
for the day.

It is on this stage
that the passions, jealousies,

and vengeful actions
of Elizabeth,

brilliantly played by

the young South African soprano,
Elza van den Heever,

will be revealed.

And it is also on this stage

that the mostly pure of heart,
but imprisoned Mary,

played with such virtuosity

by the American mezzo-soprano,
Joyce DiDonato,

will defend her honor
and meet her fate.

Opera is always
bigger than life,

and with this story and its
intensely focused production

directed by Sir David McVicar
and designed by John MacFarlane,

Scotsmen themselves,

you are in for a theatrical
and operatic tour-de-force.

So, sit back
while we transport you to

the 16th Century court of
the young Queen Elizabeth I.

Here now is Part One
of "Maria Stuarda,"

conducted by
Maestro Maurizio Benini.

[ Applause ]

[ Cheering on stage ]

We await the arrival of the Queen.

She is returning from the tournament.

Our great Queen of England!

The joy of every heart!

How happy this day will be
that brings her a noble love.

The Queen!

Yes, England's pure star
will shine even brighter...

...when she is joined in marriage
to the splendor of France.

Yes, England's pure star
will shine even brighter...

...when she is joined in marriage
to the splendor of France.

We shall celebrate anew the power of love!

Who would not admire the splendor
of such royal love?

Yes, the French Prince seeks
both my heart and my throne.

I do not yet know what I shall answer.

But if, for the good of my people,
I must approach the marriage altar...

...then this hand will rule...

...rule the destinies of both France and England.

Oh, when I am led to the altar
by the chaste hand of love...

...bidding me to cover myself
in the wedding veil...

...another's heart will steal
from me my precious liberty!

And while I see that fatal barrier
rising between us... soul could never smile on such a union.

Will this happy day be marred only
by the sorrows of Mary Stuart?

Will her solitary laments cast
such shadows over England?

Mercy for the Stuart.


I will not have my happiness
disturbed on this day of rejoicing.

Why should I weep because of
this guilty woman and her sad fate?

Let the axe end that traitor's life!

Let it end the fear and strife she rouses!

Even in chains, she enslaves men.


I have not yet decided.

If only heaven could send a ray of light
to clear my muddled thoughts.

Perhaps then the voice of pity
would speak in my breast.

But if that wretched woman has stolen
every hope from my heart...

...the day of my vengeance shall soon dawn!

She will soon know the force of my revenge!

My wrath will fall on her head!

Will pity fill the fair Elizabeth's heart?

Remember, Majesty, pity is weakness.

Be merciful!

May heaven guide my thoughts!

I may yet hear the voice of pity.

But if that wretched woman has stolen
the hope from my heart...

...the day of my vengeance shall soon dawn!

She will soon know the force of my revenge!

That day my vengeance
will fall with a terrible fury!

Vengeance will be mine!

[ Applause ]

I do not see Leicester among you.

Does he alone keep his distance from our rejoicing?

Here he is.

My lord, I was just asking about you.

Please forgive my late arrival.
I am yours to command.

Take this!

Deliver my ring to the French envoy.

Bid him take his Prince a message.

Say I accept his offer of marriage.

His expression did not change!

But I may still refuse him
and the crown he offers.

I will not surrender my freedom.

Take it!

Ungrateful man!

I will obey you.


During the tournament, Talbot,
did you ask to see me?

I did.

What did you want?

To speak with you.

Listen and take to heart every word I utter.

I bring word from Fotheringhay.

Mary's prison?

The unhappy Mary Stuart!

Speak more softly within these walls!

How does she seem?

An angel of love!

As beautiful and noble as ever.

And undeserving of her cruel fate!

What did she say?

Tell me!

Can I trust in your heart?

Speak! I swear it.

This portrait and this letter
Mary sends to you.

As she gave them to me,
she bathed them with her tears.

Her tears!

How tenderly she spoke your name.

Oh, joy!

Ah, once again I see that lovely face,
so adored and cherished... beautiful as on the day
it first touched my heart.

I can still see a smile there...

...slowly dawning on her face.

The smile that once, on a happy day,
bound my fate to hers!

That smile sealed my destiny.

Her life hangs in the balance,
and she seeks your aid.

Oh, memories! Beloved image!

I would gladly die for her!

Mary's life nears its end.
Her life depends on you, Leicester!

She is as fair as the day I first saw her,
the day I was first smitten.

–Just as on the day I met her.
–The light of her life is fading.

Are you decided?

I will free her!

Or I shall die with her!

Does not a traitor's fate terrify you?

Every fear, every danger
I shall defy for her sake.

Are you not afraid?

I will set her free!

Because of her faithful love,
I will now dry her tears.

If I must fall victim,
then I proudly accept my fate.

I shall go proudly to my death!

If I must die, then I will die for her!

But she has been so faithful,
she has wept so much.

Don't make her mourn yet another victim...

...if she must endure her own death.

Because her love for me has been
so pure, I will dry her tears.

And if fate will have a victim...

...then I accept my end.

I will proudly accept my fate!

[ Applause ]

Do I startle you?

Me? No.

(Did she hear us?)

You were speaking with Talbot?


(What can she want?)

I am suspicious of Talbot.

Anyone could be seduced by that woman.

Perhaps, my lord, he brought you
a message from Mary Stuart?

Empty suspicions!

Talbot's loyalty is beyond doubt.

Your heart I know as well.

Tell me the truth. I command it!

My Queen....

Still you conceal it?

Ah, do not leave. Hear me!

Please, wait!

A letter....

Give it to me.

Bitter fortune!

Here. On my knees, I offer it to you.

Through me she begs Your Majesty
to grant her a meeting.

Rise, my lord.

You are too kind to her.

Is this how that arrogant woman thinks
she will win me over?

In vain does she hope for that.

Such words!

(She is moved!)

She would have me go to her prison.

Yes, my Queen.

Where is the pride of she
who once coveted three crowns?

Like lightning on a dark night,
it sparkled, fled, and is no more.

Her pride faded only because
fortune's wheel turned.

Ah, have mercy on her.
I beg you from my heart.

But your heart is hers.
Is that not true?

(She unnerves me!)

At court, everyone believes it.

–They are wrong!

I am bound to her only by pity.

(He loves her!)

I am enraged!

Is she beautiful?



She was the very image of love...

...with all her life before her.

She had the face of an angel...

...who appears and inspires love.

Her soul was heavenly.

Her breath was sweet.

Beautiful in her happiness...

...and beautiful in her suffering.

I must believe you.
She could only be an angel...

...if, even in the squalor of a prison,
she enchants every heart.

She entices every heart,
flatters every desire.

I know her seductive powers.

–Believe me.
–I know.

If you love her, you traitor...

...fear the suffering you cause me!

She was beautiful.

–If you betray me, you will die!
–Beautiful even in her despair!

[ Applause ]

–How dare you, villain!

Grant my wish.

Where? When?

Today's hunt rides near her prison.

If you would come to the forest....

My lord, that is your wish?

I beg you.

I see.

You shall rue it, rash man.

I give in to you, then.

My rival stretched her hand toward my brow.

She wanted to steal the crown that is mine.

But vanquished, that proud woman
grew even fiercer.

She tried to rob me of my Leicester's heart.

She offends me too much
and must be punished.

I will not abide such insults.
I will punish her.

I will!

Please, my Queen, show mercy!

You will see her divine, innocent beauty.

Be a sister to her.
Have mercy on her!

Hatred has spoken enough in your heart.

Madam, grant her peace of mind,
and I will be satisfied.

My rival stretched her hand toward my brow.

She wanted to steal the crown from me.

But vanquished, that proud woman
grew even fiercer.

She tried to rob me of my beloved's heart.

Mercy I beg of you!

I will punish her!

[ Applause ]

Not so quickly, my lady.

Why? Are you not happy to see my heart
filled with this unaccustomed joy?

See? My prison cell is now the sky above.

Look at all that surrounds me.

Oh, how dear is every pleasure!

What sorrow lives within those walls!


Look at the fields.

The fragrant flowers in bloom!

A whole family of flowers!

How they all smile at me!

The soft breeze blows from France.

It whispers sweetly to me...

...that I should love life as I did as a child.

O cloud, floating on a wave of air!

You bear my love and my sighs... the land that once nurtured me.

The blessed land of long ago.

Please, descend softly now
and gather me in your wings.

Take me back to France.
Take me away from my cares!

But the cloud is cruel. It vanishes!

Fled to the land that nurtured me,
the blessed land of my youth.

[ Fanfare ]

The sound of horns!

[ Men singing offstage ]

Those voices!

It is the sound of a royal hunt!

Closer now! The men, the horses!

The Queen!

That fatal name!

The tyrant is approaching!

My sad seclusion is my only peace.
Now she strikes a new fear in my heart.

I asked to see her, but now I dare not.

My soul lacks the courage I need.

Let her have her throne, worshipped by all.

Only keep her gaze far from me!

I am too greatly despised.

No one feels any pity for me!

She is coming!

We must depart!

Let us go. My heart cannot bear this.

Her heart will surely reveal its contempt.

My sad seclusion is my only peace.

Now she strikes fear in my heart.

I asked to see her, but now I dare not.

My soul can bear no more.

Let her have her throne, worshipped by all.

Only keep her gaze far from me.

I am despised by all.
No one will pity me.

No heart should be made to bear this!

[ Applause ]

Ah! May my joy not deceive me!

Leicester, is it you?

The man who adores you
has come to break your chains.

Freed at last from my prison?

Freed, and yours forever?

I can scarcely believe it.
My poor heart is in such torment.

Elizabeth, in all her royal pomp,
is coming here to meet you.

The hunt is her pretext.

You must appear submissive.

To her, submissive?

For today, you must.

Oh, heavens, what do I hear?

Save me!

Save me from the sight of her!

If you love me, please stay.

Must I?

You must have hope.

I have been abandoned by all...

...and held captive by a bitter grief.

My oppressed and desolate heart
has nothing left to hope for.

I was condemned to weeping... a life of sighs.

Your affection alone sustains me.

No, you must not despair.

The Queen has great power.

What hope is there?

She was moved by your letter.

What are you saying?

I saw it on her face...

Oh, heavens!

...the glint of a tear.

Listen to me now and trust me.

–Abandoned, held captive by my grief.
–On her face I saw a single sad tear.

–Your affection alone sustains me.
–I beg you to trust me.

–Only your love can sustain me.
–Everything will soon change.

[ Applause ]

I know too well what she thinks of me.

Yet her heart is capable of mercy.

Not for one who threatens her throne.

You think not?

If she is deaf to your pleas,
I will take my own revenge.

What are you saying?
How can you?

You cannot risk your life for me.
I will not let you!

I will take my own revenge on her!

If my heart ever trembled
at the cruel face of death... not force that heart
to fear for your life as well.

All I wish, all I seek, is to see you,
who are so loyal and kind.

I only hope my fate may be less harsh.

Ah, may my life not become a threat to yours!

Your faithfulness and kindness have saved my life.

But that life must not cause your death!

I pledge you my faith and my honor.

I swear by the heart that loves you.

The glory that was robbed
from you shall be restored.

I cannot offer you a kingdom
or a royal hand in marriage.

–But I'll open your prison door.
–Let not my life risk yours!

–It is yours! The hand to release you!
–Pray be not doomed by my fate!

–This hand holds your very life!
–No cell is as strong as your love!

[ Applause ]

What place is this?


Oh, my lord, where have you brought me?

Have no fear.

Mary will soon be led into
your presence by the wise Talbot.

See what a sacrifice I make for your sake!

Send the huntsmen away.

There are too many people here.

You see, my Queen, how England adores you!

And you know whose head they would ask for.

Please remember why I have brought you here.

To comfort the sad life of a sister.

The same hand that reduced her to squalor
can now restore her happiness of old.

I loathe her! He thinks only of her!


Please! Take me back to my prison!

She is here!

Dear God!

She is, as I thought, haughty and proud.

Her vainglorious spirit drives me to fury!

But she seems silenced by her terror.

Still silent, oppressed by the fear
she so well deserves.

Hatred and condemnation are stamped on her face.

My very soul shudders with fear!

The unfavorable stars will not be placated.

Condemn her!

Please, greet her!

I cannot bear this.

Speak to her.

The abyss opens before me.

She is too proud.

Crushed by a cruel fate,
she stands now before you.

Dead to the world, deprived of a throne...

...I kneel at your feet.

I beg your forgiveness,
beg you to show mercy.

Sister, content yourself with the outrages
you have heaped upon me.

Raise up the hapless woman
who throws herself upon your heart.

Pay her no heed, I implore you!

Every word is a lie!

Raise up the hapless woman
who throws herself upon your heart.

No! You are where you belong,
consigned to the mire.

Help me endure this!

Who has turned you so against me?

Who? You yourself!

Your proud, vile, wicked spirit.

How will I endure more?

Go, you filthy, wicked woman.

Think of the marriage bed you betrayed.

Seek out the unavenged ghost
of your wretched husband, Darnley!

Look for the answer in your own arms,
in your own heart!

You used their allure, their love...

...only to plot crimes, betrayals, and deceptions.

Ah, Leicester!

Oh, God, what is she doing?

In love's embrace, you plotted against me!

Do not listen to her!

Let your heart be steadfast!

The lies drip from her lips!

There is still hope left.

Do not let your life and honor... the price of her mercy.

A favor so often denied our affections.

Such words in my presence?

Speak, Robert!

What can I say?

Where now is love's enchantment?

Where is the face that was so bewitching?

Everyone who lavished praise on it...

...was granted favor.

But on the Stuart's head has been
poured eternal shame!

Oh, Robert, help me!

I can stand it no longer!

How dare you mock and insult me!

You speak to me thus?

No more!

You tainted daughter of Anne Boleyn!

And you speak to me of dishonor?

Obscene, unworthy harlot!

Let my shame fall upon your head instead!

The English throne is profaned–

Royal bastard!
Profaned by your foot!

Call the guards!

Such words! She is raving!

All hope for her is lost!

Go, prepare to suffer your final fate.

Upon your hateful head I will pour
all the shame I can summon!

Almighty heaven has already condemned her!

Drag this madwoman from my sight!

Heaven will have its vengeance!

Thank God, at last I can breathe.
She has left my sight!

She was humiliated, her glory stained!

I returned to you only to have
destiny strike us down!

Lead me to my death!
I defy my fate to the end!

This is my triumph over her,
and repays all my suffering!

Death is my victory and my throne!

The price is paid!

[ Applause ]

of the previous act,

Queen Elizabeth became enraged

and emphatically denied
Mary's plea to be set free.

When the next act begins,

it is more than
10 years later

and Mary's fate
is soon to be sealed.

Here is the conclusion
of "Maria Stuarda."

[ Applause ]

While you delay, the woman
who despises you is still alive.

She has rallied all of Europe
and dared threaten your life many times.

The sound of your voice makes my heart sink...

...with the weight of my derided honor.

But, O God!

Who will save me from unjust accusations?

Heaven will.
And your devoted England.

The whole world will.
There the fame of your piety resounds!

They know, too, of Mary's black heart,
her crimes and insults!

Ah, be silent!

I have been ill-treated.

How that haughty woman gloated in her triumph!

The look of scorn she gave me!

Ah, faithful Cecil, I long for peace of mind.

And she steals it from me.

It will not return while she lives.

Then I am resolved.

She must die!

Her very life threatens mine!

Yes, I should cut it short.

I must end it once and for all!

But my hand and my heart hesitate.
My mind is clouded.

It is as if I can see and hear her,
threatening me, terrifying me...

...robbing me of any hope of peace!

Ah, merciful heaven,
give strength to a soul in doubt.

Yes, a soul troubled by doubt.

Dear God, grant me Your strength.

My soul is tormented by doubt.

Ah, why this sudden agitation?

Never fear that your honor
will be taken from you.

Your pristine honor.

Because of the words she uttered
and the insults left unpunished...

...every Englishman would want to avenge you.

Sign the order, and every future monarch
will gladly forgive you.

Sign the warrant, and no one will blame you.

Any ruler would understand and forgive.

Sign the document at once, and it is done.

My Queen.

The hour of her death is near.

Heavens! What are you saying?

Could that paper be...?

Her death sentence!

Death sentence....

Yes! Her sentence, you traitor!

I am satisfied.

You condemn an innocent woman!

You can still say that?

Please, for pity's sake...

...spare her the final blow!

Do not listen to this unworthy man!

Listen to my plea!

Her death will save you!

Let the blow fall upon me instead!

No one can compel you.

Do not listen to him!

You are free to do as you will.

You are free to decide.

Your pleas are useless.

I have received wise counsel.

The death of that proud woman
will put an end to the peril I face.

My Queen!

No one can compel you.
You are free to do as you will.

Your first day of peace is at hand.

[ Applause ]

You have sent a royal sister to her death!

And you will witness her execution!

Your beloved's fatal moment will come...

...when the cannon's warlike roar...

...has sounded three times.

And I must witness this?


Is this your wish?

Be silent!

All pity is now dead within me.

My Queen....

Go! The fear in your heart
now shows in your face.

Prepare a grave to bury your affection
when Mary Stuart is dead.

I must take my leave.
Your face burns with rage!

Soon she will be dead!

All I can offer that poor woman now
is the comfort of friendship.

Your Majesty, serenely turn now
toward peace and glory!

This will be the finest of days
for England and for your throne!

Let the execution be carried out at once!

A day of glory indeed!

Be gone, you traitorous man!
Your fear shows in your face.

Prepare a grave for your affection
when Mary Stuart herself is dead.

I take my leave, for I see
that you are burning with rage.

[ Applause ]

That evil woman would insult me
even in my grave.

Yet the shame of it has fallen back upon her.

Am I not also a daughter of the Tudors?

Vile woman!

But Leicester....

Maybe her anger has overwhelmed him.

I bring misfortune to everyone near me!

What do you want?

I come to carry out a sad duty.

This paper is your death sentence.

Is this how England judges a queen?

You evil creatures! False evidence!

The kingdom–


Leave me.

Talbot, stay.

Do you wish a minister
to comfort you in your final hours?

I refuse.

Now, as always,
I remain a stranger to your rites.

Still so proud!

Oh, my good Talbot!

I asked Elizabeth the favor
of seeing you before the bloody hour.

Yes, comfort me.
It means my soul is not utterly abandoned.

You were so composed when
you received your cruel sentence.

Ah, Talbot! Could you not read
the terror on my face?

My heart was trembling.

What of Leicester?

He must attend your execution
by order of the Queen.

Oh, poor man!
How grievous a punishment!

How that tyrant must be exulting!

And heaven will not send its avenging thunder?

No more!

I was torn from Scotland,
my throne, my religion.

I sought refuge here.

And found a prison.

What are you saying?
Has God never granted you any peace?

No, Talbot, never.

The foul phantom of my sins...

...has always stood between heaven and me.

It disturbs the sleep of the dead.

It summons from the tomb
the bloody ghost of Darnley, my husband.

Talbot, do you see it?

And the bloodstained corpse
of my secretary, Rizzio.

May your wandering mind
find peace once more!

Already you are approaching eternity.

Go to the scaffold with a pure heart
freed of all earthly affections.

Yes, my sins will be washed away...

...when my tears flow, mixed with my blood.


Let me confess to your faithful heart.

Tell me!

I have a true friend in you!

My life once glowed...

...with the rosy light of dawn.

Among happy fancies... spirit reveled.

Then love made me a sinner...

...and opened the abyss before me.

Love's sweet smile....

How my husband was enraged by it!

My Darnley, wretched man!

Because of me he was murdered.

His mournful voice still echoes in my heart...

...deep in my heart.

Beloved ghost, be appeased.

I feel death within my breast.

May my tears satisfy you!

May my torment be enough!

May God pardon you!

Forgive my sorrowful sighs.

I shall pray for you.

Pray to heaven for me!

Heaven will forgive you.

Pray to God for my soul!

I shall implore God to pardon you!

[ Applause ]

There remains another sin to weep for.


Did you conspire with Babington?

Do not ask!

It was a fatal mistake.

Ponder this. God is all-powerful.

He punishes every sin.

Before His all-seeing gaze... false heart can hide.

No, never could my thoughts stray from heaven.

Ah, my friend, until now
a dark veil has hidden the truth.

Yes, I swear it! This dying heart...

...that asks God's mercy swears it.

I swear it before God!

May the hidden truth blaze forth in your blood!

Be content to leave behind in prison
your troubled life.

Transformed into an angel,
you go now to a consoling God.

In purest joy, your rapt soul...

...will forget the sorrows
that have tormented your heart.

Now that the light of my life is fading...

...heaven alone can give me peace.

Too many tears have nourished my soul.

–May my long sufferings end with my death.
–May your sorrows now be forgotten.

[ Applause ]

Did you see?

We did.

A terrible sight!

The block.

The axe.

The trappings of death.

The crowd at the foot of the fatal scaffold!

What a sight! What horror!

The shameless mob awaits the victim.

The royal victim!

Her cruel fate!

The murder of a queen...

...will be England's shame forever.

This barbarous deed...

...will forever stain England's honor.

This will bring shame to England.

Infamy and shame!

[ Applause ]


Speak more quietly here.

Where is she?

Sad and downcast, she approaches.

Do not add your grief to her misery.

We will be silent.

At last I see you all again.

Only to lose you!

I go now to a better life.

At peace, I fly to the arms of God.

But you must be gone from this troubled land.

Our hearts are breaking with grief!

Ah, do not weep!

Hannah, dearest friend, you alone remain.

Here is a handkerchief, bathed in tears.

Use it to blindfold me.

Shut out forever the light of day.

But you are still weeping.

My friends, join with me in prayer.

One last prayer to merciful heaven.

One final, devoted, and ardent prayer.

Hear the sound of my humble prayer...

...O beneficent God of mercy!

Gather me under the wing of Your forgiveness.

The heart has no refuge but You.

Hear the sound of our humble prayer,
great God of mercy!

Gather her under the wing of Your forgiveness!

Tears are useless.

Heaven is my help now.

Think not on the errors of your life.

Freed from grief, freed from suffering... have been forgiven by gentle heaven.

Freed from grief and suffering.

I am nourished by eternal love.

O God, strengthen me with Your love!

The cannon!

[ Cannon fires ]

The moment of your death has come.

Elizabeth will grant you any last wish.


I did not expect her pity.

I ask one small favor.
Let Hannah accompany me to the scaffold.

She may.

Since you've accepted my first plea...

...I shall make one more request.

From a heart that is dying,
take my forgiveness... the one who insulted me,
the one who condemned me.

Say to her I hope she remains
content on her throne.

I shall disturb her days no longer.

I shall beg that heaven grant its favor... both England and the Queen.

May she never be punished by remorse!

All shall be washed away with my blood.

Monstrous blade!

May she not be punished by remorse.

All shall be washed away with my blood.

Washed away with my blood....

Her arrogance is punished at last.
Now peace returns to the land.

Leicester is coming!

What a tragic scene he finds.

Once more I see you!

Lost and oppressed by unjust sorrows.

And close to death!

Grieve no more!

Farewell forever!

The hour is nigh!

No, I cannot leave you again!

–The time has come.
–Out of my way, villain!

Tremble, all of you!

You are all evil!

Tremble before the Lord.

Fear the God who avenges the innocent!

If only this fury could be quenched...

–...quenched by our own blood!
–It is time!


Listen to me!

You once vowed to free me from these chains.

Now lead me to my death
as a last sign of your love.

May my innocent blood placate
the wrath of an angered heaven.

May almighty God not call down
His scourge upon heretic England!

May God not punish her!

Brave words! Cruel misfortune!

Hannah, farewell!

Robert, farewell!

You once vowed to free me from these chains.

Now help me die with dignity.
It will be the last sign of your love.

May my innocent blood placate
the wrath of an angered heaven.

May almighty God not call down
His scourge upon heretic England!

May God not punish her!

Innocent and defamed, she dies!

[ Applause ]

[ Cheering ]

[ Cheering ]

[ Cheering ]


Joyce, Brava! What a great role
and performance.

Now, it's not often that
audiences get a treat like this.

How did you end up singing this
opera on the stage of the Met?

Oh, my gosh, big question.

I think that's a question
for Peter Gelb.

-But I --
-Did he ask you?

He asked me and I half --

I gave it a thought for about
two seconds and I said, "Sure."

I know that they wanted to bring
bel canto back to the Met,

in particular the trilogy of
the three Queens.

And I was extremely honored

to be able to do number two here
for the Met,

bring Maria here.

Well, what an incredible
confrontation scene

we just witnessed --
as good an onstage showdown

as in anything in Shakespeare.

Now, is that
the pivotal scene for you?

Actually, it feels like
every note

is a pivotal note in this opera.

Because that's what's amazing
about this drama,

is one thing just
bulldozes into the next.

It's absolutely a turning point,

but, for me, I'd say the heart
and the soul of it

is the confession scene that's
coming up in Act II

because that's really
the ultimate fight

for people's life --
she's fighting for her soul

and she's resisting it
at every point.

And, finally,
with the help of Talbot,

she's able to release that,
and that, for me,

is the heart of the piece.

Well, how do you balance
the incredibly dramatic acting

and the singing
in a scene like that?

You know, I'll tell you, it's a
different adventure every night.

And you know this so well,

A lot of it lies in
the rehearsal process for me,

so that some rehearsals for me
are really geared towards

just the theatrical side where
I'm not thinking about vocality.

And then I'll back off sometimes

and just go into
the vocal aspect of things.

So that then,
when I get to this point,

I'm not thinking vocally,
I'm not thinking theatrically,

but I know where the line is.

-Sort of the muscle memory.

-Both kicks in.

Well, when we Mary just now,

she's been under house arrest
for a number of years.

How do you get inside
a character like this?

Did you study English history?

I did, yeah.

On your nightstand, there's a
book of it every night, right?

I've been given several books,
which is lovely.

And somebody just gave me
an illustrated book,

which is really fabulous.

And, you know,
thanks to YouTube,

there's a wealth of things.

I didn't go so many --
so much to operatic sources,

but there's so many
film sources --

Katharine Hepburn
and Vanessa Redgrave --

you know, all these actresses
that have brought

so many different colors.

This is what's fascinating
to me about that character --

every singer who has sung her

and every actress
who has portrayed her

has found a different color

and a different strength
to her.

And so, I think it gave me sort
of the liberty to

-put my stamp on it.
-Not to have the comparisons.

Yeah. Try and let that go.

Well, although this is an opera
that's not performed that often,

you've had the chance to play
both Elizabeth and Mary.

Now, what perspective has this
given you on their struggle?

I think the heart of it
is that they are both right.


They are so ingrained in their
politics and their religion

and their place in that time.

So, it's why the confrontation
works so well.

It's not just frivolous insults

that they're shouting
at each other.

It's the truth
as both of them believe it.

And I think that's pivotal

because it's why
Elizabeth struggles so much

and it's why Mary can stay
so strong at the end.

Well, you have something like
the equivalent of

four arias coming up
in the final act.

-Is that all?
-That's all. [LAUGHS] Yeah.

And none of them are fast
or flashy.

They're much more introspective.

What kind of challenges
does that pose?

It's a big challenge in terms
of energetic stamina.

You know, it's easy to keep the
energy going

when it's a lot of
fast coloratura.

But it's really about
being in the moment,

and it's really about
staying present.

Well, we can't wait to hear it.
You sound fabulous.

Thanks, Debbie.
Can I just say a big hello

to everybody that's watching --
all my family --

-Kansas City, Seattle, Reno.
-Why not?

-And all the fans around.
-All right, all right!

You guys are the best!
You guys are the best!

Joyce, thank you.

Now I'm going to speak to
Mary's nemesis, Elizabeth,

sung by Elza van den Heever.

-Hello, Elza.

-Thanks, Debbie.

Now, this is your
debut at the Met.

-How does it feel to be playing

such a huge role
in your first Met run?

It's rather daunting.

I mean, so many stars before us
have, you know, done it.

And it's -- it's daunting.
That's all I can say about that.

That's a perfect word.

Tell us about
how you play Elizabeth

with the masculine swagger
that you have?

Did you come to this opera
with the idea ahead of time,

or is this something that you
and David developed together

in the rehearsal process?

This was definitely
David's vision.

Wanted something that was
absolutely not pretty

in the conventional sense.

I remember in rehearsal
I was sort of, you know,

trying to be regal,
and he said,

"No, not that.
I want you to do this."

And so he imitated
what he wanted.

And I intimated him and I said,
"Oh, so you don't want elegant."

And he said, "No!"

No, it's a great contrast

-Yeah, yeah, exactly.
-Between the two of you.

And you do it
really, really well.

That is such an incredible
confrontation scene we just saw.

-What's it like to play that?
-It's wonderful.

Joyce is such an amazing person
to feed off of.

And, you know,
acting is reacting,

and that's basically all.

We just have to
keep our ears open

and react to our colleagues
on stage -- it's great.

Well, you obviously are
a stage director's dream.

In order to fully inhabit
your role,

you actually shaved your head

a few weeks ago
before the show opened.

I did! Look, no wig line.

I just can't believe
you did that.

-Bald cap.
-But anyway,

why did you feel
that you needed to do it?

Because there's no bald cap.

-Well, that's true.
-Looks so good, right?

Actually, it looks very good.

And I've seen you
without anything

-and it works really well.

Well, how has working with
someone of Joyce's experience

helped you in your first
Met production?

I just learn from her so much.

She just embodies that perfect
thing of being still and calm

and yet projecting
so much energy,

but coming from a very still
and deep place.

Well, you have a lot of singing
to do as Elizabeth

and there is quite a bit
of coloratura.

Tell us about the vocal demands
of Donizetti's score

and what do you love
most about it?

I think what I like most about
this particular role

is that it emphasizes so much

dramatic qualities
in the voice itself.

And I myself
love to just do that.

I don't think I would make

a particularly
wonderful ingenue,

you know,
somebody that's petite, or --

-Oh, you never know.
-You know, somebody that

has to sing those type of
flighty things

without a little meat behind it,
so it comes from the breath.

Well, good luck
in the second half.

We can't wait to see
what's next.

-And your costume is fabulous.
-Thank you.

Take care! "Maria Stuarda"
is the second of

Donizetti's trilogy of
Tudor Queen operas.

It follows last season's
Met premier production of

"Anna Bolena,"
with the third part,

"Roberto Devereux"
still to come.

All three productions are being
directed here at the Met

by Sir David McVicar,
who recently sat down with

"Maria Stuarda"'s
set and costume designer,

John McFarlane, and Met General
Manager, Peter Gelb.

Having seen
the dramatic fireworks

of the first half of
"Maria Stuarda,"

audiences must be wondering
why this masterpiece,

composed in 1834, is only now
making its Met debut.

I don't regret the delay,

since with this great cast

and dramatically charged

I am thrilled to offer it for
the very first time

from the stage of the Met.

Happily, it's been brought to us
by Director Sir David McVicar

and Designer John McFarlane --
a pair of Scots

who stand very tall on
the international opera scene.

So, David, if I may ask you,

why did you --
I know I invited you to, uh,

direct these three Tudor operas,
uh, but why did you, uh,

accept the invitation?

I accepted for the challenge of

immersing myself
in this repertoire,

which is a new repertoire to me.

But I've been always been very
interested in

the bel canto repertoire
and I've always been

very interested in this trilogy
of the Tudor Queen operas.

So you were already
a student of the history?

I was fascinated by the period
of Tudor history,

just personally,
but I'm also fascinated by

the bel canto period
as an artistic period of opera

and I was interested in proving
that these operas

have real dramatic validity.

And, John, you did not design

the first of the three Tudor
operas that we're presenting,

but you, obviously, are very
much involved

in the conception of this opera.

-What -- uh, are you also

a lover of Tudor history?

Huge. I read a lot of
Tudor history.

So, the period
was immediately exciting.

And of the three, this was
the one I always wanted to do.

The other two being
"Anna Bolena,"

and the third being
"Roberto Devereux."

And not just because
I'm Scottish, but...

But I think it's a fantastic
piece for the designer

because you have the specter of
the Royal Court of Whitehall

and then landscape and into
the darkness of the second act.

So you can really conceive it
very big time design-wise

and travel
the audience through it.

Right. And you, as --
and typical of designers

of the United Kingdom,

you are designing both
the scenery and the costumes.

Unlike American designers, who
specialize in one or the other.

I find it very hard to imagine

not doing the two
because I work out

how the people should look as
I'm designing the model.

GELB: And how do the two of you

You say to John, "I want it to
look like this"?

With this we talk about
physical space.

We get model box.
We get basic cardboard.

We begin with me describing
how I see entrances, exits,

the amount of space I need
for a chorus scene

and things like that.

Yeah, I think David very much
had the idea that it should --

that the whole set
should be like

the most enormous platform
for a scaffold,

and it should start like that
and play out everything on it

from landscapes to Whitehall.

And, of course,
in the end,

that is the platform the actual
scaffold is sitting on.

GELB: Which is coming up.

So that's a great start,

because you've got your space.

And I think I've always wanted
to have

the visual input of
the huge royal crest.

GELB: Tell us, if you would,

about the time sequence
in this opera.

Over how long a period of time
does it transpire,

and how do you deal with that
in terms of costumes and makeup?

One of the things I brought to
the table to John was,

I wanted to play
the real historical ages

of the two Queens,
which is against, actually,

the text of Donizetti,

but I thought it would be a very
interesting way of

increasing the

of the characters and increasing
the pathos of the situation.

And as a vehicle,
a huge vehicle for me,

designing the costumes.

So, in the interval,
which we are now in,

the audience must imagine that
10 to 12 years have passed,

and Elizabeth, who was in
her 40s in Act I,

is now in her mid-50s.

And Mary who was in
her early 30s

is now in her mid-40s.

Because the historical Mary died
at the age of 44.

This was something
very, very important to me,

to temper --
to pepper, if you like --

the romantic
Italianate treatment

of this historical story

and bring it closer to Schiller,
closer to history.

It gives it a sense of great
theatrical realism.

Yeah, well, the great thing is
when you see Elizabeth at first,

she's riding high in her court

and the dress --
it's a white dress

and she's
throwing herself around

because she's a comparatively
young woman.

And, of course, by the beginning
of the second act,

which the audience
is about to see now,

she's absolutely power dressing
because she's become Gloriana.

But you see, pitifully,
in our production,

what lies beneath
the Gloriana costume.

McFARLANE: Yes, absolutely.

The pitiful old woman
that lie --

the old Virgin Queen.

Bereft of love.

Tell us about this fantastic
confrontation scene

that we -- the audience has just

between Elizabeth
and Mary Queen of Scots.

Which is fictional,
which didn't happen.

But that's operatic fantasy.

And that operatic fancy, which
is based on Schiller's play,

allows us to explore the

of these two enormous
historical figures.

It's a very important moment
to me, to both of us, I think.

Well, bravo to you both.
Thanks so much.

-Thank you.
-Thank you.

I'm joined now by the men of
"Maria Stuarda,"

who all have very different
positions in this story.

Joshua Hopkins is Lord Cecil,

Queen Elizabeth's advisor
and henchman.

Matthew Rose plays Lord Talbot,
Mary's prison warden,

but also her sympathizer.

And Matthew Polenzani
sings Leicester,

the love interest
of both Queens.

-Hello, gentlemen.

Hello. Matthew Polenzani,
let's start with you.

Your character, Robert Dudley,
Earl of Leicester,

is caught in the middle
between the two Queens.

In actual history,

Robert seems to have been
a rather slippery man,

playing different angles.

-Oh, that's true.

How much of that did

Director David McVicar

want you
to bring to the role?

We talked a lot about
that stuff and, uh,

it's interesting because
there's --

yeah, he's a love interest,

but he never could get Elizabeth
to get interested in him

in that way for some reason.

He was in love with
Maria, too, but, I mean,

somehow his angle was always to
get himself to be a King.

That was what he was
really going for.

Well, is Robert
a sympathetic character?

I think he becomes
a sympathetic character.

He's the one
who has worked so hard

to put the two of them together

and try and get
the situation worked out,

and it goes completely awry.

When she signs
the death warrant,

yeah, I think his heart
is broken.

And I think he feels the weight
of that decision take on --

taken by Elizabeth --
on his shoulders,

because he's the one
who tried to make it happen,

all in service of being a King.

Yeah, love is there, too,

but, you know.

Well, now, you two guys are like

angel and devil figures sitting
on Elizabeth's shoulders.

How much research did you do
into your characters --

Lord William Cecil
and Lord George Talbot?

Well, I pretty much dug into
anything that I could,

for example, watching
the "Elizabeth R" series

that Glenda Jackson had starred
as Elizabeth in.

I think that was a great
historical way

to, uh, see all of
the characters

portrayed by actors, as well as
getting some biographies

of Cecil out from the library,
just digging right into it.

Yeah. Matthew?

Um, well, this -- I mean,
this is a funny story, isn't it,

because it's not really based
massively on history.

I mean, the Schiller play that
the opera is based on

is kind of mostly fiction.

And a wonderful fiction
in that which creates for us

a fantastic opera,

but, um, obviously,
being British,

this is part of my heritage.

I guess that's why I've been
employed for this, this opera.

That's the only reason.

Had nothing to do with
your singing.

So, you know, I mean, this is
all kind of part of our lives.

And when my parents actually --

at the moment
they're in Stamford,

which is where
William Cecil lived.

He had Burghley House there

and Fotheringhay Castles
very nearby.

So, you know,
all this is kind of part of

our day-to-day lives
in Britain actually.

Well, Joshua, Cecil seems to
have it in for Mary.

Does he have something personal
against her,

or is he just plotting for
the good of England?

You know there's absolutely
nothing personal

that Cecil has against Mary.

Cecil's a patriot,
and everything that he does

is for the good of the country
and for the Queen.

And the threat of a Catholic
ruler in a Protestant England

could mean so much bloodshed,
strife, and horror

for the people of England,
that having her in power

would just be hell on earth.

-Well, now, Josh,

I know you need to get in place
for the start of the next act.

So, we're going to let you go.
Thanks for joining us.

-Thank you very much.
-Now, Matthew,

you have a magnificent scene
coming up with Mary.

Tell us about it.

Um, so this is the scene

when Cecil comes in
with the death warrant

and she's finally told after
all these years of waiting

that she's going to finally
be executed.

So, we talk with each other
about what's going to happen,

and I get her to a good place

in which she kind of resolves
a lot of questions that she has

about certain things that have
happened in history,

and she gets to a good place
where she's ready to --

to walk to her death.

Well, we'll let you both get
back to it.

Thanks very much, guys.
Good luck with the second half.