We were interested in this performance because Joyce DiDonato was singing the title role. We had heard her as “Sycorax” in “The Magic Island,” and were very impressed, and were excited to see what she would make of this bel canto role. We were not disappointed. She was fabulous, and so were the other members of the cast. Elza van den Heever, a new young soprano did marvelously in the role of the aging and insecure Elizabeth, matching DiDonato’s emoting while weighed down with Elizabeth’s heavy wigs, makeup, and gowns. Since she is a tall, broad-shouldered woman, the stage director’s advice to have her adopt a manly stride rather than an elegant glide was spot on, and made her seem very much the daughter of Henry VIII.
The women were well supported by Matthew Polanzani, as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who has strong feelings for both women; Joshua Hopkins as Cecil, the architect of Mary’s doom; and Matthew Rose, as Talbot, Mary’s sympathetic jailor. All five voices blended wonderfully in the quintet that is the climax of the second scene, and ensemble singing was fine throughout. Tenor Polanzani was especially effective in duets with both mezzo DiDonato and soprano van den Heeever.
The Met production was staged as though presented in an Elizabethan theatre and worked well. The Met Opera orchestra, Maestro Maurizio Benini at the podium, was up to its usual standards, and gave us a very enjoyable afternoon at the opera.
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