Mountains and Majesty: MARIA STUARDA

January 18, 2013 – Jackson Hole, WY
Maurizio Benini; Elza van den Heever, Joyce DiDonato,
Matthew Polenzani, Joshua Hopkins, Matthew Rose

In Jackson Hole, the mountains rise directly from the plains with staggering beauty, and today’s HD venue shoulders against the Tetons.  Walk Festival Hall, at the base of Rendezvous Mountain, is the summer home of the Grand Teton Music Festival.  Today, with brilliant sun on snow, the start of Live in HD is delayed to the end of the ski day at 4PM.  In snow boots and parkas, we dodge the last of the skiers and hike some yards uphill to the handsome wood and stone hall.

Skiers & opera-goers meet on the slope at Walk Festival Hall

The uncommonly good newspaper Jackson Hole News & Guide has published its regular featured Live in HD preview by reporter Richard Anderson, and a hundred or so patrons from this small but sophisticated community have gathered for today’s broadcast.

As the clock strikes 4 in Jackson Hole, the ski day ends and Maria Stuarda begins.

A miniature Queen of Scots,made in Edinburgh

A miniature Queen of Scots,
made in Edinburgh

The coming Met Opera premiere of Maria Stuarda was much on my mind last fall, when Brent and I were in Scotland as guests of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.  The tragic Queen of Scots has become a great heroine of her native land – as opposed to the hounded fugitive she was in real life – and the shops there are full of her image and her desperate story.

We feel we know this tale.  Brent and I are among the relatively few American opera-goers who have seen Maria Stuarda before, in the San Diego Opera production of February 2008.  (That San Diego Opera production was actually the evening half of our very first opera “double-header,” following an afternoon watching the Met’s HD transmission of Manon Lescaut.)  And then we saw the tremendously affecting 2009 Broadway play Mary Queen of Scots, with the indelible image of Janet McTeer lifting her face to the rain outside her prison wall.

Now inside Walk Festival Hall, we join the other enthusiasts in comfortable tiers and settle in for what Brent describes later – speaking for both of us – as “one of the single most beautiful theatrical experiences  (orchestral music, singing and acting) of my life.”

Joyce DiDonato’s performance in the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots,
“will be pointed to as a model of singing” (New York Times)