DiDonato a luminous Mary Stuart at Met
In this Dec. 24, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Joyce DiDonato, left, plays Maria Stuarda during a dress rehearsal of Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
NEW YORK (AP) — The Metropolitan Opera may have pretty much turned opening night over to the glamorous Anna Netrebko, but New Year's Eve belongs to a very different diva — Joyce DiDonato.
Last year the Kansas-born mezzo-soprano headlined a starry lineup in the baroque pastiche "The Enchanted Island." On Monday night she brought a gala audience to its feet with a luminous performance in the title role of Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda."
Never before performed at the Met, this second opera in the composer's so-called "Three Queens" trilogy portrays the lethal conflict between Mary, deposed queen of Scotland, and Queen Elizabeth I of England.
In this Dec. 24, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Joyce DiDonato plays Maria Stuarda and Matthew Polenzani is Leicester during a dress rehearsal of Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
From the moment she makes her entrance in the second scene, singing of her joy in strolling outside her prison in Fotheringay Castle, DiDonato rivets attention. She imbues every syllable with a concentrated eloquence that makes her compact voice seem larger than it is. She displays seemingly effortless command of coloratura embellishments throughout a wide vocal range. And she is equally impressive in fiery outbursts and in hushed, long-held phrases — like the ones she spun out as she sang through the chorus in the final scene.
The opera's dramatic heart is a confrontation between the two queens that never took place in history but that figures in the Friedrich Schiller play on which the libretto is based. Mary at first abases herself in hope of winning a pardon; then, as Elizabeth hurls insults, her pride reasserts itself and she seals her doom by denouncing her rival as "figlia impura di Bolena" ("impure daughter of Anne Boleyn") and "vil bastarda" ("vile bastard").