|Illustration by Inslee|
And the excitement didn’t just come from watching a bunch of muscle-bound hunks swinging huge hammers to the rhythm of the Anvil Chorus ... although, strictly entre nous, a bit of eye candy never hurts.
No, the real excitement was generated by a fabulous cast, led by a wonderful conductor, who kept the musical adrenaline flowing from first to last note.
|Alexey Markov as Count di Luna|
It is, in fact, one long, musical feast for the ears, and Verdi gives everyone (tenor, soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone and bass) a chance to grab the vocal spotlight and run with it.
And run with it they did, especially the fabulous young Russian baritone, Alexey Markov, in the role of Count di Luna.
The baritone in this opera is passionately in love with the soprano, who has gone gaga over the tenor, a wild and crazy gypsy troubadour, who serenades her nightly with songs of love. Even a handsome hunk of a baritone, like our young Count, has a hard time competing with that.
Of course, just being handsome doesn’t cut it in the opera world. With apologies to Duke Ellington and his lyricist, Irving Miller, “It don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t got that sing.”
Markov’s voice is dark and velvety, but with the power to cut through an orchestra like a knife and knock you back in your seat. Add to that a commanding stage persona (did I mention he’s really hot?), and you’ve got a bad boy baritone that any good girl would be hard pressed to resist …….. unless, of course, she's a silly soprano with a gypsy fetish.
The opera ends with the soprano swallowing poison, the baritone having the tenor beheaded, and the mezzo-soprano, a crazed gypsy, telling the baritone that he’s just lopped off the head of his long-lost brother.
You see? I told you it was a silly story, but it’s just sooooo much fun.
|Elza van den Heever (Elizabeth) and Joyce DiDonato (Mary)|
The opera, Maria Stuarda, by Donizzetti, a rarely performed gem, showcased a magnificent ensemble cast; but it was the two ladies at the center of the drama who took top honors dramatically and vocally. Although history clearly tells us that Mary and Elizabeth never met, writers and composers have had a field day imagining what that fateful meeting might have been like had it actually happened.
Donizzetti gives us his version of the most famous meeting that never took place. Unable to bear Elizabeth’s repeated accusations, Mary’s cool submission turns to white-hot fury as she calls Elizabeth the bastard offspring of a whore.
Things quickly go from bad to worse, while the tenor, who once loved Elizabeth and now loves Mary, stands by helplessly. In the end, a furious Elizabeth stalks off stage and Mary is dragged back to prison.
Here you can almost feel the heat of their anger:
Verdi's Maria Stuarda Act i Finale Joyce DiDonato - Met Opera Live in HD from Larry Murray on Vimeo.
In the final, moving scene, wearing the red robes of a Christian martyr, Mary climbs the stairs, blindfolded and alone, to the waiting executioner.
Elizabeth had won. Or had she???
Elizabeth’s reign ended in 1603 without an heir. The Tudor line had come to an end. The throne of England would pass to James I, the first of the Stuart kings, and Mary’s son.
|Tomb of Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey|