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Donizetti, Gaetano: Maria Stuarda
Act 2: Recitative, Cavatina and Cabaletta, “E chè! Non ami chè ad insolita gioia … O nube che lieve per l’aria … Nella pace del mesto riposo” (Mar

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk10/1/2005

Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
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If you’re starting to outgrow Lucia, move on to Maria Stuarda. It’s perplexing that her opening scena is so seldom heard in auditions, since it represents Donizetti at his most captivating (the opera is also no longer such unusual fare in opera houses). Here’s the chance to show everything you have in terms of elegant style, textual eloquence and vocal dexterity.
Maria is, of course, that most ill-fated of queens, Mary of Scotland. Her first entrance finds her walking with her companion in the park at Fotheringay Castle, where Maria — having fled to England as a fugitive — has been imprisoned by Elizabeth I. The joy of being outdoors in lovely surroundings creates a momentary sense of freedom in Maria.

Her cavatina finds her nostalgic, longing for France, where she’d been happy years before. The royal hunting party approaches and in the cabaletta Maria confesses her lack of courage at the thought of seeing Elizabeth. Include the recitative if you have time, since it adds greatly to establishing the character (the companion’s lines are easily cut). The cavatina is one of the most effective in all of Donizetti: gently lilting, with little turns and other filigree along the way to give the line variety. Despite Maria’s apprehensiveness, her regal grandeur does come through in the cabaletta, in which the most important element is the rhythmic assertiveness required. The leaps that abound must carry terrific energy in them, as must the grand ascending scale at the close.

Score: Ricordi
Recording: Montserrat Caballé in complete opera, Opera d’Oro #OPD-1163; Beverly Sills in complete opera, DG #465967; Dame Joan Sutherland in complete opera, Decca #25410
Timing: 4:45 (with recitative and two cabaletta verses, 6:45)
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