Mary Stuart at Houston Grand Opera

Gaetano Donizetti
Mary Stuart

APRIL 21 – MAY 4, 2012

Houston Grand Opera’s spring season finishes with Gaetano Donizetti’s historic and tragic opera Mary Stuart. Starring a powerhouse trio of North American singers — Joyce DiDonato, Katie Van Kooten and Eric Cutler— it will be directed by Kevin Newbury. Sets were designed by Neil Patel and costumes by Jessica Jahn. The performances from April 21 – May 4 will be conducted by HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers.

Mr. Summers said, “I am thrilled to welcome Kevin Newbury back to HGO for his focused and forceful production of Donizetti’s unique operatic rarity, Mary Stuart. This production promises to be the perfect vehicle for the divine Joyce DiDonato’s first essay of the great and enigmatic title role.”

At the heart of the opera is the toxic relationship between the two queens, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, Queen of England. Mezzo-soprano superstar and HGO Studio alumna Joyce DiDonato will make her role debut as Mary Stuart. Now widely acknowledged as the leading mezzo-soprano of her generation, and noted for her superb technique and theatrical nuance, DiDonato has received dazzling reviews from across the globe. Opera Today wrote, “There was nothing her voice could not do…perfectly realized coloratura one moment, melting legato the next, heady leaps to the heights and spot-on plunges to the depths, fizzy fioritura, and plangent despair.” DiDonato is the 2011/12 Season Lynn Wyatt Great Artist at HGO. The Lynn Wyatt Great Artist Fund is an endowed fund dedicated to bringing the very best talent to HGO. Established in 2010, the recipients have been Ana María Martínez, Joyce DiDonato and in 2013, Director John Caird.
Katie Van Kooten, returning to HGO following her sensational performances as Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes, will sing the role of Elizabeth. The Daily Telegraph (UK) calls her “…a major operatic talent. Her singing has something of the same glow radiated by Te Kanawa or Freni, and her endearing charm and bright smile make her a winning stage personality.”

American tenor Eric Cutler will sing the Earl of Leicester. Cutler, whose previous engagements with HGO include Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto and Tamino in The Magic Flute recently sang the Earl of Leicester for Canadian Opera, noted by, “Eric Cutler’s tenor is agile and gleaming.”

The rivalry of the two Queens for the Earl of Leicester and for the throne threatens the English monarchy. Juxtaposing scenes of dramatic intensity and touching intimacy with beautiful and poignant music by Donizetti at the height of his compositional power, the fictitious meeting of the two rival Queens is one of the most powerful and dramatic scenes in 19th-century bel canto opera.

Based on a play by Friedrich Schiller, the opera relates a story in which Mary Stuart was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favor of her son, James VI, because of her unsavory past. She fled to England seeking help from her cousin Elizabeth. Instead, she was incarcerated for seventeen years before being beheaded for treason over alleged involvement in assassination plots against Elizabeth.

A native New Yorker, Kevin Newbury directed The Magic Flute at Houston Grand Opera in 2008. He has directed at a number of leading American opera companies, including Minnesota Opera, Santa Fe opera, Portland opera and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He has also directed for Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Bard Summerscape, l’Opéra de Montréal, the San Francisco Symphony, Glimmerglass Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Opera Colorado.

Did you know?
• Though they never met in their lifetime, Mary’s and Elizabeth’s tombs are situated side by side in Westminster Abbey, but separated by a wall of the chapel, out of each other’s sight.
• Joyce DiDonato won a “Best Classical Solo Vocal” Grammy Award for her recording, Diva/Divo (EMI). Her recording of Dead Man Walking at Houston Grand Opera, conducted by Patrick Summers, will be released on EMI in April 201
• Eric Cutler originally wanted to be a conservationist and work in a National Park.
Joyce DiDonato, Mary Stuart Patrick Summers, Conductor
Katie Van Kooten, Elizabeth I Kevin Newbury, Director
, Leicester Neil Patel, Set Designer
Robert Gleadow, Talbot Jessica Jahn, Costume Designer
D. M. Wood Lighting Designer
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Richard Bado, Chorus Master

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