Gaetano Donizetti

Maria Stuarda

Jan 29 - Feb 20

The second chapter of soprano Sondra Radvanovsky’s quest to sing all three Donizetti Tudor queen operas in the same season has her playing the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots. Sir David McVicar’s stunning production turns on the dramatic confrontation between Mary and her arch nemesis, Queen Elizabeth—compellingly portrayed by soprano Elza van den Heever. Riccardo Frizza conducts.

Read Synopsis Read Program
  • Sung In
  • Italian
  • Met Titles In
  • English
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Estimated Run Time
  • 2 hrs 45 mins
  • House Opens
  • Act I 70 mins
  • Intermission 35 mins
  • Act II 60 mins
  • Opera Ends
Jan 29 - Feb 20

This production has completed for the season.

Be sure to check out our remaining productions on the season list.

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A scene from Maria Stuarda

“A royal treat… visually striking.”

—The Wall Street Journal

World premiere: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1835. Met premiere: December 31, 2012. Maria Stuarda is a searingly dramatic setting of Friedrich Schiller’s play about Mary, Queen of Scots, and her political and personal rivalry with Queen Elizabeth I of England. While based relatively closely on historical characters and events, the opera’s central scene is fictional: the highly emotional meeting of the queens that concludes the first act (originally invented by Schiller) never took place. It’s a dramatic device that brilliantly highlights the two women’s contrasting characters.


Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848) composed about 75 operas in a career abbreviated by mental illness and premature death. Most of his works disappeared from the public eye after his death, but critical and popular opinion of his huge opus has grown considerably over the past 50 years. Giuseppe Bardari (1817–1861) was only 17 when his reputation as a brilliant student led Donizetti to entrust him with the creation of the Stuarda libretto. He later moved on to a successful career in law.

Production Sir David McVicar

Set & Costume Designer John Macfarlane

Lighting Designed by Jennifer Tipton

Choreographer Leah Hausman

Gaetano Donizetti


Gaetano Donizetti


A scene from Maria Stuarda

The opera takes place in the late 16th century at the court of Queen Elizabeth I in London and at Fotheringhay Castle in central England, Mary’s final place of confinement. At the time of her death in 1587, she had been imprisoned by Elizabeth for more than 18 years.


For all the beauty of its orchestral writing, Maria Stuarda is a prime example of the mid-19th-century bel canto style—the drama is firmly embedded in the vocal parts. A notable curiosity of the score is the wide range of casting possibilities for the two leading ladies: either role can be (and has been) sung by a soprano or a mezzo-soprano. Much depends on the contrast of the voices, especially in the great confrontation scene at the end of Act I, in which Maria calls Elisabetta “vil bastarda”, a “vile bastard”— tellingly set as a dramatic recitative rather than as part of a show-stopping aria.