As I’m going to see Schiller’s play version of Mary Stuart in a month’s time, I decided to attend a performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s opera version (usually known as Maria Stuarda) in North London. Brent Opera are an amateur operatic group who perform in the beautiful church of St Andrews at the corner of Finchley Road and Frognal Lane.
Mary Stuart tells the story of the tragic Queen of Scots, beginning with her imprisonment and ending with her execution. Interestingly, it includes a scene in which Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart meet: in real life this never actually happened, but hey, it’s dramatic licence, and it makes for a tense and exciting scene.
The opera was sung in English, and I found the text to be clearly sung: the nature of the operatic voice means that I sometimes have trouble understanding the words, but this was rarely the case here. The staging was simple but effective, with only a few props, including national flags draped from the ceiling, and the costumes were authentic, more elaborate than I had expected.
I was extremely impressed by the standard of singing: I don’t think I expected much from an amateur performance but the standard was really high. As for the opera itself, I really enjoyed it. I’ve written before about the difficulty I’ve had with this art form, so a production really has to work hard to draw me in. This certainly did so, with the characters of the regal Queen Elizabeth and the passionate and ultimately dignified Mary Stuart being particularly well drawn, with exciting and dramatic scenes. I really liked the music, with its memorable melodies. Overall, a high quality production of a hugely enjoyable show.