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Donizetti’s MARY STUART: Opera’s Greatest Catfight

Seattle Opera's next opera, Mary Stuart tells the story of two icons of British royalty, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, who clash in a powerful story of jealousy, pity, doubt, menace, exaltation, and remorse. The kitties below will tell you more about this opera and where history and fiction intersect in Donizetti's work. [Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I and Leicester Tudor cat images by Paul Koudounaris; Instagram: @hexenkult].

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Donizetti's Maria Stuarda is a searing drama, a story about ambition and two rivals going head-to-head...

Donizetti's Maria Stuarda is a searing drama, a story about ambition and two rivals going head-to-head...

In addition to telling the story of a high-stake battle of wills, Mary Stuart contains some spectacular bel canto singing. In fact, many consider the opera to contain some of Donzietti’s most emotional and dramatic music.”

In addition to telling the story of a high-stake battle of wills, Mary Stuart contains some spectacular bel canto singing. In fact, many consider the opera to contain some of Donzietti’s most emotional and dramatic music.”

While the opera isn’t strictly accurate to history, it tells the story of real people, including Mary Stuart, a.k.a., Mary Queen of Scots.
Paul Koudounaris (Instagram: @hexenkult).

While the opera isn’t strictly accurate to history, it tells the story of real people, including Mary Stuart, a.k.a., Mary Queen of Scots.

In real life, Mary was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland. She was only six days old when her father died and she inherited the Scottish crown.

In real life, Mary was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland. She was only six days old when her father died and she inherited the Scottish crown.

“She spent her childhood in France. In 1558 she became Queen of France by marrying its young Dauphin. (He died 14 months later. Quel dommage!)

“She spent her childhood in France. In 1558 she became Queen of France by marrying its young Dauphin. (He died 14 months later. Quel dommage!)

Rather than enter a convent in France, the staunchly Catholic Mary finally returned home as Scotland’s queen. Catholics across Europe considered her the legitimate heir to England’s throne, too.

Rather than enter a convent in France, the staunchly Catholic Mary finally returned home as Scotland’s queen. Catholics across Europe considered her the legitimate heir to England’s throne, too.

But her cousin, Elizabeth I, definitely did not want that to happen.
Paul Koudounaris (Instagram: @hexenkult).

But her cousin, Elizabeth I, definitely did not want that to happen.

Elizabeth, daughter of England’s Henry VIII, was a Protestant like her father. (Henry had broken with the Catholic Church and founded the Church of England because he didn’t want the pope dictating to and with whom he could marry and have children.)

Elizabeth, daughter of England’s Henry VIII, was a Protestant like her father. (Henry had broken with the Catholic Church and founded the Church of England because he didn’t want the pope dictating to and with whom he could marry and have children.)

Because Elizabeth saw Mary as a threat to her power, she placed her under house arrest for almost 20 years. When the opera begins, Mary is languishing under this imprisonment.

Because Elizabeth saw Mary as a threat to her power, she placed her under house arrest for almost 20 years. When the opera begins, Mary is languishing under this imprisonment.

In the opera, the Earl of Leicester urges Elizabeth I to go to Mary and work out their differences.
Paul Koudounaris (Instagram: @hexenkult).

In the opera, the Earl of Leicester urges Elizabeth I to go to Mary and work out their differences.

Secretly, Leicester loves Mary and dreams of being her one and only...

Secretly, Leicester loves Mary and dreams of being her one and only...

... But Elizabeth is actually in love with Leicester; she's not about to let her rival steal both the crown, as well as the man she loves...

... But Elizabeth is actually in love with Leicester; she's not about to let her rival steal both the crown, as well as the man she loves...

Leicester goes to the castle where Mary is being held, and tells her that Elizabeth is coming for a visit. When Elizabeth gets there, things don't exactly go well...

Leicester goes to the castle where Mary is being held, and tells her that Elizabeth is coming for a visit. When Elizabeth gets there, things don't exactly go well...

At all...

At all...

The two cousins have a terrible argument, and Mary majorly insults Elizabeth -- in doing so, the Queen of Scots seals her own grisly fate...

The two cousins have a terrible argument, and Mary majorly insults Elizabeth -- in doing so, the Queen of Scots seals her own grisly fate...

Elizabeth’s courtiers convict Mary of treason. After Elizabeth signs Mary’s death warrant, the Queen of Scots bids farewell to a cruel, cruel world…

Elizabeth’s courtiers convict Mary of treason. After Elizabeth signs Mary’s death warrant, the Queen of Scots bids farewell to a cruel, cruel world…

(Mary, Queen of Scots, in heaven following her execution).

(Mary, Queen of Scots, in heaven following her execution).

Elizabeth wins! (Poor Mary!).

Elizabeth wins! (Poor Mary!).

In real life, while the two queens never actually met (and there was no actual love triangle with Leicester), the real Elizabeth really did send her cousin to her death. Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor queens and reigned for 45 years (1533 - 1603). By the end of her reign, especially after the defeat of the supposedly invincible Spanish Armada, Elizabeth began to be held in almost supernatural awe throughout Europe, and to her own subjects she became a sort of secular saint; she represented the splendor and power of England.

In real life, while the two queens never actually met (and there was no actual love triangle with Leicester), the real Elizabeth really did send her cousin to her death. Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor queens and reigned for 45 years (1533 - 1603). By the end of her reign, especially after the defeat of the supposedly invincible Spanish Armada, Elizabeth began to be held in almost supernatural awe throughout Europe, and to her own subjects she became a sort of secular saint; she represented the splendor and power of England.

The real Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was the focus of many Catholic plots to assassinate Elizabeth so that Mary could take the throne. Mary corresponded with Anthony Babington, one such plotter. When Elizabeth's spymaster uncovered the letters in 1586, Mary was brought to trial and found guilty of treason. After Elizabeth signed her cousin's death warrant, Mary was executed in Northamptonshire, on February 7, 1587 at 44 years old. Centuries after her death, both Mary and Elizabeth continue to be objects of cultural fascination and subjects of movies, books, TV shows, operas and more.

The real Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was the focus of many Catholic plots to assassinate Elizabeth so that Mary could take the throne. Mary corresponded with Anthony Babington, one such plotter. When Elizabeth's spymaster uncovered the letters in 1586, Mary was brought to trial and found guilty of treason. After Elizabeth signed her cousin's death warrant, Mary was executed in Northamptonshire, on February 7, 1587 at 44 years old. Centuries after her death, both Mary and Elizabeth continue to be objects of cultural fascination and subjects of movies, books, TV shows, operas and more.

And of course, the legacy of the English royal family continues to this day.

And of course, the legacy of the English royal family continues to this day.

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