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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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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.”

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.)

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.

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