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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 5, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 06
Iconic queens go head-to-head in Donizetti's Mary Stuart
Exquisite period drama premieres at Seattle Opera
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Iconic queens go head-to-head in Donizetti's Mary Stuart
Exquisite period drama premieres at Seattle Opera

SEATTLE OPERA
MARY STUART
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
February 27 & 28m
March 2, 5, 9, 11 & 12


Sparks will fly and heads will roll in Seattle Opera's tale of English royalty, Mary Stuart, coming to McCaw Hall for the first time this winter. Composed by Gaetano Donizetti, Mary Stuart depicts a fictitious confrontation between two historic rulers told with searing emotions, extravagant period costumes, and virtuosic bel canto singing. The story dramatizes the conflict between Mary, Queen of Scots and her jealous cousin Elizabeth I, who resents Mary's popularity, Catholic faith, and her position as the next in line to inherit the throne of England. As the opera speeds toward its powerful conclusion, Elizabeth resolves to eliminate her rival, while Mary discovers the strength to embrace her own dark fate. Pre-performance activities in the lobby will help attendees connect more deeply with the characters, composer, and history of these monarchs, and will ensure an unforgettable experience from the moment patrons walk through the front door.

'I am delighted that Seattle Opera is presenting Mary Stuart for the first time in its history, for it is long overdue,' said General Director Aidan Lang. 'Donizetti wrote nearly 70 operas, and until recently, only a handful of these were part of the standard operatic repertoire. But that has since changed, and Mary Stuart has led the way. It is an extremely powerful work, and one that demands superlative singing from its principals.'

Following its 1835 premiere, Mary Stuart was initially considered too controversial by authorities, which led to its ban and neglect for more than 100 years. A performance in Donizetti's hometown of Bergamo re-introduced the piece into operatic repertoire, where it has grown in popularity ever since. Today, the opera is valued both for its music - some of Donizetti's best - and its compelling drama of powerful women in conflict.

In the role of the Catholic queen of Scotland are two singers making Seattle Opera debuts: Serena Farnocchia and Joyce El-Khoury. Italian soprano Farnocchia has gained fans in the great opera houses of Europe, as well as in Asia. Lebanese-Canadian El-Khoury continues to make a name for herself as a rising star at the Metropolitan Opera. Two American sopranos sing Elizabeth, the Protestant queen of England. Mary Elizabeth Williams returns to Seattle following her portrayal of the leading lady in Tosca (2015) and Abigaille in Nabucco (2015), and Keri Alkema, an artist who's been highly praised for her 'incisive musicality' (New York Times) makes her company debut.

In the role of Leicester, the appealing nobleman loved by both Elizabeth and Mary, is John Tessier, who returns to Seattle following his role as Nadir in this fall's The Pearl Fishers (2015); as well as Andrew Owens, winner of the 2015 Francisco Viñas International Singing Competition, who makes both his company and role debut. Mary Stuart also sees the return of two celebrated Seattle artists: Weston Hurt as Talbot, who most recently performed the title character in Nabucco (2015) and Michael Todd Simpson, who was John Sorel in The Consul (2014). Renée Rapier makes her company debut as Hannah, companion to the Queen of Scotts in her imprisonment.

Kevin Newbury, a Grammy-Award-nominated opera, theater, and film director, makes his Seattle Opera debut as stage director, and maestro Carlo Montanaro returns to the podium following Nabucco (2015). Seattle native Jessica Jahn makes her company debut as costume designer.

Mary Stuart premieres Saturday, February 27, and runs through Saturday, March 12. Tickets are available online at seattleopera.org or by calling 206-389-7676 or 800-426-1619. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office by visiting 1020 John Street (two blocks west of Fairview), Monday-Friday between 9am and 3pm. Ticket prices start at $25. Groups save 15 percent: 206-676-5588 or groups@seattleopera.org. Seattle Opera Ticket Office: 206-389-7676 or 800-426-1619. Online orders: seattleopera.org.



In February, Seattle Opera offers FREE public-preview talks on Mary Stuart at libraries throughout the Puget Sound. The previews will include recorded musical excerpts designed to enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of the production. For a full list, go to seattleopera.org/calendar. In Seattle the previews will be held at the following Seattle Public Libraries:

Sunday, February 14, 2-3pm @ Green Lake Branch, 7364 E. Green Lake Dr. N.; Tuesday, February 16, 6:30-7:30pm @ Northeast Branch, 6801 35th Ave. N.E.; Tuesday, February 23, 2-3pm @ Queen Anne Branch, 400 W. Garfield St.; Wednesday, February 24, 2-3pm @ Ballard Branch, 5614 22nd Ave. N.W., 206-684-4089; Thursday, February 25, Noon-1pm @ Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium.

Library events and programs are free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Free parking is available at the branches. Parking is available in the Central Library garage at the regular rates. For more information, call the Library at 206-386-4636 or visit www.spl.org.

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Iconic queens go head-to-head in Donizetti's Mary Stuart
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