Donizetti’s Music

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Bel canto opera

Maria Stuarda is written in the Bel canto operatic style. Bel canto means ‘beautiful singing’ in Italian. It originated in Italian solo singing of the late 16th century and was further developed by opera composers including Donizetti. It is characterised by very exact control and purity of vocal tone, spectacular vocal agility and clear articulation of words. Donizetti was a master of bel canto, using it to create heightened drama as well as showcasing the singers’ virtuosic voices.  

Listen out for the technically dazzling arias for the two Queens, such as Act I Scene 6, when Mary anticipates Elizabeth’s arrival, and Act III Scene 1, when Elizabeth agrees to Mary’s execution. Leaping melodic lines and fast streams of semiquavers in both scenes create nervous energy and tension.

Watch this interview with Philippa Boyle (Queen Elizabeth I) for more insight into Donizetti’s characters and music