Multiplex cinemas now offer live showings of concerts and operas from prestigious venues. When I first came across this, it struck me as an excellent idea. So I was delighted that our Director of Music (who blogs at Bara Brith) organised a trip on Saturday evening for the choir to go to Bluewater for the live feed of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda from the New York Met. (From the combox of Mulier Fortis I learn that Fr Michael Brown who blogs at Forest Murmurs was watching it at the same time in Newcastle.)
A few years ago I went with a priest friend to Madame Butterfly at Covent Garden. We had tickets for somewhere under the rafters but he knew that you could go and occupy empty seats in the stalls after the interval. (Not sure if you can still do that.) That was my only experience of live opera and jolly good it was too, but I remain an ignoramus on the subject. Thanks to Bara Brith and Wikipedia I now have an elementary understanding of what is meant by Bel canto, and coloratura, and know a little about Donizetti.
Maria Stuarda doesn't increase anyone's historical knowledge of Mary Queen of Scots, though it was useful to check out which bits were completely invented. It is interesting, though, to learn of the fascination of Italians and others with the tragedy of her life and death; the opera certainly gave this some colour and we were all prepared to cheer at the bit when Mary Stuart lets rip at Elizabeth I:
Figlia impura di Bolena,
Parli tu di disonore?
Meretrice indegna e oscena,
Su te cada il mio rossore!
Profanato è il soglio inglese,
Vil bastarda, dal tuo piè!
Unclean daughter of Boleyn,Dare you speak of dishonour?Unworthy and obscene whore,My so-called shame fall upon you!The English throne is sulliedBy your own foot, you vile bastard!Nowadays, in these matters, we are helped by modern technology. YouTube conveniently has a video in which you can "Choose your favorite 'vil bastarda' from Maria Stuarda." Having watched them, I thought that Joyce DiDonato's (top of post) compared favourably in terms of dignified vehemence.
I don't think this won't be the last Blackfen trip to Bluewater for the opera. There was quite some interest in Handel's Giulio Cesare which is on 27 April - also live from the New York Met.