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In Donizetti' opera Maria Stuarda the roles of the doomed queen and her cousin, Elizabeth I, have been taken by some of the greatest divas, from Malibran to Gruberova and Tosi to Baltsa, each revelling in the high drama of their tragically linked fates
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The opera's composition and productions seemed to be jinxed: Donizetti hired the amateur poet Giuseppe Bardari because his regular librettist refused the task; the King of Naples attended the 1834 dress rehearsal and banned the opera because it was too tragic. Donizetti transformed "Maria Stuarda" into "Buondelmonte" (set in Italy), which failed. "Maria Stuarda" was presented in Milan in 1835, but after seven performances the censors suddenly demanded changes. The opera was abandoned for 123 years, when 1958 and 1963 performances were marred by cast illnesses. A 1966 London performance was finally triumphant.
The Naxos 2-CD set is attractively priced and the cast is a strong one, though Maria Polverelli (Elizabeth) faces stiff competition from Dame Janet Baker (Chandos), Dame Joan Sutherland (Decca), and Beverly Sills (Decca or Brilliant). All are still available, so it may come down to your personal choice of which cast you prefer.