Small picture of Donizetti



Donizetti's Maria di Rohan

Buxton Festival, UK,  July 9 - 27, 2011.

Photographs by Robert Workman, courtesy of the Buxton Festival


Photographs from the 2011 Buxton Festival production of Donizetti's Maria di Rohan.  This was the fourth Donizetti revival in under 10 years at the Buxton Festival (Maria Padilla, 2003: Roberto Devereux, 2007, Lucrezia Borgia, 2009), all under the baton of Andrew Greenwood, who has also been the Festival Artistic Director for the last three. He is now leaving and it remains to be seen what direction the festival goes in. One hopes that Strauss’s Intermezzo, Sibelius’s The Maiden in the Tower and Rimsky-Korsakov's Kashchey the Immortal pencilled in for next year do not mark a turning away from bel canto and the mid nineteenth century repertoire that has been the backbone of  the revival in the Festival's fortunes.  Certainly, with regard to this year, Greenwood went out with a widely acclaimed success.

The Society Treasurer, Alan Jackson, has provided the following comments following his visit on July 23.

The hit of this year’s Buxton Festival was the production of Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan. This opera has been held in high regard by commentators from William Ashbrook onwards, who wrote ... anyone who is unfamiliar with it has not experienced the full range of Donizetti’s power as a musical dramatist. [Donizetti and his Operas, p.510.] It is safe to say that few left the Buxton Opera House after this performance less than overwhelmed.

The direction told the story clearly, more clearly in fact than previous productions I have seen. The set consists of a clock mechanism whose wheels turn constantly, emphasising that in the last two acts we are as close to drama in real time as opera can ever get [Tim Ashley in the Guardian]. True, we had to imagine the door to the secret passage, but I don’t think many had difficulty with that. Costumes were convincingly period. The production used the new critical edition of the opera by Luca Zoppelli and, as always, Andrew Greenwood drew an excellent performance from the Northern Chamber Orchestra, well paced and dramatic. Not all the singing, perhaps, met the highest standards: Mary Plazas (Maria) sounding a little worn, John Bellemer (Chalais) too insistently open in production, William Dazeley initially somewhat grey in tone colour but gaining in stature as the evening proceeded and Mirouslava Yordanova making the most of the breeches role of Gondi.  However, all more than made up for any failings by sensitive, musical singing, impassioned declamation and committed acting.  In summary, the performance was a team effort that believed in the merits of the opera, with outstanding overall results.

The critics generally endorsed this view,  Tim Ashley (Guardian, July 10, 2011) summing up that it was "Gripping stuff despite its flaws."  George Hall (The Stage, July 11, 2011) thought that "The evening wins its spurs through high-quality singing."  Andrew Clark's (Financial Times, July 11, 2011) reaction was more mixed praising Greenwood's conducting and Dazeley's singing but finding the "clock motif tended to obfuscate rather than clarify the plot" and Rupert Christiansen (Daily Telegraph, July 14, 2011) while finding the third act a "corker" thought the staging  "stiff and over-elaborate: a starker setting with less period flummery would have intensified the emotional pressure".

Incidentally, Opera Rara plan to release their recording of Maria di Rohan with Krassimira Stoyanova and conducted by Sir Mark Elder in the autumn.

The Team


Maria di Rohan: Mary Plazas

Armando di Gondi: Mirouslava Yordanova

Enrico, Duca di Chevreuse: William Dazeley

Riccardo, Conte di Chalais: John Bellemer

De Fiesque: Andrew Slater

Visconte di Suze: Mark Holland


Conductor: Andrew Greenwood

Director: Stephen Medcalf

Assistant Director: Charlotte Watson

Designer: Francis O'Connor

Lighting Designer: John Bishop


Chevreuse and Maria


Chevreuse and Maria


Maria and Chalais






Maria and Chalais




Page initially published in  2011