Small picture of Donizetti



Pacini's Maria Tudor

Stadttheater, Giessen, March 17 - May 17, 2012.

Photographs by Rolf K. Wegst, courtesy of the Stadttheater, Giessen.


The Stadtheater Giessen unearthed a real rarity in Pacini's Maria Tudor (Maria, Regina d’Inghilterra), yet another rather fanciful foray into English history, this time based on a play by Victor Hugo. The reviews have been enthusiastic. Thomas Molke (Online Musik Magazin) wrote that " Zu der durchweg überzeugenden Inszenierung kommt noch eine musikalische Umsetzung, die das Publikum zu regelrechten Begeisterungsstürmen veranlasst" while Wilhelm Roth ( die deutsche buhne ) noted "Das erlebt man selten in einem deutschen Openhaus: Heftiger Beifall und „Bravi“-Rufe schon nach dem ersten Duett."

One of our members, Walter Wiertz, saw the March 17 performance and wrote an article for Newsletter 116.  Part of that article is given below.

The audience in the Stadttheater Giessen on the first night were perhaps not quite so effusive as at the première when Pacini was called out 42 times, but were nonetheless vociferous in their enthusiasm  for the excellent vocal performances and an orchestra that - conducted excitingly by Eraldo Salmieri -  fascinated hearts and ears.

Among the singers Giuseppina Piunti as Maria Tudor was the centre of attention.  She was an authentic and moving actress whether as determined queen or as loving woman plagued by jealousy.  She was equally convincing in the vocal part, whose tessitura is pretty high for a mezzo-soprano, despite some failings in the fioritura passages and in the demanding final scene.  Her rival for Riccardo Fenimoore's love was Maria Chulkova as a girlish Clotilde, who sang and played this young woman who is believed to be an orphan superbly.  Simply unforgettable was the scene at the beginning when, cuddling a cushion, she starts to write a love letter to Fenimoore: 'Caro nome che il mio cor ...'.  She reminded us of Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto indeed!

Coming from Uruguay, the young Leonardo Ferrando played - perhaps a bit one-dimensionally – the "Scottish exile who has become Conte di Clambrassil" (sic) as a narcissistic macho in tartan trousers and sunglasses who is sure about achieving his (not only erotic !) aim with both women. His tenore leggiero sounded beautiful and brilliant even in the sustained top C's and his rendering of the prison scene was heart-breaking.   The two other male soloists offered more than just adequate performances: Adrian Gans as Ernesto Malcolm, a commoner who in his unfailing love of Clotilde becomes embroiled in a criminal plot, made excellent use of his well-balanced baritone, which sounded slightly booming in the more dramatic passages. The scheming, unscrupulous, Gualtiero Churchill was fittingly represented by the gruff bass of Riccardo Ferrari, who as eminence grise at the royal court even scares the Queen herself.  The young Belgian soprano Odilia Vandercruysse -in spite of her small vocal part - gave the Queen's page a clear profile, inquisitively peeping out from behind one of the thick buttresses of the vault.

The stage set created by Lukas Noll captivates the observer from the very first moment: Massive low-hanging piers forming a vault threateningly dominate the scenery  together with the sound of dripping water  vividly evoke "a deserted spot on the banks of the Thames". Yet they also - with the help of the revolving stage and changing lighting effects turn into a dungeon in the Tower of London or into the private chamber of the Queen with a large bed at its centre.  Apparently this is more important to Maria than the royal throne, which appropriately is accompanied by two steles with the Bible and the royal crown exhibited in their glass tops.

Joachim Rathke, the director, right from the beginning makes the two women the centre of our attention.  During the prelude he presents them both in simple white robes witnessing the execution of the Talbot family. When Clotilde in the course of Act II learns that she in fact is the only surviving member of this Catholic family destroyed by Henry VIII she - now acceptable at court - dons a magnificent dress, which she after all takes off in the finale in favour of her white robe.  Queen Mary, whose face often is partly hidden by a mask, several times changes her splendid dresses depending on her prevailing role or state of mind. When for example she takes Fenimoore to task (Act II, Sc.5 ) she wears a red garment accompanied by a matching cloth coronet and a bolero displaying the same checked pattern as Fenimoore's trousers.

The members of the augmented chorus (chorus master Jan Hoffmann) not only sang well but expressed through their costume their characteristic feature: dressed in black from top to toe they looked like ants constantly concerned about their queen's welfare, a mass of people menacing and easily manipulated.

Like in other libretti of the Belcanto era that are founded on historical events, political fact and religious aspects play only a secondary part. Two love-stories skilfully interwoven are the centre of the plot: the fatal relationship between Queen Maria Tudor, "Bloody Mary", and her current favourite - Fenimoore - who in order to develop his career has started a clandestine affair with Clotilde, whose true identity he has found out. The latter is ardently in love with him although she is going to marry Ernesto, who, much older than herself, has brought her up like a father. The final scene of this opera, when the two women,  united in fear and suffering  with the funeral march in the background, sing out their apprehensions (which of the two men is the one covered with a black veil being led to the scaffold?),   is terrific music and could scarcely be more thrilling. This rounded off a tremendous evening and  the audience in the Stadttheater Giessen, especially the numerous bel canto aficionados from far away, was enthralled and happy about the revival of this wonderful opera and about its remarkably high standard.


The Team


Maria Tudor: Giuseppina Piunti

Riccardo Fenimoore: Leonardo Ferrando

Ernesto Malcom: Adrian Gans

Clotilde Talbot: Maria Chulkova

Gualtiero Churchill: Riccardo Ferrari

Ein Page: Odilia Vandercruysse

Raoul: Vito Tamburro


Chor : Chor und Extrachor des Stadttheater Gießen

Orchester: Philharmonisches Orchester Gießen


Musikalische Leitung: Eraldo Salmieri

Inszenierung: Joachim Rathke

Bühne: Lukas NollK

Kostüme: Dietlind Konold

Chor: Jan Hoffmann

Dramaturgie: Christian Steinbock



© Rolf K. Wegst

Maria and Gualtiero



                                                                            © Rolf K. Wegst

Maria and Riccardo



© Rolf K. Wegst




© Rolf K. Wegst

Maria and Clotilde



© Rolf K. Wegst

Maria, Riccardo and Clotilde with Gualtiero in the background



© Rolf K. Wegst

Maria and Clotilde




© Rolf K. Wegst





Page initially published in  2012