MARIA STUARDA Makes Met Premiere on New Year's Eve Starring Joyce DiDonato

Joyce DiDonato stars in the Met premiere of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, in a new production by Scottish director David McVicar, opening with a gala performance on New Year's Eve. The opera, which dramatizes the famous rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots and her royal cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, is the second opera in the composer's "Tudor trilogy," a trio of works about English queens of the 16th century.

Maurizio Benini will conduct a cast that includes South African soprano Elza van den Heever in her Met debut as Elizabeth I; Matthew Polenzani as Leicester, whose affection for Mary provokes Elizabeth's jealousy; Joshua Hopkins as Cecil; and Matthew Rose as Talbot. McVicar's production of Maria Stuarda will feature set and costume design by his fellow Scotsman, John MacFarlane, lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton, and choreography by Leah Hausman. The Saturday, January 19 matinee performance of Maria Stuarda will be transmitted worldwide as part of the Met's Live in HD series, which is now seen in more than 1,900 movie theaters in 64 countries around the world.

David McVicar will direct the Met premieres of all three operas in Donizetti's famous Tudor trilogy. On opening night of the 2011-12 season, his production of Anna Bolena premiered with Anna Netrebko in the title role, and in a future Met season he will stage the final opera in the series, Roberto Devereux. McVicar made his Met debut with an acclaimed staging of Il Trovatore in 2009, a production that has since been performed more than 30 times at the Met and will return to the repertory this January. In April, his inventive staging of Handel's Giulio Cesare, a hit at the Glyndebourne Festival and Lyric Opera of Chicago, will come to the Met with David Daniels and Natalie Dessay in the leading roles.

Joyce DiDonato made her Met debut as Cherubino in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro in 2005 and has quickly become one of the company's leading artists, singing Stéphano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Rosina in IL Barbiere di Siviglia, Isolier in the Met premiere of Le Comte Ory, the Composer in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, and, last season, Sycorax in the world premiere of the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island. She made a critically acclaimed role debut as Maria Stuarda at Houston Grand Opera in April 2012. This season, she also sings Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi at San Francisco Opera and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; and Elena in Rossini's La Donna Del Lago at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

Elza van den Heever makes her Met debut as Elisabetta. The fast-rising soprano made her professional debut as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni at San Francisco Opera in 2007. She has subsequently sung major roles at many of the world's leading opera houses, including Frankfurt Opera, where she made her role debut as Elisabetta in November 2012 and where she has sung Donna Anna, Elisabeth de Valois in Verdi's Don Carlo, Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin, Vitellia in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, Antonia in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and Desdemona in Verdi's Otello. Other recent appearances include Fiordiligi in Mozart's Così fan tutte at Paris Opera, Armida in Handel's Rinaldo at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore with the Canadian Opera Company.

Matthew Polenzani starred as Nemorino in the new production of L'Elisir d'Amore that opened the current season, a role he reprises in a series of performances this January and February. In recent seasons, his starring roles at the Met have included Alfredo in the 2010 new production premiere of La Traviata, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Tamino in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette. Earlier this year, he sang the Chevalier des Grieux in Massenet's Manon at La Scala and the title role in Massenet's Werther at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Later this season, he sings the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at Vienna State Opera and the title role in Les Contes d'Hoffmann at San Francisco Opera.

Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins made his Met debut as Ping in Puccini's Turandot in 2009. His recent performances include Marcello in Puccini's La Bohème at Houston Grand Opera and Ottawa's Opera Lyra; Argante in Handel's Rinaldo at Glyndebourne; and the title role in IL Barbiere di Siviglia at Kansas City Opera, Vancouver Opera, and Arizona Opera.

English bass Matthew Rose made his Met debut as Colline in La Bohème in 2011. He appears frequently at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where he has recently sung Colline, Lord Sidney in Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, and Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Last season, he sang John Claggart in Britten's Billy Budd at English National Opera and Walter Furst in Rossini's Guillaume Tell at the BBC Proms.

Maurizio Benini's last Met performance was the season-opening new production of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, an opera he also led for his company debut in 1998. In January, he will conduct the first Met revival of Rossini's bel canto rarity Le Comte Ory, an opera he led at its company premiere in 2011. His other Met appearances include many performances of Rossini's IL Barbiere di Siviglia, including the 2006 new production premiere; the new production premiere of Donizetti's Don Pasquale; and performances of Verdi's Rigoletto, La Traviata, and Luisa Miller, Rossini's La Cenerentola, Gounod's Faust, and Bellini's Norma.

John MacFarlane has designed both sets and costumes for Maria Stuarda. He made his Met debut with Richard Jones's hit production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel in 2007. Lighting designer Jennifer Tipton's Met designs include Hansel and Gretel, Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, McVicar's staging of Il Trovatore, and this season's new production of L'Elisir d'Amore. Leah Hausman made her Met debut providing choreography for McVicar's Il Trovatore production.<

The January 19 performance of Maria Stuarda will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Soprano Deborah Voigt will host the transmission. The Met: Live in HD is now seen in more than 1,900 theaters in 64 countries around the world.

The December 31 opening performance will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Channel 74, as will the performances on January 8, 15, 19, and 23. The 4 performances will also be streamed live on the Met's website,

The January 19 performance will be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

For more information on this season's performances of Maria Stuarda, visit the Met's website at

Photo: Brigitte Lacombe/Metropolitan Opera