Gaetano Donizetti wrote Mary Stuart in 1834 to be shown in Naples, but the opera had severe censorship problems (mostly for the violent death of a Catholic Queen) so to oblige the libretto to be changed and the title modified in Buondelmonte. The two first protagonists chosen were Giuseppina Ronzi de Beignis and Anna Del Sere, who, apparently, disliked each other in real life, and ended up in a fight during the scene of the quarrel, to the astonished shock of the public. Even though it still had censorship problems, Mary Stuart, went on stage at Teatro alla Scala of Milan on December 30th 1835 with an added symphony, and the great Maria Malibran as the protagonist. However, after six encores, the opera was banned again.
Synopsis Maria Stuarda
The Duke of Anjou, brother to the King of France, has asked Queen Elizabeth to marry him. Elizabeth's favourite pretender, Earl of Leicester, has recently shown less interest in her. Talbot, Mary Stuart’s custodian for many years, takes the opportunity to ask the Queen for her cousin’s release. Cecil, Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, reckons that Mary presents a threat to the stability of England if she remains alive. Elizabeth fears that the Queen of Scots is responsible for Leicester's small attentions to her. Leicester arrives and Elizabeth gives him a ring to convey the acceptance of Anjou’s proposal. His indifferent response confirms her suspicions so she leaves. Alone with Leicester, Talbot hands him a letter and a miniature sent by Mary. Leicester vows to help to free Mary. As Talbot leaves, Elizabeth returns, alone. She demands to see the letter which happens to be Mary's request to meet her. Leicester suggests her to meet Mary during a hunt happening close to Mary's prison. Elizabeth agrees. Mary is allowed to finally walk freely in the park outside her prison when horns of the royal hunt are suddenly heard in the distance. Leicester has ridden ahead of the hunt to prepare Mary for the meeting and promises Mary that she may yet be free if she manages to move the Queen's heart. However, when confronting, the two attack each other and Elizabeth orders the guards to bring her back to her prison.
Time has passed and Mary is still in prison. Cecil has given evidence that show Mary being involved in a Catholic plot to assassinate Elizabeth. When Leicester enters the chamber, she signs the warrant which sentences Mary to death. Leicester begs her to change her mind but Elizabeth orders him to be present at the execution. Cecil and Talbot enter the cell to tell Mary that she must die in the morning. Talbot urges her to confess to him. She agrees and confesses her acquiescence in the plot of the Sir Anthony Babington to assassinate Elizabeth. She and Talbot pray together for God’s absolution. Early next morning, Mary tells Cecil that she forgives her cousin and that she is content that she will die since Leicester is at her side.