Exactly a week after Victorian Opera’s Bravo Bellini concert starring Jessica Pratt, Melbourne Opera offers more bel canto delights: Donizetti’s opera Maria Stuarda, featuring another internationally renowned Australian soprano, Helena Dix.

She is, as expected, excellent as Scottish queen Mary Stuart, but what a wonderful surprise that young soprano Eleanor Greenwood is also excellent as her regal rival, Elizabeth I. Their performances alone are well worth a ticket for this revival of director Suzanne Chaundy’s production, which made its debut in 2015.

Maria Stuarda

Helena Dix and Eleanor Greenwood in Maria Stuarda, Melbourne Opera, 2023. Photo © Robin Halls

Premiering in Naples in 1834, this Donizetti opera was rarely performed in his lifetime because of censorship. Fortunately Maria Stuarda finally found favour in the mid-20th century, when regicide and monarchs being insulted were not such a problem.

The opera is a loose interpretation of historical facts. Maria has long been imprisoned by Elisabetta, who fears this cousin and Catholic queen could usurp her throne. She is also jealous of Roberto, Earl of Leicester’s devotion to Maria. When the two queens meet and hurl bitter insults at each other, Lord Cecil’s...