When we reached the end of this thing at about 11.45 last night, the person I went with turned to me, took off his glasses and said, rubbing his eyes, “well, I guess we got our money’s worth!” Which is certainly true, both in terms of minutes of opera per dollar spent (this is one where they start early, at 6.30, so as to be able to wrap things up by midnight) and in terms of fun in a general kind of way.
This production is quite simple in visual terms. The stage is mostly black and bare, with a few pieces of scenery standing in for walls or pillars or whatnot that appear and disappear. In Act I Elizabeth has a podium/lectern/pulpit thing with stairs — there is a word for this object, but I cannot for the life of me think of it right now — and later on Mary has a sort of Death Podium, i.e. the same object as Elizabeth’s but made of iron bars. I thought that the Death Podium was going to reappear as a scaffold in Act III but I was wrong. In the last act we have a small platform, and later behind it a large cut-out cross toward which Mary is turned, in anticipation of her execution, as the opera ends. The costumes are historically appropriate, with some nice contrasts of color – Elizabeth in brilliant gold or yellow with the chorus in more subdued blues and grays, and Mary spending the last part of Act III in a blood red shift. The whole thing is simple, direct, and doesn’t get in the way.