Maria Stuart

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Maria Stuart is a play by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)[1]

Not to be confused with Mary Stuart, original plays by John Drinkwater and Denise Stoklos.

The original text

An historical German verse play in five acts, it depicts the last days of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The German première took place in Weimar, Germany on 14 June 1800. The play formed the basis for Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda (1834).

Translations and adaptations

The play is usually translated into English as Mary Stuart, the first apparently being by Joseph Mellish, a friend of Schiller's, based on the original prompt copy, before publication of the play. Numerous translations have appeared since.

(These translations too are not to be confused with Mary Stuart by John Drinkwater, which was , an original play.)

Adapted as an opera, Maria Stuarda, by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Giuseppe Bardari, based on Andrea Maffei's translation of Friedrich Schiller's play.

There have to date been three Afrikaans translations of the text, all entitled Maria Stuart:

The first was by Ulrich Gerryts (produced by Volksteater, 1941), by Wilhelm Grütter (produced by PACT, 1965) and the third by Karel Schoeman (published by Human en Rousseau,1973, performed 2005)

Performance history of the play in South Africa

1941: An Afrikaans translation of the play by Ulrich Gerryts was produced by Volksteater in Pretoria, with Anna Neethling-Pohl as Elizabeth, also featuring Berdine Grünewald.

1959: Presented by the Little Theatre Players at the Little Theatre, Cape town, in November, directed by Gretel Mills.

1965: A translation into Afrikaans by Wilhelm Grütter was directed by Jannie Gildenhuys for the re-opening of the Hofmeyr Theatre after renovations on 4 August 1965. Tine Balder played Elizabeth I, with Esther van Ryswyk as Mary Queen of Scots, also starring Nerina Ferreira, Billy Trengove, Ernst Eloff, Laurie van der Merwe, Jannie Gildenhuys, Danie Marais, Limpie Basson, Pieter Bredenkamp, Emile Aucamp and Marie Pentz. Decor and costumes designed by Limpie Basson. Stage management and lighting by Emile Aucamp, assisted by Martin Crous.

1969: Performed in English as Mary Stuart by the Stutterheim Amateur Dramatic Society. Directed by Fitz Morley and using costumes lent to them by CAPAB. (However, this may have been be the John Drinkwater text rather than Schiller's epic work.)

1972: Performed in Afrikaans by PACT, directed by Truida Louw. It first opened on 9 March at the Alexander Theatre in Johannesburg, before moving to the Breytenbach Theatre in Pretoria. The cast consisted of: George Ballot, Louis van Niekerk, Anna Neethling-Pohl, Jan Bruijns, Karen van Wyk, Jud Cornell, Adriaan van Niekerk, Don Lamprecht, Gerben Kamper, Dawid van der Merwe, Pieter Strydom, Wilna Snyman, Sandra Prinsloo, Marius Weyers. Decor designed by Richard Cook, costumes by Neels Hansen.

1987: Performed in English as Mary Stuart by PACT, directed by Francois Swart, with **

2005: Performed in Afrikaans at the HB Thom Theatre by the students at the Stellenbosch Drama Department, directed by the visiting German director Bernhard Wolf. The production was a non-traditional take on the play, using an expanded and radically re-configured version of Karel Schoeman's Afrikaans text, and was done as part of the celebrations for the Schiller centenary year. The large cast included Stian Bam (as "Maria Stuart"), Louis Pretorius, Yolande Rabé, Geon Nel, Kobus van der Colff, Jacobi de Villiers, Tamrin du Tout, Teresa Müller, Tyrone Coetzee, Amalia Uys, and others. The crew included Catherine Channing (production manager) and Julene du Plessis (stage manager), Johan Britz (lighting).

Performance history of Donizetti's opera in South Africa

2015: Presented by Cape Town Opera (7 & 8 November)


Inskip, Donald P., 1972. p.145.

Maria Stuart theatre programme (KRUIK 1965).

PACT Newsletter, March 1972.

Grütter, Wilhelm, 1987.CAPAB 25 Years. Unpublished research (copy held by CAPAB): pp. 65, 417.

Prompt script for the 2005 Stellenbosch production by Bernard Wolf, found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022.

Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

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