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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Roberto Devereux

Sondra Radvanovsky is (once more) the Queen of England.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Arm wrestling at the opera: Sondra Radvanovsky as Queen Elizabeth I and Matthew Polenzani
in the title role of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.

The last of Donizetti's informal "three queens" trilogy puts soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in the spotlight as Elizabeth I, the Queen of England. The opera recounts a tragic love triangle involving the queen, with fatal consequences for the tenor.

In this new production by David McVicar, the story focuses on the court of Elizabeth and her clandestine romance with the Earl of Essex. One must understand that this is not history, but a romantic fantasy based on the life of the Queen and what may or may not have been her famous love affair with a handsome nobleman.

Donizetti wrote the "three queens" trilogy as three seperate operas.  However, in the 1970s Beverly Sills sang all three roles at the New York City Opera, promoting the works as a dramatic cycle. This year, the Met revive Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda with Ms. Radvanovsky as Anne Boleyn and Mary, Queen of Scots. Now, it's time to unveil this new production of Roberto Devereux with the soprano as Elizabeth I.

All three of these operas are compelling works in their own right that stand on their own. Each features gorgeous soprano arias, dramatic duets for the Queen and her romantic rival, and many opportunities for the tenor to shine. The taut choral singing and ensemble writing that one associates with vintage Donizetti are also present. This is a composer at the height of his considerable powers and one of the finest examples of early 19th century Italian opera.

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