Magazine article Musical Opinion

Roberto Devereux in Concert at the Royal Opera House

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Roberto Devereux in Concert at the Royal Opera House

Article excerpt

The concert performance of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux given at Covent Garden on 8 July was the first time the opera had been heard in the Royal Opera House, its London Premiere in 1841 having taken place at Her Majesty's Theatre. The least well known of the composer's socalled Tudor trilogy, it was set to a. libretto by Cammarano that focused on the tragic climax of Elizabeth I's relationship with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. English history of this period has been a rich source of inspiration to opera composers but librettists tend to be economical with the facts: here spiced up with a fictitious love affair between Devereux and Sara, Duchess of Nottingham.

The action proceeds via a sequence of tautly-written scenes for two or three characters, but its development turns on the vacillating emotional state of the Queen. Hers is the central role, in spite of the title, for it is she who must resolve the charge of treason hanging over Devereux and her suspicion that he loves another woman. The role admirably suited Nelly Miricioiu who is a mistress of Donizetti's vocal style and whose ability as a singing actress allowed her to flesh out the character on the concert platform without the need for the trappings of a staged production. As the woman in love, her tones to Devereux were softly cajoling; as his Monarch dispensing justice to a suspected traitor, her singing became regally imperious, the words incisively declaimed in the Trio with Devereux and Nottingham that builds to a climactic ensemble with her signing of the Death Warrant. …

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