Donizetti is considered by many as 'the Great Master' of the 3 bel canto composers of the 19th century. Bel canto isn't for the faint hearted. It was written to show off the vocal skills of exceptional singers.
In a nutshell, the vocal quality of the voice matches the emotional content of the text and uses all the techniques of the Italian vocal style. Like Rossini, composing was no chore for Donizetti. Both composers would finish their operas in a matter of weeks. He composed 65 operas, both comic and dramatic during his 51 years.
courtesy of Dendy
The plot is based on the love affair between the 'virgin' Queen, Elizabeth 1, believed to have had many lovers during her life time, the last of which was Devereux. 'I would rather be a beggar than a Queen and married'.
Devereux was the 2nd Duke of Essex and was charged with treason for plotting against his Queen. She tried in vain to save him but in a jealous rage, signed his death warrant after she discovered he no longer loved with her. 'I want blood, not tears'. By this time she 58, bald, toothless and painted her face with white powder to hide the pock marks. No wonder he chose another.
Sondra Radvanovsky [Queen Elizabeth] is a veteran performer at the Met., having 200 appearances under her belt. She set herself a huge task in 2016. She sang the 3 operas written by Donizetti about the Tutor Queens, the other 2 being Anna Bolena and Maria Stuart. These operas are rarely staged, there are very few sopranos who have the vocal capacity, acting ability and stamina to tackle these demanding bel canto roles. She is following in the shoes of the great Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, who are among a hand full of the greats who dared to tackle the bel canto roles.
Donizetti demands much more for this opera. A great mezzo soprano [Elina Garanca], two world class tenors and a baritone of note [ Mariusz Kwiecien referred to as 'the dashing opera hunk']. Luckily such a line up was available for the 2016 season.
Matthew Polenzani [Robert Devereux], like his leading lady is no stranger to the Met. This is his 300th appearance at this venue and was easily up to the demanding task.
Towering sets and magnificent costumes were of the Elizabethan period, which added to an evening of splendour. David McVicar who both produced and was responsible for the set designs, staged the opera as a play within a play, making full use of the lavish costumes.
Only the film audience can watch the conductor in action. Maurizio Benigni seemed to enjoy his work which reflected in the performance of the musicians.
This was the first time the Met has staged Roberto Devereux, opera lovers will have to wait and see if principals of this calibre are available in the future. The singers were rewarded with a standing ovation. An exhausted soprano was overwhelmed and a little surprised by the well-deserved reception. A wonderful opportunity to listen to the best singers in the world for a fraction of the price of a ticket at a live performance. Watch the Dendy Portside site for the upcoming operas in HD in the coming months.