Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Production: David McVicar
Elisabetta: Sondra Radvanovsky (soprano)
Sara, Duchess of Nottingham: Elīna Garanča (mezzo-soprano)
Roberto Devereux: Matthew Polenzani (tenor)
Duke of Nottingham: Mariusz Kwiecien (baritone)
Roberto Devereux by Donizetti completed Sondra Radvanovsky's tour de force trilogy of Donizetti's three queens in a single season. For my money this is the opera that most suits her gifts. Overheard talking to myself, "But this is a wonderful opera." Perhaps it is wonderful because a constantly enraged queen suits so perfectly the voice of Sondra Radvanovsky. I did not see in Sondra's portrayal the nonsensical pseudo-butch portrayal of Bette Davis, but saw instead someone with difficulty walking and deteriorating health.
Each of the four stars listed above gets wonderful music, perhaps also perfectly suited to their gifts. Benini found the drama in the singing.
What a mess of a plot. Perhaps Roberto once truly loved the queen as she clearly thought he did. And then he fell in love with the decades younger and still unmarried Sara. He goes off to war and after clearly winning it, he is accused of being a traitor. While he was away, Sara with the queen's help married the Duke of Nottingham because her father died. Women at that time required the protection of a man, either husband or father. The opera opens with her clear unhappiness. It is not clear if she is unhappy because Roberto is returning, or if perhaps it is her marriage to someone she does not love and who seems also not to love her.
The queen marches down into her tomb and dies at the end. This is a poetic rather than a historically accurate ending. The opera plot more closely resembles the movie The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex than it does historical fact. It's important to remember that opera is about love, and historical accuracy is irrelevant.
Debbie Voigt announced it as a play within a play, but this is only true if you count the fully costumed chorus clapping when the audience clapped. In the bows the characters turn and bow to the chorus. This was all discrete and not at all annoying. It provided a context for the frequent choruses. In the period there would have been courtiers standing around watching.
I loved it. It was filled with both beautiful singing and overwhelming dramatic intensity.
And yes, that was indeed "God save the Queen" in the overture.