Roberto Devereux

I woke up to a beautiful spring day here in Brooklyn. My plans, however, took me to BAM’s Rose Cinema to join the regulars who attend the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD performances. There I staked out my seat well ahead of time (I kid you not, mini turf wars break out regularly) and ate a sandwich while waiting for the pre-performance lecture to begin. I was delighted to find the amiable Fred Plotkin as the speaker. The opera we were about to see was Roberto Devereux, and he advised us right away to sit back and enjoy the pure emotion and bel canto singing we were about to hear. He said not to get too caught up in the subtitles and to just feel the opera. Everything we needed to know was in the music (we already knew the basic plot.) How right he was. The love quadrangle the story was based on was fictional (as Fred said, “No one listens to an Italian opera to learn British history.”) The poignant portrayal of an aged, heart-broken queen was as real as anything I have ever seen. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky was incredible as Queen Elizabeth I. Her voice (the beautiful coloratura) — and her acting (both fierce and vulnerable) — were unforgettable. This role was relentless in every way. The adoring applause she received at the end of the riveting performance was hard-earned and well-deserved. In the title role of Roberto Devereux was tenor Matthew Polenzani. His true love, Sarah, was played by mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča. Completing the cast was baritone Mariusz Kwiecien. Each gave an outstanding performance, creating a stunning end to the trilogy of Tudor operas by Gaetano Donizetti, each of which was brilliantly produced by Sir David McVicar. I was incredibly fortunate to see all three (which included Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda). It is difficult to say which I liked best, but it is probably Roberto Devereux that has left the most powerful impression.

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