Gaetano DONIZETTI (1854-1921)
Roberto Devereux (1837) Tragic opera in three acts
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
Queen Elizabeth – Marielle Devia (soprano)
The Duke of Nottingham – Mansoo Kim (baritone)
Sara, Duchess of Nottingham – Sonia Ganassi (mezzo)
Roberto Devereux – Stefan Pop (tenor)
Lord Cecil – Alessandro Fantoni (tenor)
Sir Walter Raleigh – Claudio Ottino (bass)
A page – Matteo Armanino (contralto)
A servant – Loris Purpura (bass)
Teatro Carlo Fenice chorus and orchestra/Francesco Lanzillotta
Directed by Alfronso Antoniozzi
Video direction by Matteo Ricchetti
rec. Teatro Carlo Fenice, Genoa on 20-24 March 2016
Sung in Italian using the Ricordi music edition
Picture Format: 16:9 NTSC Sound Formats: Linear PCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
Region Code 0
DYNAMIC 37755 DVD [136 mins]

This tragic opera by Donizetti was surrounded by tragedy in Donizetti’s own life during its composition since his young wife lost two children and then herself died shortly before the opera was mounted.

The Devereux story is loosely based on the fate of the Earl of Essex at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Donizetti was familiar and comfortable with portraying Tudor history, having composed earlier operas relating to this period. He brings together the Queens; Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena and the important Elizabetha herself. With a libretto by Cammarano (who had supplied libretti to two previous operas by the composer) the elements of history are taken lightly.

With eight characters, the plot revolves round Sara, Duchess of Nottingham’s attraction to the Earl of Essex, Roberto Devereux. As a friend of her husband, Devereux is accused of treason yet Queen Elizabeth admits her love for him and promises his safety. Robert meets the distraught Sara who declares that her love for him will never die.

The Queen, aware of Robert’s secret lover, demands her name but this he refuses to give and so his death warrant is signed. From the Tower, Robert sends his ring to the Queen but this is withheld by Nottingham. To save Robert’s life Sara tells the Queen that she is her rival. The Queen tries to stop the beheading but is too late. When Nottingham eventually brings the ring, he admits that he wanted to see Robert die as an act of revenge for loving his wife.

Despite Donizetti’s depression about his tragic home life the emotive music for the singers is some of his best. Sara’s Act I soliloquial aria, "All’afflitto è dolce il pianto" is tenderly sung by Sonia Ganassi with sincere emotion while the Queen’s aria, 'L’amor suo mi fe' beata’ is outstanding as Mariella Devia soars effortlessly to generously sustained top notes. The opera contains stirring duets that communicate the tension admirably. Of these the Act I duets, ‘Nascondi, frena i palpiti’ sung by Elizabetha and Roberto, and ‘Dacché tornasti, ahi misera’ by Roberto and Sara are full of energy and admirably sung. In the opera the role of the Queen is enormous, as she is on stage singing much of the time. Marielle Devia rises to the occasion and delivers without any of the strains of tiredness showing.

This production by Alfonso Antoniozzi concentrates on creating expressive characters and is neatly framed. Most of the action takes place on a broad platform backed by wrought iron gates, which act as screens in another act. There is little visual change to the scenery over the acts and there is a lost opportunity to use lighting to transform the stage with fresh light direction or hue. With mainly overhead lighting throughout, deep shadows are cast on downstage faces and although this may be effective for use in one act the style is retained throughout and gives a general feeling that the stage is under-lit. Fortunately, Queen Elizabetha is adequately lit throughout. The costumes are admirable, especially the Queen’s embossed robe and the generously-proportioned ruffs of the chorus which stand out in the gloom.

The orchestra is excellent under Lanzillotta’s direction and an ideal balance between singers and orchestra is provided. For my stereo TV, the Linear PCM 2.0 setting was much preferred for clarity. The booklet in English and Italian contains good notes on the history of the opera, yet omits mention of the singers, conductor or director. Subtitles are available in Italian, English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.

This is a worthy DVD for consideration as both performance and technicalities are good.

Raymond Walker

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