The tragic story based on the life of a favourite of Elizabeth I was delivered fantastically by the Welsh National Opera under the baton of conductor WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi.
First seen in 2013, this is a production thrilling in the power of the orchestra and principals.
From the very start, the flamboyant and dramatic overture immediately reminded us of Donizetti’s signature compositional style. Then, before one realised, the tragic love triangle between Elizabeth, Roberto and Sara, had already been pushed onto the stage.
Roberto’s lover Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, was sung by Justina Gringytė, who presented well the image of an innocent girl full of love. On the other hand, the often violent and ambivalent personalities of Elizabeth was rendered wonderfully by Joyce El-Khoury in this incredibly demanding Donizetti role.
In between them was the Earl of Essex, Roberto Devereux, sung amazingly by Barry Banks, who struggled between his love and fate. And the story could not be put together without Sara’s husband, Nottingham, sung beautifully by Biagio Pizzuti, who, at first a royal friend to Roberto, ultimately stopped Roberto from being saved from execution.
The use of “spider” as the opera’s core staging element was the highlight of this production, directed by Alassandro Trevi. It was convincing, especially the wielding “spider chariot” in which the Queen arrives which although sometimes insecure and distracting, delivered a stunning visual impression. Such design from Madeline Boyd successfully enhanced the tragic feel of the opera, and obviously helped Joyce El-Khoury in shaping the Virgin Queen’s character. Her performance was particularly impressive later in the opera, which ended with a rapid and powerful conclusion.
Touring including Venue Cymru Llandudno, April 26.
Images: Bill Cooper