Donizetti: Roberto Devereux

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Roberto Devereux
PERFORMER: Nelly Miricioiu, José Bros, Sonia Ganassi, Roberto Frontali, Graeme Broadbent, Robin Leggate; Royal Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Maurizio Benini
Lavishly presented, with an accompanying booklet that is well seeded with titbits for the canary fancier (who sang the principal parts in Donizetti’s stylish fantasy on Tudor history and when), Opera Rara’s new Roberto Devereux promises more than it delivers.


Naturally it’s a scrupulously prepared production and the Covent Garden chorus and orchestra are on their best bel canto behaviour for Maurizio Benini. But sadly, Nelly Miricioiu’s Elisabetta is less than regal, vocally scooping at high-lying phrases and displaying an awkward habit of sliding off the note during the most taxing runs. And when she lightens the voice, say, for the cabaletta to her cavatina ‘L’amor suo mi fe’ beata’, Miricioiu is girly where she should be granite.


Her Roberto, José Bros, is a useful bel canto tenor, light and wiry of sound, who makes the most of his dungeon aria. And if Sonia Ganassi as Sara, Duchess of Nottingham and Elizabeth’s rival for the Earl of Essex, is sometimes strident in her upper register, she’s generally a masterly mistress of this style. As for Roberto Frontali’s Nottingham, the best friend who becomes Essex’s sworn enemy when he thinks that Elizabeth’s sweet Robin is the cuckoo in his own marital nest, here’s the real thing. In their chilling Act III duet Frontali and Ganassi raise the temperature and the roof. Christopher Cook