The Metropolitan Opera presents Donizetti's Roberto Devereux live in HD, beamed into movie theaters worldwide on Saturday, April 16, 2016. This is the Met's first production of Roberto Devereux, and stars Sondra Radvanovsky as Elizabeth I and Matthew Polenzani as Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.
In this opera, a handsome young man enchants a troubled elderly monarch, and pays for his familiarity with this head. The opera Roberto Devereux teases history, but we do know that Elizabeth I of England, at the end of her long life, loved the Earl of Essex. Things did not turn out well.
Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was born in 1567 to Lettice Knollys Devereux and her husband Walter. Walter died soon enough and Lettice, unwisely, married Queen Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. For this "offense" Lettice was banished from the Queen's sight, and slowly but surely Leicester was restored to favor. Lesson learned: Do not marry the Queen's boyfriend.
Robert Devereux, son of Lettice Knollys and stepson of Leicester, grows up to become another pet of the now elderly Elizabeth.
Donizetti was never one to turn down a good idea for an opera. What better than the sex, blood, lust and gore of Tudor era England? If British monarchs and their minions have to go around singing in Italian, so be it. Donizetti was quite the theatrical composer, and gave new life to Anne Boleyn, her daughter Elizabeth, and Mary, Queen of Scots with his operas Anna Bolena, Roberto Devereux and Maria Stuarda.
Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is spending this year playing all three operas in one season. This feat was done one other time, by Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera forty years ago. Sills was especially identified with Elizabeth I in Roberto Devereux which she called her "finest artistic achievement."