Richard and I saw Donizetti's *Roberto Devereux* at the Met on 3/28. This was the final production of a multi-season project: staging what's known as the three Tudor queens Donizetti operas. Richard and I saw *Anna Bolena* with Anna Netrebko in 2011 and *Maria Stuarda* with Joyce di Donato in 2012. They put off *Roberto Devereux* until 2016 because they needed to be sure they had a woman with the goods to play Elizabeth I. No, *Anna B* and *Maria S* aren't exactly walks in Berkeley Square, but *R Dev* makes the most demands of a soprano's artistry of the three. All three require your typical bel canto grab bag of high notes, low notes, long notes, fast notes, and everything in between. But *R Dev* requires what they call "a stage animal" - - a woman who goes after the role like a dog with a sock. Elizabeth doesn't have as much showy, delicious music as the other two ladies. Instead she has lots of high drama spitting of tacks, splendid grandeur, and aching, gnawing fits of barrenness.
The Met cast American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as Elizabeth, and she was supreme. She was the star of the show and she commanded the stage, sang with authority, and put across all the depth and complexity of Elizabeth. Plus she planted her flag in Met history by singing all three roles this season. Beverly Sills did this at the City Opera in the 70s, but this is the first time it's been done at the Met. My friends John and David said Radvanovsky was marvelous in the other two operas - - Richard and I decided to skip them, since we'd seen them before, but now I kinda wish I had seen them...
Elina Garanca was Sarah, Elizabeth's rival - - of course Donizetti and his librettist more or less made up a new story, turning history into a romantic melodrama. Garanca sang beautifully and looked lovely in her dark wig. Mariusz Kwiecien played Sarah's husband. He didn't have a lot to do, and did it well, but didn't make much of an impression.
I was looking forward to hearing tenor Matthew Polenzani in the title role. He's blown me away in *Traviata* and *Rigoletto* in previous seasons, and in *The Pearl Fishers* earlier this season. I was puzzled by his performance in this show. A few sample questions from my interior monologue:
Why did they give him that wig?
Has he always had such big brown eyes?
What is going on with his voice?
The voice had none of the luster that it's had before. It wasn't until two days later that I noticed there was a little slip of paper in the program saying that the role was being sung by Mario Zeffiri, filling in for Polenzani, who was ill. HA! No wonder it didn't seem like the same guy.
The opera itself was more interesting than I expected. Donizetti throws us a few curve balls, harmonically speaking. And he quotes "God save our Queen" in the overture, which I thought was a cute touch. The production was by David McVicar, who also did the other two operas in the trilogy. I like his work, he always tells the story in an intelligent way, but is never taken with his own cleverness.