Roberto Devereux

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Lyric Tragedy in three acts by Salvadore Cammarano
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
First performance: Naples, Real Teatro di San Carlo, 28 October 1837
Critical edition by Julia Lockhart © Casa Ricordi, Milan with the collaboration and contribution of the Municipality of Bergamo and the Fondazione Teatro Donizetti


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The opera has a male title role, but the real main character is Elisabetta. It is 1837, at the Real Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, and Gaetano Donizetti gives an exceptional part to one of his best-loved and most brilliant performers, the soprano Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis, his “dark muse”, a specialist in tormented, violent, delirious female characters. Two years after Lucia di Lammermoor, Salvadore Cammarano stirred once again Donizetti’s genius with a concise, compact and highly effective libretto, in line with what the composer proclaimed in a famous letter: «Voglio amore, che senza questo i soggetti sono freddi, e amor violento» («I want love, for subjects are cold without it, and violent love»). The opera ends with a shocking scene of hallucinatory delirium that gives new dramatic meaning to the primadonna’s customary final rondo. In addition, Donizetti’s outstanding talent is also helped by the British setting, among those Tudors who had already inspired him in three previous operas, Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth, Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda, and which is also reiterated in the brilliant symphony explicitly quoting the English national anthem God Save the King.
Roberto Devereux is among the most significant titles in the mature production of Donizetti and one of the most successful rediscoveries of twentieth-century Donizetti-Renaissance. At the Festival, it is entrusted to the musical director of the Donizetti Opera, Riccardo Frizza, and staged by a great Shakespearean director (the “real” Shakespeare was involved in the conspiracy of the Earl of Essex), Stephen Langridge, artistic director of the Glyndebourne Festival. On stage, four international opera stars such as John Osborn, Raffaella Lupinacci, Simone Piazzola and, in the fiery role of Elisabetta, the Italian-Australian soprano Jessica Pratt.


London, «in the fall of the 16th century». Elizabetta I feels neglected by Roberto Devereux, Earl of Essex, with whom she is madly in love. Two of the Queen’s advisors, Lord Cecil and Raleigh, Essex’s enemies, ask her to charge him with treason for his lenient behaviour in the war against Spain. Elisabetta receives Roberto, who is detached and reserved. The Duke of Nottingham is also disturbed by the sadness of his wife Sara whom he has spotted embroidering a blue scarf: he therefore confides in Essex, ignoring the fact that his friend is himself in love with Sara. On a late-night rendezvous with the woman, Essex reproaches her for marrying Nottingham; Sara, on her part, reproaches him for wearing a ring on his finger given to him by the Queen, as a pledge of mercy in the event of his conviction. As a parting gift, Essex gives Sara Elisabetta’s ring and Sara hands him her scarf.
In the meantime, the parliament has condemned Essex, despite the impassioned defence of Nottingham, who has to inform the queen. Nottingham asks for a pardon for his friend; Elisabetta then shows him the scarf found in Essex’s palace during the search. Discovering the truth, Nottingham asks to fight a duel with his former friend, who is instead imprisoned in the Tower of London.
In Nottingham’s palace, Sara receives a letter in which Essex informs her that he has been condemned to death and that Elisabetta can only pardon him if the ring is brought to her. But Nottingham forces Sara to show him the letter and, feeling twice betrayed (by his wife and his friend) he orders her confined to the house. While in his cell Essex awaits to be pardoned, in Westminster Palace Elisabetta is prey to doubts and remorse: she does not want Essex to die, even if he loved another woman. Sara finally arrives with the ring, but it is too late: the cannon thunders to inform the Queen that the sentence has been carried out. Elisabetta is furious and curses Sara when Nottingham arrives to inform her that she has deliberately delayed the delivery of the ring. Elisabetta promises them both torture; then, in her delirium, she believes she sees the spectre of Essex, announces her imminent death and abdication and, collapsing lifeless with the ring to her lips, declares Giacomo Stuart the new king of England.

November - 2024


Time and Date:
15 November 2024Off subscriptionH 20:00
23 November 2024 Off subscription (option to Turn C)H 20:00
28 November 2024 Turn AH 20:00
Cost: €16 - €120


Teatro Donizetti

Piazza Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour
Bergamo, Italia


Conductor Riccardo Frizza
Director Stephen Langridge
Scenes and costumes Katie Davenport

Elisabetta Jessica Pratt
Lord duca di Nottingham Simone Piazzola
Sara Raffaella Lupinacci
Roberto Devereux John Osborn
Lord Cecil David Astorga
and with Students of Bottega Donizetti

Orchestra Donizetti Opera
Coro dell’Accademia Teatro alla Scala
Choirmaster Salvo Sgrò

New production by the Fondazione Teatro Donizetti in co-production with the Teatro Sociale di Rovigo