Metropolitan Opera broadcasts continue on Classical 90.5 at 10:00 a.m. this Saturday, April 16, with a performance of Roberto Devereux by Gaetano Donizetti. The Neapolitan librettist Salvadore Cammarano worked with Donizetti on a number of operas, including Lucia di Lammermoor.
First performed in 1837, two years after Maria Stuarda and Lucia di Lammermoor, Roberto Devereux shows Donizetti at the height of his musical and dramatic powers. The opera’s story was inspired by a historical incident—the execution for treason of Robert Devereux, the favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, but, as in many works of the time, history is used merely as a springboard from which the operatic imagination can soar. Roberto Devereux mirrors the successful structure of the earlier Lucia di Lammermoor: a first act that lays out the issues at stake and introduces the musical language; a second act fashioned as a single dramatic arc; and three intense shorter scenes for the final act.
Donizetti’s gift for melody and understanding of the human voice are on full display in Roberto Devereux, but the score goes beyond that, revealing the dramatic possibilities inherent in the best of the bel canto tradition. Just one remarkable example is the trio finale to Act II for Devereux, Nottingham, and Elizabeth, which contains a range of emotions and psychological states in one cohesive musical structure: the anxious lover, the betrayed husband and friend, and the scorned woman are all given full expression. The opera’s finale belongs entirely to Elizabeth, in a variation of the classic mad scene as an internal journey and spiritual crisis. A nod to local color is found in the overture, which (anachronistically) quotes “God Save the Queen.”
The performance will run approximately three hours and ten minutes. Maurizio Benini conducts.