Tragic Essex makes his mark

Rivals in love: Alexandra Deshorties as Elizabeth and Leah-Marian Jones as Sarah with the WNO chorus. Pictures: Robert Workman

Roberto Devereux

Welsh National Opera

Birmingham Hippodrome


ROBERTO Devereux at the Birmingham Hippodrome was my first experience of seeing an Opera, which made me somewhat nervous as I had no idea what to expect.

Would this be any different to the countless theatre productions I have seen? My pathetic lack of musical knowledge and zero experience would surely put me at a disadvantage when seeing an Opera!

 If I was to ask the majority of my 20-something year old friends, seeing an Operatic performance wouldn’t be their first choice of things to do on a Friday night.

Welsh National Opera however are so unlike what I expected an ‘Opera’ to be though. The company are simply awe inspiring, showcasing superb talent from every single member of the company. WNO performs opera for everybody and it is clear, with this production, that you do not have to have extensive musical knowledge to simply enjoy and appreciate their performance.

Roberto Devereux is final part of the WNO’s Tudor trilogy, following Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda. The programme’s simple scene-by-scene synopsis, coupled with English surtitles, make it easy to understand the spell binding production every step of the way - if it was needed.  The impeccable cast present us with such raw emotion that you can see and feel the story unfold through the music alone despite of the language barrier.

Devereux, Earl of Essex and Elizabeth I’s lover, is accused of treason, a victim of the court intrigue and politics of late 16th century England. Elizabeth’s attempts to save him are frustrated when she finds he loves another woman, an affair which merely serves to seal his fate.

Doomed affair: Leonardo Capalbo as Devereux and Leah-Marian Jones as Sarah, Duchess of Nottingham

 A last minute change of heart by Good Queen Bess comes too late to save her lover and she his left distraught and alone in the world.

We start with a booming and sweeping overture taking us into the emotionally-charged world of Elizabethan England in the safe hands of WNO for the next two and a half hours.

It was a pleasure to listen to, a wonderful reminder of the important part the supremely talented WNO orchestra, this time under Italian conductor Christian  Capocaccia, play in any production.

Director Alessandro Talevi has provided a masterpiece  of theatre with his imagination running wild through Donizetti’s sumptuous score, frequently sending chills down the spine.

Talevi’s theatrical vision has given his cast the tools to create an enchanting story. Sung in beautiful Italian, you are left speechless by both the wonderful cast and some awesome wonders of set, costume and special effects from British award winning designer Madeleine Boyd.

There were spell-binding performances from the whole company, in particular American tenor Leonardo Capalbo, as the title character, French-Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties, who sings Elizabeth I and Welsh Mezzo sporano Leah-Marian Jones as Sarah, Duchess of Nottingham, the other woman I this fated love triangle.

The trio, along with Sarah’ husband, but perhaps not her lover, the Duke of Nottingham, sung by Welsh baritone , David Kempster envelop us their world filled with passion, intensity and tragedy as Devereux heads towards his inevitable date with the executioner’s axe.

Devereux, incidentally, executed on Tower Green on 25 February, 1601, was the last person to be beheaded in the Tower of London. It reputedly took three strokes to complete the beheading.

The Welsh National Opera have certainly given me the warmest of welcomes to Opera - and I am waiting with anticipation for their next production. 15-11-13.

Elizabeth Halpin

WNO’s Tudor Season continues, along with Puccini’s Tosca, at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Tues 19 to Sat 23 Nov: 01492 872000 14-11-13


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