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Photo: Marta Syrko

5 reasons to look forward to … Roberto Devereux

18 April 2024

1. Finale to the Tudor Trilogy

This opera is the culmination of Gaetano Donizetti’s ‘Tudor Trilogy’. The cycle started two seasons ago with Anna Bolena, which was followed by Maria Stuarda. Each opera was directed by Jetske Mijnssen, with Enrique Mazzola responsible for the music. Both productions got an enthusiastic reception from audiences and the press.

2. The life of Queen Elizabeth I as the common theme

Although the composer never intended the three operas to form a trilogy, Jetske Mijnssen has built them around a common theme in her stage direction. She shows the life of Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Queen of England, at three stages in her life: as a young girl, the daughter of Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn); as queen and rival of Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart); and finally as an ageing, lonely monarch.

3. Donizetti as a master storyteller

Roberto Devereux may be the least well-known of the three operas but it is still a particularly effective dramatic work of music theatre. More even than the preceding two operas, the musical narrative feels modern with an exceptionally rich portrayal of Elizabeth’s emotional state. An interesting feature is the reference to the English national anthem – God Save the Queen – that Donizetti incorporated into the musical score.

4. Elizabeth’s final favorite

The historical Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was Elizabeth’s last favourite. Although he was more than thirty years her junior, he still courted her unashamedly. She basked in his adoration — until she discovered he was putting on an act and others were vying for his affections. The real Devereux also ended up with his head on the executioner’s block.

5. Set

The set for Roberto Devereux, designed by Ben Baur, is intended as a further elaboration of the sets from the first two operas in the trilogy. As Elizabeth I’s disillusionment with life increases and her soul becomes enveloped in shadows, the world around closes in on her. The illustrious monarch’s end comes ever nearer.

Roberto Devereux will be performed from 18 April to 6 May 2024 at Dutch National Opera & Ballet