Opera Review: Roberto Devareaux

By on May 16, 2014
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In my years of going to the theatre I have had the pleasure of seeing many operas, but for the first time I can say that I have truly experienced opera.

Shows like Roberto Devareaux which is presented by the Canadian Opera Company and is directed by Stephen Lawless are general rarities. This show was perfectly balanced; from the stunning costumes to the breathtaking set and of course, the high caliber voices.

The music from the get go is enchanting; wrapping you in a sense of luxury even before the curtains rise. The orchestra, which was conducted by Corrado Rovaris, did a fantastic job in transporting the audience to England.

Elisabeth, “has sent her beloved Roberto Devereux, the Earl of Essex, to lead a military expedition to Ireland. Against the Queen’s orders, Roberto has signed a peace treaty with the Irish rebels. Jealous of his favourable position with the Queen, her advisors seize this opportunity to push through a charge of treason against him.” This tumbles into a tale of love, embraced, hidden, and betrayed.

Since the show was performed in Italian, subtitles above the stage were provided for the audience. The subtitle screen was used to its fullest degree giving us a brief history of Queen Elizabeth while the performers on stage used their bodies and various set elements to paint a picture of the woman we were about to meet. Some of my favourite moments were actually in the beginning and the end of the show, beginning with Elizabeth’s history.

At one point during the opening, we see three people – who look like a king, a queen, and a princess – encased in glass boxes, almost as if they are on display at a museum. The little girl emerges from her wax-figure stature and starts pounding on the box, trying to escape, but escape is futile. This begins our viewing of Queen Elizabeth’s life, one that she had no option of escaping.

What is just as breathtaking however was the set made to look like the Globe Theatre which is famous for hosting Shakespeare’s original plays when he was alive. I have to give Benoit Dugardyn, the set director for this show, an incredible amount of credit. The powerful, grand set also appeared almost flat like we were looking at a picture in a book. Equal credit goes to costume designer, Ingeborg Bernerth, whose time-appropriate pieces were detailed to the last thread. My favourite costume has to be Elizabeth’s, a full blood-red gown with a magnificent crown and a feathered handheld fan clipped to her dress.

Speaking of Elizabeth, I want to discuss Sondra Radvanovsky’s portrayal of the legendary Queen. Radvanovsky did an absolutely fantastic job portraying such a legendary female figure. When she sings you not only hear Elizabeth’s pain, but you feel it in your heart. Her voice is so powerful and has such range. However, she also has a strong sense of voice control; being able to demonstrate a more sensitive, frail, human side of Elizabeth. Her juxtaposition of characters is absolutely brilliant and is aided by a great set piece: a giant map. I interpreted this as the weight of the world on her shoulders. In one scene with the map in the background we see a powerful Elizabeth, while in another scene with the map we see a weak, delicate Elizabeth wearing a simple white nightgown. In this scene we see how having the same world on your shoulders, partnered with the people staring at Elizabeth from the balconies of the Globe Theatre has caused her to despise her life. My favourite quotes from the show are from this scene and includes, “let no one say that they’ve seen the Queen of England weep” and, “Whoever reigns cannot live for oneself”.

The entire cast is filled with talented individuals who understand the delicate balance between art, song, and the presentation of the two combined. They include Russell Braun as Nottingham, Leonardo Capalbo as Roberto Devereux (for my performance), Allyson McHardy as Sara, and Owen McCausland as Lord Cecil

The Shakespearianesqe opera filled with love, anger, and betrayal is a stunning piece of art beautifully balanced and is a true feast for the eyes and the ears. Even up until the final second of the show is moving and incredible. If you love opera, or have never seen opera, I highly recommend you watch Roberto Devereux, but hurry, there are only TWO performances left! See http://www.coc.ca for more details and to buy tickets!


(*All Image Credit: Michael Cooper)

About Shan Fernando

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