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Tragedia lirica in three acts
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano after Jacques-François Ancelot's tragedy Élisabeth d’Angleterre (1829)
First performed October 29 1837, Teatro San Carlo, Naples
CONCERT PERFORMANCES sung in Italian with German surtitles
ca. 2 hours 45 minutes, including 1 interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before both performances
Elizabeth I, the »virgin queen«. »Virginia« - an American state today – was a crown colony founded by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1583 and named after the queen who ruled on England's throne for 55 years. That she never married does not mean that she did not have affairs. Her long love story with Robert Dudley was legendary and, much later in life, she fell for a younger man: Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. His high-handedness proved to be his undoing. When he wilfully broke house arrest and forced himself before the queen, on whose mercy he still believed, he was found guilty of high treason and executed.
Elizabeth features in several Donizetti operas and Anna Bolena tells the tragic tale of her mother, who Henry VIII had executed on grounds of infidelity. In his Maria Stuarda, based on Schiller's tragedy, he also portrayed Elizabeth as a lonely power strategist who had to act in a very »un-womanly« way towards her rival – and Leicester, who she loved. In Roberto Devereux the focus of the drama is the aging queen, her favourite Robert Devereux is suspected of having an affair with Sara, the wife of his best friend, Nottingham. A ring and a scarf, love tokens, seal Devereux's fate. In the middle of the final scene it is the despairing queen, not the title figure, who features: broken hearted she abdicates from the throne. The belcanto in Donizetti's third Tudor opera is staggering.