April, Fathom events – On Saturday, April 16, 2016,  Fathom Events presented Gaetano Donizetti’s del canto* masterpiece Roberto Devereux for a one-night only cinematic presentation in hundreds of theaters throughout the United States.  The screening was part of the year-long celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera’s Peabody and Emmy award-winning series, “The Met: Live in HD.”

This magnificent program, which has included some of the greatest operas of all time, also features during intermissions, fascinating behind-the-scenes interviews with the Met’s illustrious stars, the supporting cast, crew, and production teams, giving us an “up close and personal” insider’s glimpse at what’s involved in staging these operas.

Roberto Devereux is the climatic opera of a Trilogy which also includes Anna Bolena  and Maria Stuarda, all three having been staged by Sir David McVicar, and astonishingly, Soprano Sonar Radvanousky who magnificently portrays Elizabeth I in the third piece of the trilogy, completes a marathon at the Met, having sung all three of Donizetti’s daunting queens in a single season:  Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart, and Elizabeth I  (Queen Elizabeth II coincidentally celebrated her 90th birthday April 21, the same week Roberto Devereux was presented.)

The Met has assembled an ideal cast for this outstanding production, featuring the superb tenor Matthew Polenzani who excels with lyrical elegance in the title role and Ms Radvanousky who sings with sharp-edged searing power perfectly portraying an aging,  broken Queen tragically in love with Devereux, a  manipulating nobleman 34 years her junior. The great Mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca brings her sumptuous voice to the role of Sara who is in love with Deverux, Earl of Essex, and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in the role of her husband the Duke, singing with both virile power and soaring lyricism.

For an interesting balance, this reviewer highly recommends a 1998 film starring Cate Blanchette titled Elizabeth , and although obviously not an opera, it vividly portrays Elizabeth as she first ascends the throne of England and was nominated for several Academy Awards, winning one for make-up.

* Del Canto (“beautiful song”).  According to The Harvard Dictionary of Music, del canto  “denotes the Italian vocal technique of the 18th century with its emphasis on beauty of sound and brilliance of performance, rather than dramatic expression or Romantic emotion … it must be considered as a highly artistic technique and as the only proper one for Italian opera and for Mozart.”  We might safely add Rossini and Handel to that statement.

Today, the  term del canto seems to have fallen out of favor and tends to be viewed as vague and ambiguous and lacking any semblance of relevance in the 21st century.


by Lidia Paulinska and Hugh McMahon