Roberto Devereux: A Night at the Opera

Still reeling from our delightful time in England, we were fortunate to be able to attend the Met’s HD performance of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, featuring the incomparable soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who this season sings all three Donizetti’s Tudor queen operas.

In the Roberto Devereux video clip below, Radvanovsky plays Elizabeth I.

The story itself is quite simple – at least by operatic standards. Elizabeth I must determine whether Roberto Devereux, the Earl of Essex to whom the Queen is romantically “involved,” has committed treason. The charges of treason are related to his poor military leadership in Ireland. For Elizabeth, the charge of “treason” is more personal: she suspects Devereux loves another.

That “other” is Sarah, the wife of Devereux’s good friend, the Duke of Nottingham. Sarah is played by the lovely mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, while Matthew Polenzani is Devereux and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in the Duke. These are opera performers at the top of their game and this HD performance was little short of perfection.

As most opera stories go, Elizabeth reluctantly sentences Devereux to death because he secretly loves another and then is devastated when he is executed, since his “get out of jail card” arrived too late.

While Radvanovsky’s voice is simply magnificent, her stage performance was compelling. Queen Elizabeth I clearly had hip problems and, perhaps, palsy. Radvanovsky brilliantly captures these old-age “issues” and I was as shocked as everyone else in the audience to see the old desperate Elizabeth after she removed her wig.

Attending an HD opera performance is far better than most of the dribble you see on the screens these days, but it still pales in comparison to the pageantry of attending a live performance at the Met.

Nevertheless, I was quite annoyed when the theater manager decided to turn on the overhead lights during the excellent interviews with the cast between acts. The manager’s patronizing explanation: “We don’t want any old people to stumble on their way to the restrooms.”

Even though we were the youngest people in the audience, such condescending behavior would not be tolerated during a screening of Star Wars. Please!!

The Audition at the Met

After watching “The Audition” some years ago on HD, I had the opportunity to attend the delightful National Council Audition last week at the Met. There were nine finalists chosen from over 1500 artists. These sensational young artists got to perform two arias with the Met Orchestra in front of a packed house. It doesn’t get more exciting than this. Spoiler Alert: Angela Meade, one of the finalists in the documentary, introduced the Finalists and performed two lovely arias.

Fortunately, we were able to attend this remarkable and joyous feast of music with our good friends the DeGuzmans and several of their now grown-up kids.

If you haven’t seen The Audition documentary, I suggest you download it now and rejoice in the lovely voices of these gifted and hard-working performers. They are all winners in my book!

Public Service Announcement from Gourmay

All is “right in the world” and the prospects for peace have never been brighter regardless of which side of history you prefer to stand on:

  • Congress is in summer recess and,
  • President Obama is spending two weeks vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

In the words of Garrison Keillor, that national treasure who hosts A Prairie Home Companion, “the optimists among us are either running for public office or on strong medications; the rest of us are skeptical.”   I guess I will resume taking my meds.

For those who have better things to do with their lives, I recommend the Met HD Opera season (2014-2105) that begins October 11.  We make an effort to see them all, but for those who are tempted to see what old people do in their spare time, I have listed below several traditional operas and a few operas featuring legendary divas.   If you are fortunate enough to be hooked on Opera, there is still hope for your soul:

You can watch a live Saturday matinee performance or an encore performance the following Wednesday. Simply enter your zip code to find a theater that is broadcasting a Met performance near you. Found below are a few special ones:

Nov 1, 2014 – Bizet’s Carmen. Moral of the story: Never succumb to the charms of a gypsy.

Nov 11, 2014 – Rossini’s Barber of Seville – Good fun and a few instantly recognizable melodies

Jan 17, 2015 – Lehar’s The Merry Widow – Easy listening with eye-candy Renee Fleming in the leading role. (Will you look that good when you are 55?)

Feb 14, 2015 – Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta – A chance to see the incomparable Anna Netrebko

Mar 14, 2015 – Rossini’s The Lady in the Lake – An opportunity to see “bel canto” by famous tenor Juan Diego Flores. Joyce DiDonato ain’t bad either.

Schedule one or more. You won’t be disappointed.

Couldn’t resist another classic duet from Puccini’s La Boheme with Rolando Villazon and a somewhat younger Anna Netrebko. If this doesn’t move you, you have never been in love.

Together, we can keep this art from heaven thriving. Do your part and attend a live performance at the Met or in a theater near you.

I am Gourmay’s International Correspondent and I approve of this message.