Well, now I've seen all three of Donizetti's "queen" operas, thanks to the Met's very first production of Roberto Devereaux, a mere 179 years after its debut in Naples. I enjoyed the first two queens, Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda, in a passive sort of way. But this opera about Elizabeth I (in spite of its title) rang the bell loud and clear.
Having a dream cast didn't hurt. Much has been made of the fact that Sondra Radvanovsky is the first soprano since Beverly Sills to sing all three queens in the same season. She gave a heroic performance as Elizabeth; that's the best way to describe her handling of what is obviously a demanding role. As Devereaux, Matthew Polenzani never sounded more lush and sensuous. The other two featured roles were sung by two of my favorite singers. Elina Garanca, she of the smoky and unmistakable voice, sang the Duchess of Nottingham. Mariusz Kwiecien gave a virile and compelling performance as her husband, the Duke of Nottingham. Those four people were simply amazing, singing together or alone.
The set was sumptuous and traditional, but there were a couple of costume oddities in the first act. Elizabeth's fancy dress was so elaborate and so BIG that Radvanovsky looked as if she was wearing a chandelier. And for some reason Devereaux was wearing armor...at court. Oooh, that is a HUGE no-no. Opera is notorious for playing fast and loose with historical fact, and Roberto Devereaux is no exception. Still, I wish Donizetti and his librettist could have come up with some ending other than having Elizabeth abdicate!