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27 April, 2016

Roberto Devereux divine in New York.

Sondra Radvanovsky shines as Queen Elizabeth I in Roberto Devereux at the Met.  This is her third Donizetti queen after Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda.  Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien had been sick and cancelled during the week but was back for the HD on Saturday matinee (I went twice!).  Along with Ms Radvanovsky from Illinois, we heard Latvian mezzo Elena Garanca as Sarah and American tenor Matthew Polenzani in the title role.  This opera promised much but delivered even beyond ones wildest expectations! 
The production by David McVicar used a formal setting with sliding façade on two levels with courtiers watching all the proceedings from above.  Between the Tower of London and Henry VIII’s country palace “Nonesuch” scene changes were seamless.  
My words must fail to fully describe the feeling in the house on those nights.  All I can compare it with is the old Sutherland or Pavarotti nights.  Electricity in the air.  Expectation and just damn dramatic delivery from all present demonstrating all the best qualities of good opera.  It was tough to determine who exactly was the star.  The overture starts with God save our gracious queen which was more than atmospheric (nobody stood up!).  Under Maestro Maurizio Benini the Met orchestra also shone bright. 
Ms Garanca was the surprise for me as she undertook the challenging if somewhat unrewarding role of the amorous rival Sarah.  At times I wondered if she had swapped her score for the coloratura soprano as she soared with elegant legato singing over an enormous range including some very high notes.  Mr Polenzani has progressed and developed over many years, as Edgardo and Alfredo up to his current title role which is extremely well acquitted. 
Ms Radvanovsky puts in the most phenomenal vocal and dramatic performance we have seen in a very long time.  Even in the first of three acts (two were put together) she had a tour-de-force equal to anything else in the repertoire (and reminiscent of the finale of Lucrezia Borgia).  After the almost instantaneous standing ovation at the end our soprano seemed visibly shocked, looking behind herself wondering who everybody was applauding.  Sutherland sometimes did something similar in curtain calls: are you all applauding little-old-me?  At other times we received a respectful but regal look, showing no emotion whatever.  At a certain point Ms Radvanovsky kissed her hand and pressed it to the stage floor. 
The curtain calls were more like football than opera.  An enthusiast has put a video of the applause onto YouTube!  ( ).   The penultimate duet is on YouTube:  Other excerpts c/o Met Opera:  

While the rest of the world saw it live that Saturday, Australians will find it worth a visit to the cinema in July.  This obscure but wonderful opera may turn out to be one of the Mets most popular outreach HD broadcasts to date.  Unlike most operas in recent years, the house was completely sold out for these performances. 
Notes by Andrew Byrne ..