Roberto Devereux

The Canadian Opera Company hits a royal high note with this majestic production

Presented by the Canadian Opera Company
By Gaetano Donizetti
Conducted by Corrado Rovaris
Directed by Stephen Lawless

Leonardo Capalbo and Sondra Radvanovsky in the COC's production of Roberto Devereux. Photo by Michael Cooper.

The Canadian Opera Company’s current production of Donizetti’s, Roberto Devereux offers a fascinating glimpse of into the complex political tapestry of Elizabethan England and the fragile, manic decay of the queen that lead England into the golden age.

This opera is the embodiment of William Congreve’s famous line “Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd, Nor Hell a Fury, like a woman scorn'd.” The story centres around an aging Queen Elisabetta (Sondra Radvanovsky), who has become weak in mind and body, hallucinating and frantic with jealously. Her beloved, yet banished, Roberto Devereux (Leonardo Capalbo), has been charged with treason and is about to be brought before her. Her trusted confidant, Sara, Duchess of Nottingham (Allyson McHardy), comforts the queen while holding the dark secret that she is deeply in love with Roberto.

When Elisabetta and Roberto come face to face, her behaviour is less that of a threatened queen and more in line with a woman enraged by a disloyal lover. Roberto desperately defends himself mentioning his many victories in battle, not realizing that being called a traitor is the least of his issues; the queen has sensed that he is in love with another, an accusation for which she will hear no defence. When Roberto refuses to confess to her accusation, his fate is sealed and he will be tried as a traitor.

Roberto then visits Sara who was forced to marry in his absence. He begins accusing her of crimes against their love, however, realizing they will never meet again, they exchange tokens of their undying commitment to one another, a gesture which will be become the star-crossed lovers' undoing.

Beautifully composed, with a plot for which only the decadence of opera will do, Roberto Devereux is an absolute must-see. The historical references, while adapted to fit the plot, are rich and interesting. Benoit Dugardyn's set, inspired by the Globe Theatre, transports audiences to Elizabethan England, an era when so many of the arts we enjoy today were blossoming under the guidance of the enlightened queen. Also of note in this production are the stunning costumes. It is refreshing to see the Canadian Opera Company exploring a more lavish approach to costuming which added a layer of authenticity to this production. Last but not least, the final reason to see this piece is the beautiful work of Canadian-American soprano Radvanovsky in the lead role of Elisabetta, an extraordinary performance that will leave you breathless.

Roberto Devereux is on stage until May 21 at The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit for more information and to buy tickets. A reminder to those under 30, The Canadian Opera Company offers a great Opera under 30 program.

Show Dates: 
Fri, 2014-04-25 - Wed, 2014-05-21
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