With two out of the three works already in the repertoire, Welsh National Opera opens the third instalment of its Tudor trilogy. Alessandro Talevi directs - as in Anna Bolena, the opening segment - while Madeleine Boyd returns as designer.
A scene from Roberto Devereux Photo: Robert Workman
The final production in the sequence proves the best, though Boyd’s designs are once again the least appealing thing in the show. Even so, it looks more handsome than its predecessors - though the giant metal spider Queen Elizabeth I mounts at one point is bizarre. Bar some artificial chorus movement and a pointless use of the revolve, Talevi’s direction, too, is considerably sharper and more purposeful.
But what makes this operatic account of the tragic ending of the relationship between Elizabeth and her unfaithful courtier Essex memorable are the vocal and musical performances. Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties excels as the English queen, rising with emotional grandeur and technical aplomb to an unforgettably intense final scene. As her fickle but doomed lover, Leonardo Capalbo sounds and looks like a romantic tenor dream. Leah-Marian Jones shows her mettle in a major role as Essex’s guilty lover Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, while David Kempster is nothing short of magnificent as her husband the Duke, whose discovery of his wife’s affair turns Essex’s sole remaining friend into his deadly enemy. Once again showing his credentials in Italian opera, conductor Daniele Rustioni maintains musical excitement in the pit. If you can catch just one of the three shows as they tour, this is the one to go for.