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Roberto Devereux Roberto Devereux

Composed by Gaetano Donizetti

Conducted by Eun Sun Kim

February 22 - March 8, 2020

Company Premiere

At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Angela Meade stars in one of bel canto's most dazzling roles

In Tudor England, Queen Elizabeth I rules (literally). Ignoring advice from the court, she declines to charge her lover with treason, but he's not making it easy for her. Behind her formidable public persona hides a fragile heart that aches to reconnect with a suitor whose loyalties are uncertain. If ever there was a diva role, this is it—careening from outbursts of rage to heartbroken laments—and soprano Angela Meade, one of today's brightest stars, delivered an unforgettable performance opposite the magnificent tenor Ramón Vargas as the scoundrel at the center of all the trouble.


Queen Elizabeth I
Angela Meade
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
Ramón Vargas
Sara, Duchess of Nottingham
Ashley Dixon
Sara, Duchess of Nottingham (March 8)
Raehann Bryce-Davis
Duke of Nottingham
Quinn Kelsey
Lord Cecil
Anthony Ciaramitaro
Sir Walter Raleigh
Michael J. Hawk

Creative Team

Eun Sun Kim
Stephen Lawless
Benoit Dugardyn
Ingeborg Bernerth
Christopher Akerlind
Grant Gershon
Nicola Bowie

Read the synopsis

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Queen Elizabeth I has sent her beloved Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, to lead a military expedition to Ireland. Without authorization, Devereux has signed a peace treaty with the Irish rebels. Jealous of Devereux's close relationship with the Queen, several nobles seize the opportunity to charge him with treason.

Act I
Sarah, the Duchess of Nottingham and a confidante of Queen Elizabeth, is wracked with a guilty secret; she had been romantically involved with Devereux prior to her marriage to the Duke. Elizabeth confides to Sarah that she suspects Devereux of being unfaithful. The Queen is visited by Lord Cecil and Sir Walter Raleigh, who convey Parliament’s frustration over her leniency towards Devereux. To stall the trial, she demands more proof of guilt before making a decision. When Devereux asks to meet with the Queen, her heart fills with hope that their love will be rekindled.

Elizabeth meets with Devereux in private. She reminds him of the ring she gave him, a special token that will guarantee his safety if he sends it back to her. Devereux accidentally lets it slip that he is in love with another woman. Seeing Elizabeth’s initial anger escalate to fury, he tries to deny everything, but the damage has been done: Elizabeth is set on vengeance against Devereux and his unknown lover.

Devereux’s only remaining ally is the Duke of Nottingham, none other than Sarah’s husband. Nottingham discloses to Devereux that he observed Sarah sobbing while embroidering a blue scarf. Their exchange is interrupted by Lord Cecil, who summons Nottingham to a meeting of Parliament to decide Devereux’s sentence. Nottingham vows to save his friend.

Devereux cannot resist visiting Sarah while Nottingham is out. He berates her for marrying the Duke while he was away at battle. She explains that the union was ordered by the Queen, who mistakenly thought it would secure Sarah's future. They acknowledge their mutual love but realize that they can never be together. As a parting gift, Sarah gives Devereux a blue scarf, which she has embroidered herself. Devereux unknowingly leaves Elizabeth’s ring behind.


Act II
In the Great Hall at Westminster, Parliament reaches a verdict: the death penalty. Only Elizabeth’s signature is needed for the execution to take place. She dismisses the court for a private meeting with Sir Walter Raleigh, whom she trusts. Walter informs the Queen that Devereux was arrested with a blue scarf hidden under his shirt. Elizabeth assumes (correctly) that the scarf is a gift from the unknown woman that Devereux has been having an affair with. This fuels her agreement to sign the death warrant.

Nottingham begs the Queen to have mercy on Devereux, his friend. Devereux is brought in and Elizabeth demands to know who gave him the blue scarf. Recognizing the scarf as his wife's, Nottingham silently realizes that Devereux has betrayed him. In a jealous rage, the Queen signs the death warrant.

Devereux sends Sarah a letter, imploring her to take the ring back to Elizabeth, to guarantee his life. Before she can do so, Nottingham returns. He sees the letter and demands to read it. Understanding that returning the ring would spare Devereux’s life, Nottingham orders Sarah not to move.

Alone in the Tower of London, Devereux regrets his life of lies and indiscretions. He remains hopeful that Elizabeth will receive the ring in time to pardon him. For her part, the Queen is deeply conflicted, clinging to the hope that Devereux will return the ring as a sign of his renewed devotion. At the exact moment that Devereux is led to his execution, Sarah bursts in and hands the ring to Elizabeth, silently identifying herself as the Queen’s rival. It is too late: a cannon shot signifies that the fatal blow has been delivered. Elizabeth lashes out at Nottingham and Sarah for their part in Devereux’s death. They are taken into custody. Haunted by visions of her lover's severed head and the destruction she has caused her subjects, Elizabeth longs only for death. The Queen gives up her royal power by declaring James VI of Scotland, her nephew and heir to the throne, the new King of England.

Synopsis courtesy of Canadian Opera Company


Company premiere

Performed in Italian with English subtitles

Production from Canadian Opera Company

Artwork for Roberto Devereux
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