Roberto Devereux, the last and probably the greatest opera Gaetano Donizetti composed for the San Carlo Opera House in Naples, is based on the intense, tangled relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Esse... more »x, who was beheaded for treason in 1601. The role of the queen is one of the strongest in the bel canto soprano repertoire. In this video (essentially a New York City Opera production transplanted to the Filene Center at Wolf Trap performing arts center outside Washington, D.C.), Beverly Sills gives one of the great performances of her career. She had been singing the role in New York for several years, to great critical acclaim, and had made it her own, though her voice was beginning to lose some of its freshness when this performance was filmed in 1974. In discussing the soprano stars of bel canto opera, we find a 180-degree polarity--at one extreme, the dramatic potency and vocal problems of Maria Callas; at the other, the vocal agility and smoothness of the dramatically unconvincing Joan Sutherland. Midway between these extremes is Sills, who acted almost as well as Callas, sang almost as beautifully as Sutherland, and balanced the two sides of her art more effectively than either. John Alexander is solid in the title role. Susanne Marsee is relatively problem-free once she gets warmed up, and the supporting cast performs capably. Julius Rudel conducts with a good sense of style and proper balance between voices and orchestra. --Joe McLellan« less
S. Holmes | Wilmette, IL United States | 07/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When 20th century operatic history is written, there will be certain interpretations that writers will say stood out and must be counted as the greatest of their time: Callas' NORMA, Sutherland's LUCIA, Nilsson's Brunnhilde and Isolde, and without a doubt Sills' Elizabeth in Roberto Devereux. Fortunately, we are lucky enough to have Miss Sills' interpretation captured on video and now, thanks to VAI remastered beautifully (and conveniently) on DVD. Even though Cleopatra in JULIUS CAESAR brought Miss Sills international superstardom initially, it is the role of Elizabeth with which she will be most identified and which put her on the cover of Time Magazine in 1971 when this production at New York City Opera was new. This performance from Wolf Trap in the summer of 1975 finds Miss Sills in less fresh voice than those early performances, principally because of health problems that beset her in late 1974. But her performance is so powerful that a few hints of strain here and there only seem to reinforce the character's inward emotional battle between love and jealousy for the young Devereux which brings about his execution at the end of the opera. Her performance is a complete bel canto tour de force. Every physical gesture and attitude has been thoughtout, from her somewhat mannish gait to her habit of strumming her fingers on the arm of her throne. It's nice to have subtitles (non-optional I'm afraid) but if one new the basic story, one probably wouldn't need them because of the way Sills telegraphs every emotion with her voice and her body. Sills colleagues, Susanne Marsee and Richard Fredricks give fine performances and John Alexander (also somewhat late in his career) turns in a fine aria at the end of his. (Can someone explain why he does not bow at the end of the opera?) The somewhat sparse but evocative production from NYCO transfers to Wolf Trap pretty well (even though the chorus is obviously a summer fabrication). Costumes, especially Miss Sills' are lavish and extremely colorful. Miss Sills' famous make-up is so well done that one almost forgets one is watching Beverly Sills. The conducting of Julius Rudel is idiomatic and one can tell that he has worked with Sills from the beginning of rehearsals on every rhythmic and interpretive nuance. The recorded sound is nothing to brag about, being somewhat below the standard of what we were to expect from the Met Telecasts which began two years later in 1977. But perhaps the blame may be put on the outdoor summer festival conditions at the time. You are not to buy this DVD for it's state of the art sound or video quality (which by the way is much improved from the VHS tape available for years). Buy it for one thing only: Sills' classic and justifiably lauded performance. We were greatful when it was filmed for television and we should be extremely greatful to VAI for releasing this one of a kind performance on DVD."
THE SUPREME ACHIEVEMENT.
Boz | 08/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a great fan of Beverly Sills, I have listened to all of her recordings. She was a brilliant Violetta (Traviata) and a powerful Lucia, but the role of Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti's ROBERTO DEVEREUX was, in my opinion, her greatest achievement. This live video performance is gripping. Her singing is superb and her acting is inspired. She IS Elizabeth, in all of her glory and her despair. Many have compared her performance to that of the great Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth and I would agree with that judgement. This is the paramount performance of Sills' illustrious career."
This Is What Opera Is All About: Long Live The Queen
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 06/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD, also available on VHS, was filmed in 1975 at the Wolf Trap Festival. Stars the incredible soprano Beverly Sills in the role of Queen Elizabeth I of England, tenor John Alexander as the title hero Roberto Devereux and bass baritone Richard Fredericks as the villainous Duke of Nottingham. The opera is a collector's treasure of opera and a must have for fans of the diva Beverly Sills. It is undoubtedly her greatest performance. She began to sing the role in 1969 and took the world by storm through the early 70's, impressive not only for her ability to sing so demanding a vocal role, but also singing all three Tudor Queen operas of Donizetti- Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda were the other two that preceed Roberto Devereux. In the mid 70's, the medium of television and film was beginning to reach the opera crowds. Joan Sutherland did it in the 80's and opera films such as the 1979 Don Giovanni starring Kiri Te Kenawa and Raigero Raimondi was becoming popular. Beverly's other opera films, taped performances for the Wolf Trap and for the New York City Opera include Jules Massenet's Manon, which is possibly her second best performance next to this. Also available is Donizetti's Daughter Of The Regiment sung in English, Rossini's Barber Of Seville and Verdi's La Traviata. All worth the purchase.The part of Queen Elizabeth in this opera is as vocally difficult to sing as Norma of Bellini's opera. Although the part calls for a dramatic, big voice, Sills proved to the world that a light instrument can be trained to dramatic heights. She is on fire as the Queen, all passion, from love in the aria "L'amor suo" to coloratura spectacular in "A Ritorno Qual Ti Spera". In Act 2, her soft romantic side fades as she discovers that Roberto Devereux, the object of her affection, loves another woman, Duchess Sara (sung by the mezzo soprano Susan Marsee in a superb performance). The Duke of Nottingham, previously a friend and loyal supporter of Robert Devereux, become jealous also when he learns of his romantic link with Sara, his arranged wife. He, together with the Queen and the entire court, conclude Act 2 with a fiery ensemble "Va La Morte" that totally brings the house down. Beverly Sills is at her strongest in this dramatic act, as she rages in majestic fury and orders his death sentence. In the last part, she regrets her rash decision and attempts to save him, but it's too late. Devereux is executed and Queen Elizabeth begins to die that very day, as she mourns and laments with bitterness the final arias.This is Beverly Sills at the height of her career. She earned a cover in Time magazine for this performance. She looks back and remembers the Golden Age that this was for singers like her. Currently, recordings of Beverly Sills which have long been LP albums are finally making it into the compact disc market. Available now are "Beverly Sills The Great Recordings", "The Art Of Beverly Sills " "Plaisir D'Amour" "Sillsiana" "Lucia Di Lammermoor" "La Traviata" "Manon" "Tales Of Hoffman" "Barber Of Seville" "Rigoletto" "L'Assedio Di Corinto" "Ballad Of Baby Doe" "La Fille Du Regiment" and the opera in which she sang Cleopatra which launched her career in '64-65 Handel's Julius Caesar. Check them out. You will fall for the voice of Beverly Sills."
Viva La Regina
Emma de Soleil | On a holiday In Ibiza, then back to the UK for stu | 02/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If I were forced to choose only ONE of my opera-DVD and Video-collection I's choose this one without another thought. I'm a history-buff and knowing the story of Elizabeth I. pretty well let me tell you that Sill's presence equals that of the divine Glenda Jackson, the actress who played Elizabeth I. in BBC's highly acclaimed mini-series "Elizabeth R." (R. stands for Regina)!!!! Add to this a woman who's BURNING up the stage with her thrilling voice! Beverly once said that this Elisabetta cut off at least 5 years of her career. But WHAT a performance this is!!! Beats Edita Gruberova EASILY. If you love opera and great singing RUN to buy this and be drawn into history!"
Great DVD -- Amazing Beverly Sills
Boz | 01/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Beverly Sills is great in this DVD. Her fiery, nuanced, totally believable performance of Queen Elizabeth makes up for her out-of-prime singing. She is incredible. She conveys stage magic to the audience. Her movements are perfectly calculated, but seem completely spontaneous on stage. Sills is truly a national treasure. This role is very difficult, but Sills pushes her voice bravely to meet its insane demands. Yes, her lower register is very weak, but she is very adept at using it effectively."