Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Roberto Devereux, an Opera Australia production, playing only two performances at Sydney Opera House is a triumph.
This concert version of Gaetano Donizetti’s opera features exquisite voices, singing their best sound, and acting their socks off. Backed by the excellence of the Opera Australia orchestra under the baton of Andrea Sanguineti, this concert soars a league above the rest. And if you’re wondering why the audience is chuckling during the overture, they are certainly taking note of Donizetti’s wonderful tribute to God Save the Queen which is alluded to in his fabulous score – a clever, if not historically accurate, addition.
It is the battle of the soprani at the Opera House in the Joan Sutherland theatre as Australian Jane Ede opens the stunning opera with her warm tone, and luscious velvety tones. How brilliant it is to see an Australian artist with such formidable talent take the stage. She is offset beautifully by Italian soprano, Roberta Mantegna, who has much harsh and robust tone to her voice. The casting is exceptional as they bounce off each other so well and yet are such polar opposites in tone, and stage presence. Both women display beautiful coloratura technique as the glide through Donizetti’s cadenzas with grace and ease. Ede pings the most beautiful pianissimo’s that leave the audience holding their breath, while Mantegna is so incredible in her final aria that she receives a standing ovation for it. Mantegna wears a stunning glittering red dress, with a black necklace that oozes the essence of Elizabeth. This is contrasted with Ede’s simple and stunning purple gown that feels so effervescently “Sara”. Both women are gorgeous in both presence and voice. Brava.
Valerio Borgioni is a tenor with ample range and smoothness across all registers of his voice. His aria is another brilliant example of exceptional bel canto technique which compliments the brilliance of the score. Giorgio Caoduro is a well-rounded and dexterous baritone. He performs exceptional feats as he moves through some incredibly difficult passages of recitative with excellence. He wows with the flexibility of his voice and breath control.
The Opera Australia Chorus are, as always, phenomenal. Paul Fitzsimon has once again guided them with great expertise.
The lack of costuming and set does not take away from this production at all. In fact, what it proves is that you do not need a lavish set, or extravagant costumes to make a show incredible. What you need, is phenomenal performances, brilliant voices and fantastic actors, of which this production has bucket loads. The talent on that stage is enough to satisfy any opera lover. This is what opera should be – gorgeous music, being sung to an exceptional standard, allowing the performers to focus on the brilliant vocal quality which only adds to the production – without the distraction of blocking or over-direction.
The Tudor rose is a classic piece of iconography, that is a constant illumination on the simple wooden paneling around the stage. It’s a lovely, subtle touch.
In short, there’s not a lot, if anything, wrong with this production. If I were you, I would buy a ticket.