Gaetano Donizetti

Roberto Devereux


30 September 2002
19:30 - 22:15
1 intermission
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Cast | 30.09.2002

Conductor Frédéric Chaslin
Director Silviu Purcarete
Set and costume design Helmut Stürmer
Elisabetta I., Königin von England Edita Gruberova
Duca di Nottingham, Herzog von Nottingham Renato Bruson
Sara, seine Frau Enkelejda Shkosa
Roberto Devereux, Graf von Essex José Bros


Roberto Devereux, Earl of Essex, favorite of Queen Elisabetta, has been removed from office as Govenor of Ireland because he agrees to a ceasefire with the Irish against the Queen’s express command.  After attempting an uprising, he is now awaiting his trial for high treason in London.

Act 1
Scene 1

Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, is trying to hide her tears from the curious eyes of the Court. She is reading the sad story of Fair Rosamond Clifford, the unfortunate lover of King Henry II of England, and fears to suffer a similar fate: Sara’s secret love is Roberto Devereux, both the Queen’s cherished favorite and her husband’s closest friend.
Queen Elisabetta enters and confides to her that she has agreed to grant Roberto an audience. She is prepared to have the charges against him dropped if he can convince her of his continued loyalty and love. Her life is only made worth living by her love for him, she tells her secret rival. When parliament issued a death warrant for him, the Queen refuses to sign it.
Face to face with Roberto, she promises that the ring she once gave him as a token of her love will always be the pledge of his safety. She dreams of happy days long gone, but an unthinking comment of Roberto, who assumes that she knows the secret of his love for Sara, rouses her anger. He vainly tries to make good his slip, but the Queen, now certain of his infidelity, angrily storms out of the room to seal his death warrant.
The Duke of Nottingham embraces his despairing friend and confesses his own worry: His wife is bowing under the strain of some secret pain, and he has recently observed that she broke down sobbing over a shawl she was embroidering. While Nottingham then promises to do all to save his friend, Roberto is left in an agitated state; Nottingham is called away to sit on the Council.

Scene 2

Roberto comes to meet Sara and accuses her of being untrue. Sara justifies herself heatedly: After the death of her father, the Queen had forced her to marry Nottingham, against her will. She in turn accuses Roberto of wearing the Queen’s ring. To show his love, he gives the ring to Sara. She gives him the Shawl, and begs him to escape the country. He assents, but they part in an atmosphere of dark foreboding. 

Act II

The assembled court is waiting eagerly for news of Devereux’ fate. Elisabetta enters, and Lord Cecil announces that Parliament has sentenced Devereux to death, despite a speech of defense from his friend Nottingham. Sir Gualtiero Raleigh reports that when Roberto was arrested and taken to prison, a shawl was taken from his breast. He shows it to Elisabetta, who immediately recognizes it as somebody’s love-token.
Nottingham, who is forced to request the signature of the Queen on the death warrant, makes a desperate attempt to move the furious Queen to mercy. With the evidence of Roberto’s secret love for another in her hands, she refuses to hear him out.
As she shows the shawl to Roberto, who has just been led in, he and Nottingham are equally shocked: Roberto fears the uncontrollable rage of the Queen, Nottingham, who recognizes the shawl as Sara’s, believes that he has been betrayed by his friend. Infuriated, he now calls for his sword and intends to attack Roberto himself. Threatened by him and the Queen, Roberto still refuses to disclose the name of his secret love to the Queen. She finally orders him to be taken away and signs his death warrant.

Scene 1

A familiar delivers a letter of farewell to Sara. Roberto has written it in prison; he implores her to bring the ring to the Queen and remind her of her promise to spare his life. At this point, Nottingham enters and wrests the letter from Sara, convinced that she has been unfaithful to him. Her protestations of innocence fail to impress him. He commands to keep Sara locked in the house until the execution has taken place, leaving her in utter despair.

Scene 2

Roberto is still hoping for Sara’s mission to save his life.  He wants only to defend Sara’s honor; if necessary, he wants to die by Nottingham’s hand in order to convince his friend of her faithfulness. Guards lead the prisoner to the execution.

Scene 3

Elisabetta is regretting her harsh decision and is desperately seeing a way out of the situation. She struggles to conserve her dignity before the court. Then Sara rushes in with the ring and confesses that she is Roberto’s secret love. Too late, the Queen orders the execution to be held up. Nottingham triumphantly reports the death of his former friend.
Horror overwhelms the Queen. She blames the Nottinghams and has them led away, while the court tries to remind her head, as becomes a ruler. But Elisabetta is overcome with guilt, and even sees a vision of the dead Roberto. She gives herself over to utter desperation, and declares her renunciation of the throne.