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Gaetano Donizetti


Roberto Devereux - Jose Carreras
Elisabetta - Montserrat Caballe
Duca di Nottingham - Franco Bordoni
Sara - Janet Coster
Lord Cecil - Ferruccio Furlanetto
Sir Gualtiero Raleigh - Michel Philippe

Conductor - Julius Rudel
Orchestra - Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse
Chorus - Choeurs du Capitole de Toulouse

Roberto Devereux (or Roberto Devereux, ossia Il conte di Essex [Robert Devereux, or the Earl of Essex]) is a tragedia lirica, or tragic opera, by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot's tragedy Elisabeth d'Angleterre (1829), and based as well on the Historie secrete des amours d'Elisabeth et du comte d'Essex (1787) by Jacques Lescéne des Maisons, although Devereux was the subject of at least two other French plays: Le Comte d'Essex by Thomas Corneille and Le Comte d'Essex by Gauthier de Costes, seigneur de la Calprenède.

The opera is loosely based on the life of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, an influential member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The plot of Roberto Devereux was hardly original, mainly derived from Felice Romani's libretto Il Conte d'Essex of 1833, originally set by Saverio Mercadante. Romani's widow charged Cammarano with plagiarism, although the practice of stealing plots was very common between rival Italian opera houses.

It is one of a number of operas by Donizetti which deal with the Tudor period in English history and include Anna Bolena (named for Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn), Maria Stuarda (named for Mary, Queen of Scots) and Il castello di Kenilworth. The lead female characters of the operas Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Elisabetta are often referred to as the "Three Donizetti Queens." They earned some degree of fame in the 1970s, when the American soprano Beverly Sills promoted them as a series at New York City Opera.



Tragic opera, by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot's tragedy Elisabeth d'Angleterre.

Elisabetta, Queen of England
The Duke of Nottingham 
Duchess of Nottingham 
Roberto Devereux, Earl of Essex 
Lord Cecil 
Sir Gualtiero Raleigh 
A servant of Nottingham
Lords of the parliament, knights,
squires, pages, guards of Nottingham


Time:  1601, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I
Place: London, England

Premiere cast, 29 October 1837




Soprano. The Queen is still in love with Devereux, Earl of Essex. She gave him a ring and promised that if he ever returned it to her she would guarantee his safety. He has returned from Ireland and been accused by his enemies of treason. She does not believe this of him, but she does suspect he is unfaithful to her. When she is shown a scarf found near his heart when he was arrested and searched, she recognizes it as belonging to Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, thus confirming her suspicions. As Essex awaits execution, the Queen waits for the ring to arrive so she can reprieve him. It comes too late, brought by Sara as Essex is executed. Aria: L'amor suo mi fe'beata (‘His love is a blessing to me’); Vivi ingrato, a lei d'accanto (‘Live, ungrateful man, at her side’). Created (1837) by Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis.

Elizabeth I of England

Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last monarch of the House of Tudor.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed two-and-a-half years after Elizabeth's birth. Anne's marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir to continue the Tudor line. She never did, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became celebrated for her virginity. A cult grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.

In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see but say nothing"). In religion, she was relatively tolerant and avoided systematic persecution. After the pope declared her illegitimate in 1570 and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers' secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain. England's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 associated Elizabeth with one of the greatest military victories in English history.

Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Francis Drake. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth's rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and had executed in 1587. After the short reigns of Elizabeth's half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.

The Duke of Nottingham:

Baritone. Husband of Sara, with whom Devereux (Earl of Essex) is in love. He realizes that Sara also loves Devereux. When Devereux is sentenced to death, he prevents his wife taking to Queen Elizabeth the ring which would be the sign for the Queen to reprieve Devereux, allowing her to go only when it is too late to save her lover. Aria: Forse in quel cor sensibile (‘Perhaps in that sensitive heart’).
Created ( 1837 ) by Paolo Barroilhet.

Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham

Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham (1536 – 14 December 1624), known as Howard of Effingham, was an English statesman and Lord High Admiral under Elizabeth I and James I. He was commander of the English forces during the battles against the Spanish Armada and was chiefly responsible after Francis Drake for the victory that saved England from invasion by the Spanish Empire.

Sara, Countess of Nottingham:

Mezzo-soprano. Is loved by and loves Devereux, but while he was in Ireland she was forced into marriage with the Duke of Nottingham. Devereux gives her a ring given to him by the Queen and which will guarantee his safety. Sara gives him a scarf, which is found near his heart when he is arrested and searched. It is recognized by the Queen and by Nottingham, who both realize the significance of it. When Devereux is sentenced to death, her husband delays her taking the ring to the Queen until it is too late to reprieve Devereux. Aria: All'afflitto è dolce il pianto (‘Weeping is sweet to one who sorrows’). Created (1837) by Almerinda Granchi.

Roberto Devereux, Earl of Essex :


Tenor. Roberto has returned after a failed military mission in Ireland and has been accused by his enemies of treason. He awaits trial and fears he will be condemned to death and that only the Queen's intervention can save him. Roberto is still loved by Elisabetta (Elizabeth I), but he is in love with Sara who, while he was abroad, has been pushed into marriage with his friend the Duke of Nottingham. He gives Sara the ring once given to him by the Queen, who promised that if he returned it to her she would guarantee his safety. Sara gives him a scarf, which is found next to his heart when he is searched. He waits in the Tower for the Queen’s pardon. The Queen waits for him to send the ring to her so that she can reprieve him. But it is brought by Sara, too late—Roberto has been executed. Aria: Come uno spirito angelico (‘Like an angelic spirit’). Created (1837) by Giovanni Basadonna.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, (born Nov. 10, 1567, Netherwood, Herefordshire, Eng.—died Feb. 25, 1601, London), English soldier and courtier famous for his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603). While still a young man, Essex succeeded his stepfather, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester (died 1588), as the aging queen’s favourite; for years she put up with his rashness and impudence, but their relationship finally ended in tragedy.

Devereux was a cousin of Elizabeth on his mother’s side, and when he was nine, he succeeded to the title held by his father, Walter Devereux, 1st earl of Essex. Young Essex first attained prominence by fighting bravely against the Spanish in the Netherlands in 1586. The following year Elizabeth made him master of the horse. Even at this early date he consistently provoked the queen’s anger while managing to remain in her favour. Contrary to her wishes, he took part in the English operation against Lisbon in 1589 and secretly married Frances Walsingham, widow of the poet Sir Philip Sidney, in 1590. In 1591–92 he commanded the English force in France, which helped King Henry IV, then still a Protestant, in his campaign against the French Roman Catholics.

For the next four years Essex remained in England, becoming an expert on foreign affairs in an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the long-established ascendancy in this field of the Cecil family. He was made privy councillor in 1593 and in 1594 uncovered an alleged plot against the queen’s life by her physician, Roderigo Lopez.

When the revival of offensive operations against Spain in 1596 opened new opportunity for military adventure, Essex became one of the commanders of the force that seized and sacked Cádiz on June 22. This spectacular but indecisive action put him at the height of his fortunes and made him a leading advocate of a more vigorous strategy against Spain. A force that he commanded in 1597, however, failed to intercept the Spanish treasure ships at the Azores. Next year the possibility of peace with Spain sharpened his rivalry with the Cecils, while the growing seriousness of a major rebellion in Ireland led to bitter differences between Essex and Elizabeth over appointments and strategy.

By this time Elizabeth was growing alarmed by Essex’ importunate ambition, finding him to be “a nature not to be ruled.” During one of their disputes, Essex turned his back upon the queen, who promptly slapped his face. Nevertheless, in 1599 she sent him to Ireland as lord lieutenant. After an unsuccessful campaign against the rebels he concluded an unfavourable truce and, suddenly deserting his post, returned to England to vindicate himself privately to the queen. She responded by depriving him of his offices (June 1600). Politically ruined and financially destitute but confined only to house arrest, he and 200 to 300 followers tried, on Feb. 8, 1601, to raise the populace of London in revolt. The poorly planned attempt failed, and Essex surrendered. He was executed at the Tower of London after being found guilty of treason. Francis Bacon, the scientist-philosopher for whose advancement in the government Essex had continually pressed, was one of the prosecutors at Essex’ trial.

Lord Cecil:

Tenor. Together with Raleigh, informs the Queen that a silk scarf was found next to Essex's heart when he was searched. The Queen recognizes it as belonging to Sara, Duchess of Nottingham. Created (1837) by Timolione Barattini.

Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury

Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury,  (1 June 1563? – 24 May 1612) was an English statesman noted for his skillful direction of the government during the Union of the Crowns, as Tudor England gave way to Stuart rule (1603). Salisbury served as the Secretary of State of England (1596–1612) and Lord High Treasurer (1608–12), succeeding his father as Queen Elizabeth I's Lord Privy Seal and remaining in power during the first nine years of King James I's reign.

The principal discoverer of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Salisbury remains a controversial historic figure as it is still debated at what point he first learned of the plot and to what extent he acted as an agent provocateur.




Gaetano Donizetti - Roberto Devereux 
Conductor: Haider, Friedrich 
Orchestra: Bavarian State Orchestra 
Chorus: Bavarian State Opera Chorus 

Duke of Nottingham: Schagidullin, Albert 
Elisabetta: Gruberova, Edita 
Giacomo: Klama, Johannes 
Lord Cecil: Franz, Manolito Mario 
Roberto Devereux: Aronica, Roberto 
Sara: Piland, Jeanne 
Sir Gualtiero Raleigh: Humes, Steven 
Un Paggio: Borchev, Nikolay 


Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, favorite of Queen Elisabeth, has been removed from office as Governor of Ireland because, acting on his own initiative, he has agreed a ceasefire with the rebels. Following an attempted uprising, he is awaiting his trial for high treason in London.


Scene 1: The Great Hall at Westminster


Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, is trying in vain to hide her tears from the eyes of the Court, as she reads the sad story of Fair Rosamond, the unfortunate lover of King Henry II of England, and therein recognizes a very similar situation to her own. She is in love with Robert Devereux, her husband's closest friend. The Ladies of the court express concern, but she replies that she is happy, while privately revealing her sadness (All'afflitto è dolce il pianto). Elizabeth enters and states that, at the insistence of Nottingham, she has agreed to see Robert once again, now that he has returned from Ireland accused of treason (Duchessa..Alle fervide preci). The Queen is willing to release him without charges if she can be sure of his continued loyalty. To Sara's gradual dismay, the Queen reveals her love for Robert (L'amor suo mi fe' beata). Cecil enters and announces that Parliament is waiting for an answer from the Queen regarding the charges against Robert, since it considers her as being too lenient towards him, but she refuses to sign the death warrant proposed by the Royal Council.

Robert enters and, in a conversation overheard by the increasingly distraught Sara, Elizabeth declares her love for him. Now alone together, Elizabeth promises Robert that the ring she once gave him will always be the pledge of his safety should he ever return it to her. The dream of bygone happy days is shattered by an inappropriate comment by Robert, who assumes that Elizabeth knows the secret of his love for Sara. The Queen, increasingly jealous, demands that Robert name the woman he loves. He denies that he loves anyone (Nascondi, frena i palpiti), and then the Queen leaves.

Nottingham, Robert's friend and supporter, enters and the two men discuss Robert's situation and Nottingham's concerns about his wife's behaviour after he has observed her embroidering a blue shawl (Forse in quel cor sensible, Qui ribelle ognum ti chiama). The two men are interrupted by Cecil demanding that Nottingham attend a meeting of the Peers of the Realm.

Scene 2: Sara's Apartments at Nottingham House

Sara is alone when Robert enters, declaring her to be faithless because she has married Nottingham while he was in Ireland. She defends herself saying that it was the Queen's idea and that she was forced to do her bidding. At the same time, seeing the ring on Robert's finger, she assumes it to be a love token from the Queen, and tells him that they must never see each other again, giving him the blue shawl as a love token. In a final duet (Dacchè tornasti, ahi misera) each declares love for the other and they accept that they must say goodbye. Robert makes plans to escape.


The Great Hall at Westminster


The Queen approaches Cecil to find out what has been decided. Cecil declares that the sentence is death. The Queen, asking Raleigh why the whole process took so long, learns that Robert had a shawl in his possession which he resisted giving over. It is handed to her. Nottingham enters and pleads for Robert's life (Non venni mai si mesto), insisting that he is innocent, but the Queen continues to describe how she knows that Robert has been unfaithful and, when he is brought in, confronts him, showing him the scarf. Nottingham sees it as well and recognizes it. Furious, he declares that he will have vengeance; while at the same time, Elizabeth offers Robert his freedom if he reveals the name of her rival. He refuses and she signs the death warrant, announcing that a cannon shot will be heard as the axe falls. Nottingham fumes that the axe is not a suitable punishment.


Scene 1: Sara's Apartments


Alone, Sara receives Robert's ring along with a letter from him. In it, he tells her to take the ring to Elizabeth and beg for mercy. Before she can leave, Nottingham arrives and reads the letter (Non sai che un nume vindice). Although she protests her innocence, he prevents her from leaving. They both hear the funeral march for Robert as he is led to the Tower, and Nottingham leaves to exact his revenge on Robert. She faints.

Scene 2: The Tower of London

In his cell, Robert ponders as to why it appears that his ring has not been received by the Queen. But he refuses to betray Sara (Come uno spirto angelico... Bagnato il sen di lagrime), and when Cecil arrives at the door of the cell, it is not to free Robert but to take him to his execution. He is led away.

Scene 3: The Great Hall at Westminster

Elizabeth is mournful about the pending death of her lover and wonders why Sara is not there to give her comfort (Vivi ingrato, a lei d'accanto). Cecil announces that Robert is on his way to the block, and Sara arrives disheveled. She gives Elizabeth the ring along with confessing her guilt at being the Queen's rival. In vain, the Queen tries to stop the execution, but they hear the cannon announcing Robert's death. After Nottingham has arrived, Elizabeth demands to know why he prevented the ring from being brought to her. He replies: "Blood I wanted, and blood I got!" Elizabeth is haunted by the headless corpse of Robert, and longs for her own death, announcing that James VI of Scotland (son of Mary Queen of Scots) will be king. Alone, she kisses Robert's ring.

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