Gloriana Opera

Posted : admin On 1/26/2022

Only six days into her reign, the young new Elizabeth II was honoured in an opera by the greatest living British composer, Benjamin Britten. But his opera with dancing, Gloriana, was a slightly controversial celebration of monarchy. While staged with a 1950s backdrop, it focused somewhat unflatteringly on the reign of Elizabeth I, as the indomitable queen resisted the onset of the years. Welsh National Opera, Sir Charles Mackerras The Cinderella among Britten's operas finally received its due with this recording. The superb cast and Mackerras's sure touch reveal Gloriana as a touching insight into the travails of leadership. — BBC Music Magazine, September 2013. Written in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, Gloriana depicts the later years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign and her complicated relationship with the Earl of Essex. Britten’s imaginative use of genres from the Tudor period mixes with his own distinctive style to create a world at once Elizabethan and contemporary.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leigh Melrose (Cecil)
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
  • The sound-world of the opera has an appropriately ‘Elizabethan’ atmosphere, the famous ‘Choral’ and ‘Courtly Dances’ evoking a period flavour without ever lapsing into pastiche. The opera has had a chequered history, but it now seems as though Gloriana has finally taken its.
  • The composition of Benjamin Britten’s sixth opera, Gloriana, originates from a conversation about emblematic national operas, the lack thereof in the British repertory and the need for Britten to compose such an opera to coincide with the Coronation of the young Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leonardo Capalbo (Essex)
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
Gloriana at the Teatro Real © Javier del Real Teatro Real'>Gloriana at the Teatro Real
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth)
© Javier del Real Teatro Real

Britten is a tricky composer. Reflecting his own career dilemmas, his operas usually admit a convincing, superficial reading, but there is always a whole universe of half-formed truths lurking in the shadows. As an interpreter, it is tempting to prefer clarity to depth, public to private, downplaying the contradictions in which Britten's inspiration thrived. This is nowhere truer than in Gloriana, where this clash becomes the sheer foundation of the opera and the cornerstone of one of his most brilliant and fascinating scores. For this new production, Ivor Bolton and Sir David McVicar have teamed up to create an unapologetic Gloriana, exploiting its fruitful conflicts and exposing its complexity. The result, enhanced by a great cast, is an unqualified success and the long-needed vindication of a neglected masterpiece.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leigh Melrose (Cecil)

In this Gloriana, Bolton's affinity with Britten goes beyond a clear account of the score to become a truly original contribution, thanks in part to the good shape of the Orchestra of the Teatro Real. He showed no fear of revealing the darkest soul of the score, underlining the dissonances that corrupt the Green Leaves theme at the end of Elizabeth's monologue in Act 1 and making the most of the vitriol of the brass section in the Dress Scene in Act 2. In stark contrast, Bolton offered a clean and soothing Masque, delivered with sincere humility. The drama of Act 3, with precise and sharp orchestral explosions right before Elizabeth's monologue, contributed masterfully to the final climax.

Gloriana at the Teatro Real © Javier del Real Teatro Real'>
Gloriana at the Teatro Real

In the same vein, McVicar's new production exposes the crooked architecture that sustains the royal glory. The stage is dominated by a giant armillary sphere, beautifully built by Robert Jones. The symbolism is as powerful as it is evident, and McVicar uses it to unfold the storyline: the Queen ends Act 1 at the centre of the sphere, only to hand it to Essex’s hubris in Act 2, and leaves it orphan at the end of the opera. Its omnipresence risks being monotonous but Adam Silverman’s masterful lighting provided incredible contrast, with rich textures to the public scenes. These elements allowed McVicar to build a narrative continuum, blurring the artificial scene division with swift scene changes. His Gloriana is mainly realistic but corrupted with the uneasy touches of farce that take over as the story advances, such as the sombre dances and the devil jester in Act 2. All the characters are perfectly defined, thanks heavily to Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s glorious costumes, but it is Elizabeth that stands as an unforgettable creation, portrayed as an otherworldly creature, nor human nor god, powerful but frail, regal albeit mercurial.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth)

Such an extreme, sometimes irreverent, characterisation was only possible thanks to the exceptional gifts of Anna Caterina Antonacci. She owned the stage at every appearance and led the audience through a fascinating exploration of the character: commanding and scornful in the duel scene, cheerful but cynical with Essex, august and frankly pleased during the Masque and fatally self-destructive in the dance scene, which led to the deep and naked self-conciousness of the last monologue. Her English pronunciation was extraordinary for a non-native speaker (although maybe not perfect enough for the Queen of England) and she delivered the text with clear diction and magnetic phrasing. The voice has grown a little bitter with the years, with a ferrous colour that perfectly suits Elizabeth's character. Sometimes a bit strained and with difficulties in the lowest pitch, her solid technique and healthy emission stood at the basis of a triumphal debut.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leonardo Capalbo (Essex)

Leonardo Capalbo was the perfect choice for the ambitious and hot-headed Essex. Charming and frank, he assailed the royal quarters with his mellow lyric tenor. He was perfect in duos and ensembles, with solid tone and flaming phrasing. His second lute song, a treacherous gift due to its long phrases and low pitch, was well sung but lacked lyricism and expansion. Leigh Melrose was technically flawless but his lyric voice and correct phrasing almost contradicted the wicked Cecil as devised by McVicar. Duncan Rock, with his powerful and rugged baritone and his hostile virility on stage, gave Mountjoy true dramatic relevance. Sophie Bevan’s ringing soprano portrayed a powerful Penelope, in contrast with Paula Murrihy’s soft and innocent Frances. Sam Furness was lovely as the Spirit of the Masque, with handsome top notes. It was a perfect night for the chorus as well, with good style and a rich colour palette that contrasted all the scenes.

May this Gloriana contribute to reversing the work's doomed performance history and to secure it in the standard operatic repertoire, where it should be already by its own merits.

See full listing
“Anna Caterina Antonacci... owned the stage at every appearance”
Ivor Bolton, Conductor
Robert Jones, Set Designer
Anna Caterina Antonacci, Elizabeth I
Paula Murrihy, Frances, Countess of Essex
Sophie Bevan, Penelope, Lady Rich
David Soar, Sir Walter Raleigh
James Creswell, A blind ballad singer
Itxar Mentxaca, A Housewife
Sam Furness, The Spirit of the Masque
Scott Wilde, The Recorder of Norwich
Orquesta Titular del Teatro Real

Gloriana Opera Co. Fort Bragg

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Fernando studied history and political science. He is passionate about opera and lied, a devoted fan of Benjamin Britten, and a lover of challenging stage productions. He wrote opera reviews for the Spanish musical magazine Ritmo and tweets about opera at @operatweets.
To add a comment, please sign in or register
I attended both casts so would add that Alexandra Deshorties was also superb as Elizabeth in a performance markedly different to Antonacci. Both evenings were enthusiastically received by the audience. McVicar's production did complete just to this amazing masterpiece - hopefully rescued from its disgraceful neglect.
Mobile versionAnna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leigh Melrose (Cecil)
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leonardo Capalbo (Essex)
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
Gloriana at the Teatro Real © Javier del Real Teatro Real'>Gloriana at the Teatro Real
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth)
© Javier del Real Teatro Real
Meaning

Britten is a tricky composer. Reflecting his own career dilemmas, his operas usually admit a convincing, superficial reading, but there is always a whole universe of half-formed truths lurking in the shadows. As an interpreter, it is tempting to prefer clarity to depth, public to private, downplaying the contradictions in which Britten's inspiration thrived. This is nowhere truer than in Gloriana, where this clash becomes the sheer foundation of the opera and the cornerstone of one of his most brilliant and fascinating scores. For this new production, Ivor Bolton and Sir David McVicar have teamed up to create an unapologetic Gloriana, exploiting its fruitful conflicts and exposing its complexity. The result, enhanced by a great cast, is an unqualified success and the long-needed vindication of a neglected masterpiece.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leigh Melrose (Cecil)

In this Gloriana, Bolton's affinity with Britten goes beyond a clear account of the score to become a truly original contribution, thanks in part to the good shape of the Orchestra of the Teatro Real. He showed no fear of revealing the darkest soul of the score, underlining the dissonances that corrupt the Green Leaves theme at the end of Elizabeth's monologue in Act 1 and making the most of the vitriol of the brass section in the Dress Scene in Act 2. In stark contrast, Bolton offered a clean and soothing Masque, delivered with sincere humility. The drama of Act 3, with precise and sharp orchestral explosions right before Elizabeth's monologue, contributed masterfully to the final climax.

Gloriana at the Teatro Real © Javier del Real Teatro Real'>
Gloriana at the Teatro Real

In the same vein, McVicar's new production exposes the crooked architecture that sustains the royal glory. The stage is dominated by a giant armillary sphere, beautifully built by Robert Jones. The symbolism is as powerful as it is evident, and McVicar uses it to unfold the storyline: the Queen ends Act 1 at the centre of the sphere, only to hand it to Essex’s hubris in Act 2, and leaves it orphan at the end of the opera. Its omnipresence risks being monotonous but Adam Silverman’s masterful lighting provided incredible contrast, with rich textures to the public scenes. These elements allowed McVicar to build a narrative continuum, blurring the artificial scene division with swift scene changes. His Gloriana is mainly realistic but corrupted with the uneasy touches of farce that take over as the story advances, such as the sombre dances and the devil jester in Act 2. All the characters are perfectly defined, thanks heavily to Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s glorious costumes, but it is Elizabeth that stands as an unforgettable creation, portrayed as an otherworldly creature, nor human nor god, powerful but frail, regal albeit mercurial.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth)

Such an extreme, sometimes irreverent, characterisation was only possible thanks to the exceptional gifts of Anna Caterina Antonacci. She owned the stage at every appearance and led the audience through a fascinating exploration of the character: commanding and scornful in the duel scene, cheerful but cynical with Essex, august and frankly pleased during the Masque and fatally self-destructive in the dance scene, which led to the deep and naked self-conciousness of the last monologue. Her English pronunciation was extraordinary for a non-native speaker (although maybe not perfect enough for the Queen of England) and she delivered the text with clear diction and magnetic phrasing. The voice has grown a little bitter with the years, with a ferrous colour that perfectly suits Elizabeth's character. Sometimes a bit strained and with difficulties in the lowest pitch, her solid technique and healthy emission stood at the basis of a triumphal debut.

Anna Caterina Antonacci (Elizabeth) and Leonardo Capalbo (Essex)

Leonardo Capalbo was the perfect choice for the ambitious and hot-headed Essex. Charming and frank, he assailed the royal quarters with his mellow lyric tenor. He was perfect in duos and ensembles, with solid tone and flaming phrasing. His second lute song, a treacherous gift due to its long phrases and low pitch, was well sung but lacked lyricism and expansion. Leigh Melrose was technically flawless but his lyric voice and correct phrasing almost contradicted the wicked Cecil as devised by McVicar. Duncan Rock, with his powerful and rugged baritone and his hostile virility on stage, gave Mountjoy true dramatic relevance. Sophie Bevan’s ringing soprano portrayed a powerful Penelope, in contrast with Paula Murrihy’s soft and innocent Frances. Sam Furness was lovely as the Spirit of the Masque, with handsome top notes. It was a perfect night for the chorus as well, with good style and a rich colour palette that contrasted all the scenes.

May this Gloriana contribute to reversing the work's doomed performance history and to secure it in the standard operatic repertoire, where it should be already by its own merits.

See full listing
“Anna Caterina Antonacci... owned the stage at every appearance”
Ivor Bolton, Conductor
Robert Jones, Set Designer
Anna Caterina Antonacci, Elizabeth I
Paula Murrihy, Frances, Countess of Essex
Sophie Bevan, Penelope, Lady Rich
David Soar, Sir Walter Raleigh
James Creswell, A blind ballad singer
Itxar Mentxaca, A Housewife
Sam Furness, The Spirit of the Masque
Scott Wilde, The Recorder of Norwich
Orquesta Titular del Teatro Real
The martyrs and the oppressed: Peter Grimes at Teatro Real Madrid

Gloriana Opera Company

The new production of Peter Grimes stands out as the strongest item in Teatro Real's season, with magnificent staging by Deborah Warner and superb musical direction by Ivor Bolton, with outstanding vocal and dramatic performances.

*****
Reality as a staging concept: La traviata at Teatro Real, Madrid
In this historic reopening, Lisette Oropesa offers a magnificent performance, dramatically overwhelming and vocally very unique.
****1
La Veronal heads Into the Little Hill in Madrid
The Teatros del Canal host the Benjamin–Crimp partnership’s thrillingly dark, lyric retelling of Robert Browning’s famous 1842 poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin by La Veronal dance company.
*****
A disappointing new Falstaff from Laurent Pelly at the Teatro Real
Comedy fails to spark in Laurent Pelly's new production of Falstaff at the Teatro Real.
**111
More reviews...

Gloriana Opera Co

Related articles
Fernando studied history and political science. He is passionate about opera and lied, a devoted fan of Benjamin Britten, and a lover of challenging stage productions. He wrote opera reviews for the Spanish musical magazine Ritmo and tweets about opera at @operatweets.
To add a comment, please sign in or register
I attended both casts so would add that Alexandra Deshorties was also superb as Elizabeth in a performance markedly different to Antonacci. Both evenings were enthusiastically received by the audience. McVicar's production did complete just to this amazing masterpiece - hopefully rescued from its disgraceful neglect.
Mobile version