Opera Reviews
23 April 2024
Untitled Document

Edita Gruberova reigns supreme

by Moore Parker
Donizetti: Roberto Devereux
Vienna State Opera
31 May 2012

This was something of an event - and indeed, one which ended in a standing ovation for the star of the evening, Edita Gruberova.

Helmut Stürmer's stark backdrop of gloomy theatre boxes and a sea of bowler-hatted figures in black cleverly offset the opulent period costumes which well suit both this Elisabetta and her rival, Sarah, who is played in this revival by Nadia Krasteva.

Krasteva was announced as indisposed with a respiratory infection. Although she initially appeared a little cautious, her performance soon caught fire, with the voice projecting well and only the occasional trace of huskiness in the extreme top range. Her youthful, attractive stage presence make a perfect foil for the ageing queen (who, after all was 67 when the 34 year-old Roberto Devereux was executed in 1601).

José Bros - familiar in the title role - and who has found something of a niche in the bel canto repertoire, seemed in fine fettle. His bright and heady timbre has a tendency to become nasal at times (slightly reminiscent of his great predecessor, Alfredo Kraus) - not always ingratiating, but generally well-phrased and able to draw on sufficient body of tone to fulfil Donizetti's demands and carry well to the back of the house.

As Nottingham, Eijiro Kai started somewhat tentatively and generally seemed more focussed on his vocal production, while nevertheless going through all the necessary motions. A greater sense of ease and stage command would be a definite asset to his otherwise promising talents.

Gruberova, is indeed a phenomenon. Now in her mid-60's and still in possession of much of her vocal prowess, she appears to have further grown in an interpretation which may now be at its cusp, considering the role's demands. Naturally the timbre of her instrument has lost some of its warmth and the midrange suffers an occasional pulse in the vibrato, but the Diva still commands amazing stamina, a perfect messa di voce in all registers, the famous pianissimi, and in addition, a more fearless approach to draw upon every available vocal colour to serve her purpose. This Elisabetta interpretation is still one to be reckoned with, and indeed may - in all its facets - currently still hold the crown.

This revival (the 30th performance since the premier in December, 2000) saw the welcome return to the house of Maestro Evelino Pidò with his clear affinity to this repertoire - and evidently to his forces both above and below the stage, judging by the evening's success.

Text © Moore Parker
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