Cher Public

Bess in show

On the occasion of Sondra Radvanovsky‘s role debut in Roberto Devereux, I thought this would be a good opportunity to put put together a compilation of some of my favorite artists singing the fiendishly difficult final scene of this opera, which happens to be one of my absolute favorite pieces of music. I’ll you know my thoughts about the Canadian Opera Company’s performance at the end of the compilation.

Photo: Michael Cooper

  • Clita del Toro

    What are those forks sticking out of her head?

    • Krunoslav

      Elizabeth I loved the “look” of her sister monarch, Aelita, Queen of Mars.

      • Clita del Toro

        LOL, kruno. I just looked up Aelita. I have never seen or heard of her. What a trip!
        I must see that movie.

        • Krunoslav

          Clita-- It is fabulous visually.

          • Krunoslav

            Whole film, d’apres Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy:

            • Clita del Toro

              FAB! Thanks kruno.

            • Clita del Toro

              PS Kruno, I am all excited as I can watch the movie on my TV through Apple TV!

    • phoenix

      That thing on Rad’s head reminds of Leonie’s crown:

      • Clita del Toro

        LOL Is Leonie trying to contact another planet with that gear?

    • Camille

      Adjust your spectacles. Those are pearl chopsticks.

  • norma54

    ‘Can’t think of anything worse than “the singing saw” singing Elizabetta …….. unless it’s Anna Bolena.

  • Marcello

    Thank you coloraturafan for this compilation. Many years ago when I was about 19 and my experience with opera consisted of Zauberfloete and maybe Cosi fan tutte, I went to see Devereux in Zurich (a Sunday matinee). I still don’t remember why, but I guess this got me hooked on opera for the next 40 years. The Elisabetta was Antigone Sgourda, the dramatic coloratura/spinto in the Zurich ensemble at the time and a very good singing actress. (Also in the cast were Carol Smith and Glade Peterson and probably Kari Nurmela.) I stilll seem to remember how at the end the chorus disappeared in the dark and the queen was alone in the light to sing the cabaletta. Later there was Gruberova in the Zurich production and on the video from Munich taking her wig off, another unforgettable prima donna moment.

  • I saw this nice video of Sondra yesterday:

  • Milady DeWinter

  • norma54

    THANK YOU for this incredible compilation. In my opinion, Sills and Caballe are at the top of the heap and in a category by themselves…… followed by Musuc (incredible finale note!!), Gruberova and Devia. Amazing that even with Sills far from her prime, she still moves me the most. You were right, ColoraturaFan, to play the final scene over and over again…..her L.A. performances in 1971 were two of the greatest performances I’ve ever attended…..and in the same week, her final COQ d’OR! Thems were the days!

  • guy pacifica

    C-Fan, thanks so much for the compilation. It must have been exciting to see Roberto D on the stage — I’ve never had a chance to see it live. La Rad certainly seems to have the power and range to sing the role of Elisabetta but the dynamics seem unvarying (mostly loud, but that could be the recording). Listening to the same scene over and again made me realize how the final scene’s long, slow arching melodic line presents some of the same vocal challenges as Casta Diva. Thanks again!

  • skoc211

    Thanks so much! I look forward to listening to the entire compilation. It’s always been my favorite of Donizetti’s Queens. I will always dream of what Callas would have done with it.

    And speaking of Elisabetta, does anyone have any idea what Devia’s upcoming turn at Carnegie Hall is selling so poorly? I was convinced it would sell out quickly so I bought my ticket as soon as the went on sale.

    • aulus agerius

      For me it’s the supporting cast that’s putting a serious damper on my enthusiasm. Coloraturafan’s fine compilation notwithstanding it is a drama with other major roles and not a one woman show. I fear there will be long boring stretches of mediocrity. Let’s hope I’m wrong, really wrong!

      • Guestoria Unpopularenka

        What’s wrong with Chauvet and Costello? I’m not familiar with the baritone.

        • Krunoslav

          According to his publicist’s press release:

          “Stephen Costello Headlines Roberto Devereux at Carnegie Hall (June 5)”

          Quoth the tenor:

          “Now I’m returning there with her to sing the leading role in an opera…”

          Has anyone ever thought of this *title* role as being the “leading” one in ROBERTO DEVEREUX?

          • Guestoria Unpopularenka

            So they embellished. Very common in press releases. Still I don’t see how that translates into mediocrity.

            • aulus agerius


            • aulus agerius

              “Still I don’t see how that translates into mediocrity.”

              You have to listen to him to get that……and then listen to someone like Jose Bros.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Absolutely not. Typical tenor!

    • coloraturafan

      I hate to admit this, but I had a friend who went to see both of Devia’s concert performances of Il Pirata in Barcelona. They reported that the house was half empty for both performances. But I have faith that this will not be repeated in New York.

    • Hippolyte

      That Carnegie still has lots and lots of seats available for Devereux next month is hardly surprising. For one thing, OONY didn’t announce the event until early April, roughly two months before the performance--selling that big a theater without subscriptions on such short notice is a vast task, and I don’t think OONY has much of an advertising budget so there’s been no ad in the NY Times so far, etc.

      In addition, it’s been 20 (!) years since Devia appeared at the MET and 15 since she performed in New York--and 37 (!!) since her NY debut. And I don’t get the impression that she was considered an important star during her US career, except for a few well-received bel canto operas she did with OONY. For the past several decades Devia has sung almost exclusively in Italy and her relatively few recordings are from years ago and on smaller Italian labels. I suspect her reputation now remains high among a (relatively) small conoscenti but many people may not be so eager to attend a performance of a fiercely demanding role by a singer they haven’t heard or heard about for years and who just turned 66.

      A friend of mine who heard her a lot back in the day always found her deadly dull and won’t be in attendance on 5 June, but I certainly will be.

  • Like Coloratura Fan, I’ve loved the this final scene since I first heard it. Thank you for posting this compilation.

  • Camille

    Dear Darling Mr. Coloraturafan!

    I just cannot tell you how happy fast forwarding through portions of this has made me and what a great recompense for my aborted voyage to Toronto to hear the same. I am so happy you made it, as this opera means so much to you, and thank you very much, not to mention gratefully, for your wonderful efforts on behalf of all that is beautiful coloratura!

    Yes, I agree about Radvanovsky. She has a complicated voice and one that does not record that cleanly, especially as I assume you smuggled a small device in to obtain what we have heard.

    You just cannot keep a good man down, and when the reports came in about the demise of your youtube channel a while back, I knew yours would be a victorious comeback!

    Evviva la coloratura and its Number One FAN!! Many, many thanks.

    • Camille

      And lastly, I was shocked, SHOCKED, to see Martile Rowland included and for how well she sang. I have only heard her once, as Paolina in the remake of Les Martyrs, what the hell is the name in italiano????? This was head and shoulders above what I heard, and that wasn’t bad.

      Have yet to finish listening to Kabaivanska and several others, but the winner and undisputed Queen of QUEENS, for me, was Gruby, who was phenomenal. I will have to go back and watch everyone again in the entire performance.

      N.B. == The tempo of Radvanovsky’s cabaletta, in particular, as well as in the initial aria, dragged far too much.

      Wonderful compilation and I only wished for Gencer — or maybe she is in there hiding somewhere behind the throne and I missed her in my fast forwarding.


      • CwbyLA

        Dear Camille,

        Leyla Gencer’s version is not there as these are video compilations but I also thought that it would have been great to include her. She practically unearthed this opera.

        Nevertheless, Coloraturafan has done a marvelous service for us bel canto queens with this compilation.

  • Evenhanded


    Well done, Coloraturafan! Thank you for putting this excellent compilation together and sharing. :) I absolutely LOVE the final scene of this opera, and your video is a wonderful tribute to Donizetti.

    For me, NO ONE can surpass Gruberova. But I am thrilled that you included Kabaivanska. IMO, The Bulgarian shows how a voice that is non-traditional for this type of role can succeed thrillingly, when wielded with intelligence and deep commitment.

    And a comment for Aulus agerius: WHO CARES ABOUT THE OTHER SINGERS! Of course, I understand your concern, but one MUST go to hear Devia. Frankly, Queler could have assembled a third rate cast to support Devia, and I would still be there in a heartbeat. I strongly encourage you to attend. Costello is over-hyped, IMO, but he probably won’t ruin the evening. Chauvet has gotten very good reviews for various roles in Europe, and I’ve heard Pershall on a couple of occasions; he will be at least acceptable -- and hopefully, more than that. Echoing skoc211, I would have thought Carnegie Hall would sell out within a few days. I have no idea how well Devia is singing these days, but she richly deserves the respect of a full house for what will almost certainly be her final appearance in NYC.

  • Hey Louie

    This is the first time I’ve ever been able to enjoy SR’s singing at all. Up till now her pitchiness was so off-putting I couldn’t listen to her for more than a few minutes. Did she smuggle a pitch pipe in among the knitting needles on her head?

    Thank you for the revelation, CF. Had I not just heard it I wouldn’t have believed the mere report. Loads of interpretive power too. This is really somebody else, right?

    • Camille

      That is exactly how I always felt about her up until the Norma I heard thrice late last year.

      Recently I heard a bit of her as Gutrune back ten years ago, and I winced in pain at the sound of that flapping carburetor of a sound. I don’t know what she has done to stirare la voce, but am damned glad and damned grateful for it as she always did have great high notes. And those I always liked.

  • As much as I look forward to spending a Saturday with this compilation, I need to address the more important item. Coloraturafan is Hot!!!

  • Constantine A. Papas

    The crown of “chopsticks” or “forks” were actually pins and part of the nobility coiffeur with a practical use: to scratch the scalp to get some relief from lice! Even in French aristocracy daily bathing was not common; and perfume was primarily invented to counteract offensive body odors.

    • WindyCityOperaman

      By this time of her life wasn’t Elizabeth bald? I’m sure the shew ould have wished her complexion was as clear as Sondra’s as she would have worn the exaggerated make-up to hide all the pox scaring. I remember Beverly Sills saying that she researched the “recipe” for Elizabeth’s make-up -- it included egg-whites and alum and the color was ghastly.

      • Elizabeth started powdering her face quite early because she resembled her mother Anne Boleyn, who was described as having a “swarthy” complexion. Here is Elizabeth’s recipe for face-whitening, according to her biographer:

        “egg-whites, powdered egg shell, poppy seeds, borax and alum, which made her face appear white and luminous.”

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          And lead, no?

  • La Valkyrietta

    Thank you millions for this compilation, wonderful. I don’t dare to cast a vote, so many fine ladies, but I assure you that next time I am sipping good whiskey on the rocks I will run to watch again Edita Gruberová! :)

    • Camille

      I’ll drink to that one, too, La Valky!!! Just a stunner!

      I have to gather up the courage to run through the entire compilation now, but Gruby towered over all the others, pour MOI!

  • Niel Rishoi

    I saw half the run of the Gruberova Devereux in Barcelona 1990. When I first saw it in its complete bootleg performance (on YouTube), I couldn’t believe that the one -- featured here by coloraturafan -- that got distributed is the performance I remember the best. This particular night was one of those nights where everything was ON in a way that it usually isn’t. Gruberova seemed absolutely possessed, and the electricity she emitted was unmistakable from the first entrance. Vocally and dramatically, she was white-hot exciting, took great risks in the lower register, and the tension in the air was unbelievable. The audience erupted into bedlam after each scene; but the end defied description. The yells of “bravo,” the decibel levels of it! There were nearly an hour of ovations, curtain calls and they would not let her go. It was one of those nights in the theater where we all experienced something genuinely towering and magisterial.

    • Camille

      I watched it three times today again.

      No one else, although there are others who shall remain nameless who sing it very well to excellently, no one comes remotely near to embodying what she did in this performance.

      After all these years I finally understand the Gruberovamania.
      When I lived in Italy she came there one summer to sing Lucia at Caracalla and I tell uou, the Italian critics spilled a river of ink praising her in the papers. I remember reading several excessive reviews and thinking I should go, and I didn’t as I was too “busy” and harrassed by vicissitudes at the time. Boy, am I sorry I didn’t now as I never had seen such raves for a “straniera” and I should have known better, but was foolish and thought “Next time.”

      Next time sometimes never comes. It won’t for me with Gruby.
      I hope she will recover from her injury, terrible for her at this point in time.

      What an artist and what good fortune you had in hearing her in this. Thanks for relating your experience of that reality.

      Thank you very much. And thanks to Our Coloraturafan!

      • Niel Rishoi

        Camille, others: here is the complete performance of the 1990 Gruberova Roberto Devereux. The “other” place where the drama gets sizzling-volcanic is at about here 1:16:25 to the end of the act. The sarcasm at “Ecco l’indegno” toward Devereux, the shading of her words/voice is just incredible; and the sheer intensity and anger as sentences him to death; and the rage at “Va, la morte,” without ever losing focus. Oh, and the perfect high E ending the act. Listen to the audience’s reaction.

        • Camille

          A gift.

          Deeply and humbly obliged.

        • Thank you for this! I’ve never heard Gruberova in the entire role. And to have Doris Soffel as Sara too!!

        • coloraturafan

          Neil, how very lucky we are that this video is out there! One could not hope for more from Devereux or Gruberova, a night when everything was in synch.

          This video is from the Barcelona Opera archive and we have one special person to thank for getting it out to the public. Now we are all able to enjoy.

  • antikitschychick

    absolutely fabulous compilation!!!! Thanks a bunch coloraturafan…youaremosdeftheman lol…
    now if you all will forgive my neophytism and would be so gracious as to help me identify the singers I’d be eternally grateful!!
    I know the 2nd singer is Elena Mosuc (or at least I think its her lol) and Im familiar with Sills, Gruberova and Devia but I dont anticipate knowing who the others are since I’ve only gotten through the first four, including Devia’s but I’m planning on listening to the whole thing :-D. Grazie mille and a good night to all!!

    • coloraturafan

      I labled them at the very start of each selection. It starts with Radvanovsky, Theodossiou, Rowland, Devia, Gruberova, Miricioiu, Caballe, Kabaivanska, Mosuc and Sills.

      • antikitschychick

        thanks for the reply coloraturafan…I somehow missed the labels AND I confused Theodossiou with Mosuc AGAIN!!! UGH!!! In any case, Theodossiou sounded pretty fabulous…will listen to the rest of this fab compilation and share my final impressions laterz. Besitos to you!! :-D.

  • Rowna

    Since you asked, Logan D -- here are my opinions. In order of their vocal appearances, we started with Ms. Radvanovsky, a soprano who I have heard live several times, and I agree, she sounds better in the house than on recordings. However, if this shrill performance is a hint of what will be presented at the Met, I feel it is the wrong voice type for such a role. The sound was very rough edged and harsh, with none of her attributes shining through, which she brings more to the fore in the Verdi roles I have heard her in. Ms, Theodossiu was just fantastic in every way-vocally, dramatically -- a total WOW -- and this is from someone who has heard her very little in the past. The revelation was Martile Rowland. How come I never heard of her? Her performance was magnificent and so emotional. Even though it was in concert form, it was every bit as good as those that were staged. I hate to say this, Coloraturafan, because I know how much you appreciate Ms Devia but I found this performance correct in all aspects but just not rivetting, which is how I always find her performances. Maybe it is just me. Ok -- now everyone who doesn’t hate me already -- here is your chance to get out your poison darts -- I am definitely not a fan of Ms. Gruberova, although I have heard many clips of hers which are outstanding. I guess she just has too many vocals up on youtube and a lot of them are not to my liking. However, here, she was absolutely on her A game and I just loved it. So you see, I can be fair :) Ms. Mirciricioiu was flat too much of the time so I tuned her out. I am a big Caballe fan but didn’t like her in this -- too much precious piano singing. After these the last three sort of put me in a trance but I enjoyed Kabaivanska the best. It wasn’t Ms Sills best day and I adore her in general. Phew -- that took a long time to listen to. At the end of the day . . HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST TO THE GREAT COLORATURAFAN! YOU ARE THE BEST!!!!!!

    • Camille

      Salve, Rowna!

      I was thinking of you last weekend when I saw your people from Pittsburgh at Carnegie Hall and wished you were there.

      Anyway, I absolutely agree with you 150% about Martile Rowland WOW performance. I have seen her, just once, and it was in the pretty good category (an OONY Poliuto at which no less than Her Majesty Dame Joan was in attendance) but this performance was a horse of a different color altogether. I am going back to view the entire thing again now just as I caught your remarks. I think Ms. Rowland has retired to Colorado and teaches — something like that — and she had a few performances at the MET in Lucia or something, that didn’t go all that well. Be that as it may, her performance here was the equal of anyone, except La Gruby, who in this one, redeems herself, for MOI!

      Ciao from the Big Rotten Apfelstrudel! I am sure you are in a besser Welt there in!


      • The_Kid

        martile rowland’s ex-agent is a commenter here, no? her role debut/farewell as mme armfeldt in ALNM is on YT, btw. she was also a fantastic replacement elvira in the Met Puritani. let’s hope she enjoys many more years of good health and active involvement in vocal pedagogy.

        while EG is really great in this role, i kinda like christine weidinger (she shared this one with EG in the production shown in coloraturafan’s video): superb acting, great high notes, and a hint of exhaustion that is just right for the role. alex penda, too, is no slouch in this.

        • Camille

          Is he/she? I wouldn’t know. La Cieca keeps me in the dark.

          She sang Elvira then? All I heard some scuttlebutt about was a Lucia and I do not recall the particulars now.

          Well, that performance was just beautiful and I would have been more than happy to have paid to have heard her more!

          I do not care for ALNM, thank you, kid. Too many clowns in my own life, I guess.

  • aulus agerius

    I think Devia sings very well here -- impressive phrasing and breathing in the cabaletta esp; she definitely goes for the legato, the bel canto over the histrionics. When was this performance, CF? Can she still sing this well?

    • coloraturafan

      The Devia clips is from 2011 her debut of the role.