Reviews of the
10-Sep-2005 "Roberto Devereux" concert in Budapest

- Translations of excerpts -


Careers, roles - Edita Gruberova as Elisabetta

(by - zéta -)

(...) This Queen not just reigns: she lives her life like any other passionate woman. She loves and hates, commands and implores, flirts and rages, she is shy and she throws a tantrum. And what makes it highly complicated: she does this all at the same time. Donizetti's decoration of the line is not simply the privilege granted to the Queen: it offers the possibility to express these human extravagances in a unique way.

We also have to mention Gruberova's "theatrical" portrayal, though this may seem strange, considering that the performances were in concert form. No doubt, having sung the part in several venues, in various stagings, must have led to the formation of a well-established concept of Elisabeth in her. And it may seem evident that this concept is in effect even when, instead of the sets, there is only the concert podium around her.

Because Gruberova is very expressively and consistently playing with her face, gesticulating, making grimaces, throwing her arms about, slapping, moreover, stamping her foot. In the evocation of Elisabetta's mood and mental state, the way she comes in has an important role. She exploits to the extreme the wide range between "sailing in" and "dragging herself in". But beyond all this, what is the most gripping is the way she uses her eyes. Her glance, sometimes imploring, at other times commanding, perfectly reveals the innermost secrets of the Queen.

The role presents the changes of Elisabetta's personality in three series of scenes. She arrives on stage in the middle of Act 1, she sails in and she ceremonially regulates the court. Gruberova converses in a very determined, commanding and exacting tone. Here (for the first time) diction becomes  important - her accentuation is that of the authoritative sovereign.

When the Count of Essex is led before her, Elisabeth softens, she whispers "Roberto!" with a melting tenderness, then, after barely an eighth note, her voice becomes shrill ("Conte! Sorgi, lo impongo!" - Count! Rise, I command it!). When they remain tete-a-tete, Elisabetta approaches the man in an amorous voice. Gruberova displays thousands, tens of thousands of shades of femininity. She recalls the days they spent together in a melting melody, but Roberto stays cool. And Elisabetta becomes suspicious. She interrogates him first pretending interest, then with a more and more open jealousy. In the second part of their duet the tempo becomes faster, the Queen threatens her sweetheart with hysterical coloraturas. Gruberova ends their duet with an imposing high D.

Act Two begins at dawn.The Queen is wandering around all alone in the palace, the Parliament passes the death sentence which she has to sign. Sir Gualtiero visits the Queen, he informs her about the circumstances of Roberto's arrest and shows her the silk scarf which was hidden by him. Elisabetta becomes furious, summons Roberto who does not answer the questions of the jealous woman. Gruberova utters the most terrifying cry of the whole performance when signing the death sentence. ("Va!" - Go!) The great majority of the sopranos would abstain from this effect as in the next moment begins the most demanding scene of the part. The scene performed in an extraordinary tempo ends with the power-obsessed Queen stamping her foot. Gruberova performs all this with uncontrollable ferocity and with real tears in her eyes.

The last Act shows a completely different woman. Elisabetta hardly staggers, her behaviour is distracted. She is asking her courtiers if Roberto has given anything to them. Gruberova intensively lived her part throughout the scene and her lyric aria in which she says farewell to her sweetheart ("Vivi ingrato..") The ring arrives but immediately after that a cannon shot is heard signalling the execution. Elisabetta breaks down. In a demented vision she sees the collapse of her throne and with her last effort she appoints James as her successor. Gruberova presents the agony of the Queen swooningly: she sings the slowly rising melody in one huge legato, then falls down from the 'B' lifelessly. In the closing bars of the piece the melody speeds up again and the part of Elisabetta ends with a huge crescendo on a high D over the orchestra.

The masterpiece of Donizetti is a one-man show, both the dramaturgy as well as the music is based on an extraordinary single personality. The piece can only be interpreted by a singer of such stature as Edita Gruberova (...)

The original article in Hungarian

Prima donna assoluta: Queen Edita

(by Péter Varga)

(...) when she started to sing, all other aspects lost significance.

(...)Her voice may sound a little thin and shrill, nevertheless, it has an incredible weight, it penetrates everything, fills the huge space. Maybe a soprano with a weightier vocal base would not even be able to sing those filigree high notes. It is not only that at times the voice has to reach incredible heights for the duration of one or two notes. It has to be capable of everything in the whole range, in forte and piano. Starting softly from above, suddenly falling into the abyss, growing dramatically. Or the other way round. Or in any way. Because she has astonishing low notes, too. The way her voice sometimes sounds in a muffled, slightly speechlike way, is astonishing.

The way she sometimes just sings in the middle range sadly, in her grief, without any additional external means of expression, is heart-rending. The way she screams in her pain is blood-curdling. A flesh-and-blood figure is standing on the stage in her true colors, with her vocal, and - because of the lack of staging - limited actorial means.

(...) Gruberova is 59 years old. Her voice does not show even the slightest sign of wear. (...)

The original article in Hungarian

A love quadrangle

(by Dénes Tamási)

(...)This evening Gruberova became Queen Elisabeth - with her every move, every quiver, with all of her being. I have to say it outright: Gruberova is a phenomenon on stage, her vibrato is excellent, she sings seemingly without the slightest effort the most difficult phrases and the decorations which are difficult even for a coloratura soprano.

And of course she plays the role, too, at the beginning I felt that this was a bit too much, but by the time the performance ended I realized that this role has to be performed in such a way. (...)

The original article in Hungarian

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(Page last updated: 1-Feb-2006) 
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