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Rossini Elizabeth I

(Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra)

English Touring Opera, March 3 - May 23, 2019

 Photographs by Richard Hubert Smith, courtesy of English Touring Opera


Alan Jackson saw the March 2 performance at the Hackney Empire and has sent in the following review:-


English Touring Opera’s first offering of their Spring Tour is a rarity, Rossini’s Elisabetta, Regina D’Inghilterra, sung in Italian under the title Elizabeth 1. It is ably paced and conducted by John Andrews and well directed by James Conway, ETO’s General Director. They oversee an enjoyable show which hopefully will attract full houses in the venues it visits. Elisabetta was premiered in Naples in 1815 and it inaugurated the series of nine serious operas that occupied Rossini between 1815 and 1822. This was the work’s first UK performance since the 1968 Camden Festival, and that was the first in the UK since the early 19th century.  


The three leading roles were originally sung by Isabella Colbran as Elisabeth, Andrea Nozzari as Leicester and Manuel Garcia as Norfolk, three of the greatest virtuosi of the time. ETO can’t offer twenty-first century equivalents and the daunting coloratura, perhaps with one exception, is managed rather than revelled in. Mary Plazas in the title role holds the stage – she is a good actress (even if not helped here by her orange wig) and a good musician. She is less imposing vocally than I remember from her appearances at the Buxton Festival between 2007 and 2011 in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, Lucrezia Borgia and Maria di Rohan, and this was for me the most important weakness of the performance. John-Colyn Gyeantey likewise copes, but doesn’t dazzle, as Norfolk – it is a fiendish part, and the higher of the two tenor roles – but he establishes the unpleasant character, albeit as a stock villain. The exception I mentioned was Luciano Botelho as Leicester, who gives us something more as regards the fioritura. His voice sounds slightly baritonal in the lower and middle reaches, as reportedly did Nozzari’s, yet capable of impressive high notes on occasion, again like Nozzari. His prison scene was the highlight of the evening. Lucy Hall made the most of the smaller role of Matilde, displaying a sweet young voice. Joseph Doody made much of Guglielmo and Emma Stannard completed the cast in the trouser role of Enrico.   The orchestral playing was perfectly adequate and the chorus was excellent. It was onstage for most of the opera, replacement ‘scenery’ when not actually part of the action.


The stage, it must be said, was pretty bare; I was conscious that ETO has a shoe-string budget, but lavish sets are much less important to me than effective costumes, good acting and high musical standards. Imaginatively, Elisabeth’s throne could be turned round to indicate the escape route offered to Leicester (he declines to use it).   This Elizabeth 1 is well worth a visit and can be seen between now and late May in Buxton, Cambridge, Snape Maltings, Leicester, Norwich, Cheltenham, Bromley and Exeter. ETO is also performing Idomeneo and Macbeth in these and other venues. Full details on their website 


The Team

Elizabeth - Mary Plazas

Leicester - Luciano Botelho

Norfolkl- John-Colyn Gyeantey

Matilde - Lucy Hall

Guglielmo - Joseph Doody 


Conductor -  John Andrews

Director – James Conway

Associate Director - Rosie Purdie

Designer -  Frankie Bradshaw

Lighting - Rory Beaton    


English Touring Opera Orchestra



Photo - Richard Hubert Smith








Photo - Richard Hubert Smith

Norfolk, Elizabeth and Leicester







Photo - Richard Hubert Smith








Photo - Richard Hubert Smith

Norfolk, Elizabeth and the court







Photo - Richard Hubert Smith

Elizabeth, Matilde, Enrico and Leicester







Photo - Richard Hubert Smith







Photo - Richard Hubert Smith

Leicester, Elizabeth and the court




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