Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (‘Elizabeth, Queen of England’)
- Richard Osborne
Dramma in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giovanni Schmidt after Carlo Federici’s play based on Sophia Lee’s novel The Recess; Naples, Teatro S Carlo, 4 October 1815.
This was Rossini’s first opera for the S Carlo, written for a cast that included Isabella Colbran as Elizabeth, Andrea Nozzari as Leicester and Manuel García as Norfolk. Leicester, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite nobleman, has returned in triumph from the Scottish wars. There are, however, hostages in the baggage train, among them Matilde (soprano) whom Leicester (tenor) has secretly married, unaware that she is in reality the daughter of Mary Queen of Scots. Despite the rapturous welcome accorded him by Elizabeth (soprano), Leicester is downcast. Unwisely, he confides the dilemma of his love for Matilde and his loyalty to the Queen to Norfolk (tenor) who stirs up a hornets’ nest of emotional intrigue by confiding the facts to the Queen. In the superb Act 1 finale, Leicester and his wife are summoned to a public audience with the Queen who proceeds to heap praises on the bewildered Leicester; she even offers him her hand in marriage in a terrible moment of manic irony before the mask is finally dropped and the traitors are dispatched to the dungeons. Stendhal saw this finale as a grim showcase of primary human emotions: ‘...