Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, which the Dallas Opera opened on Friday night, is only mildly involving musically, but visually it’s a knockout. Benoit Dugardyn’s sets, Ingeborg Bernerth’s costumes and Mark McCullough’s lighting consistently dazzle, and director Stephen Lawless’ pertinent ideas are a strong enhancement.
Vocally, the cast is decent — I was especially taken with Elizabeth Batton and David Kempster as the Duchess and Duke of Nottingham — but rarely pulled the audience into deep involvement despite some powerful acting by Hasmik Papian as Queen Elizabeth I. Ironically, the title role, taken by Stephen Costello, seemed secondary.
The fine work of the orchestra and chorus under Graeme Jenkins’ direction (Alexander Rom’s the chorus master) was an asset.
This Roberto Devereux takes place in what seems to be the interior of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The chorus and some soloists perform in the spectator galleries though the focus of the action is center stage. The addition and subtraction of simple set elements signify changes in locale. It’s all very handsomely done, with bright colors nicely varying the impression made by the warm wood tones of the theater.
Lawless makes clever use of the time preceding the first vocal entry. Projected text puts the opera in historical context, and there are silent visual references to the Elizabethan era (the Spanish Armada, Shakespeare, and so on).
The opera will be repeated in the Music Hall on Sunday, Wednesday and Jan. 31.