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Gloriana (1984)

TV Movie  -   -  Music
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The Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, is hot-blooded and jealous of anyone who might win the Queen's favour. He provokes a fight with the tournament victor, Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, but... See full summary »

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(libretto), (after: "Elizabeth and Essex")
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Title: Gloriana (TV Movie 1984)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sarah Walker ...
Anthony Rolfe-Johnson ...
Jean Rigby ...
Frances, Countess of Essex
Neil Howlett ...
Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy
Elizabeth Vaughan ...
Penelope, Lady Rich
Alan Opie ...
Richard Van Allan ...
Sir Walter Raleigh
Malcolm Donnelly ...
Henry Cuffe
Lynda Russell ...
Lady-in-Waiting
Norman Bailey ...
A Blind Ballad Singer
Dennis Wicks ...
The Recorder of Norwich
Shelagh Squires ...
A Housewife
Robert Huguenin ...
A Morris Dancer
Leigh Maurice ...
The City Crier
Pupils of Hendon School ...
The Children (as Hendon)
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Storyline

The Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, is hot-blooded and jealous of anyone who might win the Queen's favour. He provokes a fight with the tournament victor, Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, but then the Queen and her entourage arrive. She orders the two men to make up, but later she discusses the rivalry of Mountjoy and Essex with her chief adviser, Sir Robert Cecil. She admires Essex, but Cecil warns her of the political dangers of showing affection for him. He also reports that a new Armada may be on the way. Essex comes in and requests permission to go to Ireland to suppress the Tyrone rebellion. He accuses Cecil and Sir Walter Raleigh of intriguing against him. The Queen resists and sends him away. Essex complains to his wife Frances about the way Elizabeth thwarts his desire to go to Ireland. Lady Essex gives a ball at which she dresses extravagantly and looks finer than her queen, but when the ladies return from changing their dresses after a dance, Lady Essex says that her dress ... Written by Anonymous

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Commissioned by the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), and "dedicated by gracious permission to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in honour of whose coronation it was composed." It is set in the later years of Elizabeth I's reign. The libretto is heterogeneous, combining prose and verse, archaic and modern English. See more »

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User Reviews

 
An equally glorious production of Britten's opera
21 July 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Gloriana is perhaps not my favourite Britten opera, but I love the stately, moving story and also feel that some of Britten's most beautiful music is here. This production is glorious, alongside the 2000 Barstow performance it is highly recommended. The 2000 production is phenomenal musically and is of great sumptuousness visually, but for someone(and I know there are people who prefer to have as few cuts as possible) who wants the opera complete this 1984 production is more recommendable. It is visually beautiful on the whole, the final scene is stark in colour but this added to the mood I feel.

The camera work is mostly fine with good use of close ups and long shots to identify with both the characters and the setting, if occasionally a little unforgiving, either showing some inconsistent stage directions with the score like Essex's first scene with Mountjoy or showing a vocally strong but sometimes dramatically static chorus. Musically, it is outstanding. The power and beauty of the orchestral playing is evident and the brisk conducting from Mark Elder is done with both edge and subtlety. This is especially true with the really resplendent trumpets in the first scene fanfares, the horns and contrabassoons in Scene 2 show very well Elizabeth's feelings of being Queen of both weariness and heroism, and in Essex's entrance where the strings play in a way that almost resembles Puccini, an effect which I liked very much actually. The sound has a lot of clarity also.

Sarah Walker is a superb Elizabeth. She has a very aristocratic presence, if not quite as subtle as Barstow's, and her voice generally is steadier and more regal-sounding. I have always thought the final scene to be a tour-De-force of emotions, and Walker's performance in this scene especially is exactly that. She is also moving in her soliloquy I live and reign a virgin, will die in honour, suitably steely in delivery and the way she kneels down in prayer with the orchestra is something really remarkable. It is a tough call who I prefer out of Anthony Rolfe Johnson here and Tom Randle in the 2000 production. I'd say Randle's Essex is more ardent and energetic, has more chemistry with his Elizabeth and sings his lute songs with a little more vocal colour, but I prefer personally Rolfe Johnson's voice overall, it is a very direct and bright sound that sometimes reminded me of Peter Pears.

Generally I find the supporting cast superior in this production. Richard Van Allan has one of those commanding presences, along with a sympathetic-sounding voice with a dark-hearted centre also to it, that is perfect for his overall menacing performance as Raleigh. Jean Rigby is a moving Frances, while Alan Opie is suitably sonorous and sly as Cecil. Norman Bailey provides a very characterful assumption of the Beggar, vocally rich with also a little bit of grit. Overall, glorious. 9/10 Bethany Cox


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