Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux at the Los Angeles Opera

April 17th, 2021

“Impressively, Angela Meade, an American soprano who has what may be the best voice to become the next great Elizabeth, jumped aboard with next to no time to prepare. She had, by coincidence, just eight days earlier been starring in Bellini’s “Norma” at Teatro di San Carlo, the very house in Naples, Italy, where “Devereux” had its cholera-scare premiere. It also turns out that 11 years ago, Meade, then an emerging soprano, had sung Elizabeth in Lawless’ then-new production at Dallas Opera, in an alternate cast for runout performances at schools. Now, as one of the finest bel canto voices, she will star in the Met’s revival of its “Devereux” production in the fall. Meade arrived in L.A. on Tuesday, and with little time to prepare, she sang Saturday standing at the side of the stage at a music stand with a score. The production’s choreographer, Nicola Bowie, acted the role onstage. This meant there was some exceptionally fine singing. Meade’s voice has lustrous body and brilliant volume. There is dark richness that holds the potential for exceptional expressivity when that weight of sound is moved with graceful ease.” Los Angeles Times – Mark Swed

“Meade’s voice is a powerful instrument: resonant and refined… it was a thrilling reading of Elizabeth I. Meade has a true trill and easy coloratura, but it is really the range of vocal color she is able to convey which makes for a powerful dramatic experience. This served the vengeful monarch well. Meade was generous with her voice given the circumstances, offering thrilling interpolated high notes. If Meade continues with the remaining performances, bel canto fans should run, not walk, to snatch up tickets.” Bachtrack – Matthew Richard Martinez

“Donizetti’s opera, including the arias and recitatives written for Elizabeth’s role, is written in the bel canto technique, the most challenging style of operatic singing which demands clear articulation, projected enunciation, and incredible vocal agility. The demanding nature of the role made a quick replacement seem like a dream,… but soprano Angela Meade was able to step in and take over the role. Returning to the Los Angeles Opera five years after her titular performance in their 2015 production of Norma, Meade was able to rely on her vast repertoire, which included all of Donizetti’s pieces for Elizabeth. Due to her late arrival to the production, Meade sung Elizabeth’s role on the side of the stage, downstage left, while the production’s choreographer, Nicola Bowie acted the role in costume. Despite this, Meade’s performance left the audience in awe whilst immersing us into the inner world of Queen Elizabeth I….The star performance of the night is that of Angela Meade as Queen Elizabeth I. Although she only sings the part from the side, her performance is the most captivating and exciting of the night. Elizabeth’s incredibly technical arias meet their match in the form of the bel canto superstar as Meade effortlessly weaves between scales and trills, as well as singing the highest notes out of the performers. Her performance is that of a well-seasoned singer as she channels the power and vulnerabilities that made up Elizabeth. When she is betrayed, Meade’s performance becomes one of hurt, loss, and anger, wishing for her lost friendship, struggling to hide her tears, and finally reaching out to England on the map, a country she has completely given herself to. At the end of the opera you are hit with a sadness at her passing, but that is immediately taken over by a greater feeling of awe, a feeling which LA Opera’s production beautifully encapsulates as Queen Elizabeth I steps into her own box of memorialization, of legend, to be looked upon as a powerful figure in history. Regardless of the last-minute changes in casting, the Los Angeles Opera skillfully celebrates Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux with exceptional visual storytelling, creative production, and sung performances that bring the house down.” Flaunt – Armine Gulyan

“Taking the place…on exceedingly short notice is American soprano Angela Meade, whose classic vocals charge with trills, a coloratura-ripened vigor and an affecting vehemence as in when her character longs for Robert in the heart-stricken “Vivi ingrato, a lei d’accanto” (“Live, ungrateful man, at her side”). This number and the crushing fragility in “Quel sangue versato” (“That spilled blood / rises to heaven”) feel like an impressive pivot by the versatile Meade who just earlier sings the comparatively sanguine proclamation of love for Robert in “L’amor suo mi fe’ beata” (”His love was a blessing to me”). Elizabeth’s changing feelings and transformation, from adoration to vengeance and then ruefulness, is a wonder to behold and also delineates how the self-assurance and control that Elizabeth wields begins to dramatically wilt. It’s amazing to see Meade curl her vocal fist into an authoritative hammer that, on command, suitably softens and opens to reveal a beautifully tragic dove. On opening night (Saturday, February 22nd), Meade, who is set to again reprise Elizabeth in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Roberto Devereux” in September, didn’t quite know the blocking yet for this version, but was assisted by choreographer Nicola Bowie who acted as the pantomiming physical stand-in, in full regalia and all, while Meade, standing to the side, complemented Bowie’s graceful movements with an equally breathtaking voice to match. That being said, only five days later, for the second performance on Thursday, February 27th, Meade was not only ready to assume all responsibilities, but she carried them out like a seasoned and consummate professional.” LA Excites – Imaan Jalali

“Securing Angela Meade’s return to the Los Angeles Opera – where she had been stunning in the role of Norma was a major coup. As the Queen, Meade displayed the vocal power and brilliant technique that the role requires. Meade’s rich, superbly controlled vibrato and impressive coloratura was at it most resplendent for the opera’s final scene – one of the most powerful operatic scenes in all of Donizetti’s 70 operas. In Vivi ingrato Meade’s Elisabeth woefully sings of her despair at having signed the death warrant that led to her lover Roberto’s beheading. That chilling cabaletta that follows – Quel sangue versato al cielo – foretells the end of her reign and with it the Tudor dynasty. At the conclusion of Meade’s performance, the Los Angeles Opera audience erupted in a sustained ovation.” Opera Warhorses – William Burnett

“Among the many highlights were… Angela Meade’s rendition of Elizabeth’s famous cavatina, ‘L’amor suo me fe’ beata’… Angela Meade conferred the dignity due to the role of Elizabeth, but also imbued the part with a queenly imperiousness. In a sense, Elizabeth seems to fall victim to her own faults. This was especially evident in the final act in what is one of the opera’s most difficult and demanding arias, ‘Quel sangue versato’.” Seen and Heard International – Douglas Dutton

“But the true star of the evening was soprano, Angela Meade (Don Giovanni, Norma) who stepped in as the ”voice” of Elizabeth. Miss Meade, from a dark side of the stage, sung with poignant beauty and electrified the audience, receiving the biggest standing ovation of the evening. This tale of love, lust and betrayal in the Tudor royal court strays a long way from history, but makes a sensational plot. Add Donizetti’s evocative music, dramatic lyrics by librettist Salvatore Cammarano, and the brilliant cast, and it becomes timeless.” Indulge Magazine – Victor Riobo

“Stepping in with little time to rehearse, American soprano Angela Meade, who is a bel canto specialist brought her best game to a very difficult situation as the powerful, yet tormented Elizabeth….Showing vocal strength, projection and clarity of voice, her talent was apparent in the first few minutes. As the story progressed she got even stronger, if that is even possible, culminating in the famous and difficult aria “Vivi ingrato, a lei d’accanto” which showed off her command of the coloratura repertoire.” Living Out Loud Los Angeles – Humberto Capiro