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Elizabeth I sitting on throne surrounded by chorus

Elizabeth I (Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra)

Spring 2019

Gioachino Rossini

Rossini’s masterpiece about the woman behind the monarch
Spring 2019
  • 5 Stars

    Dramatically and musically a well-nigh perfect evening.


  • 4 Stars

    Mary Plazas made Rossini’s elaborate vocal writing count as emotional drama… Plazas showed us how to create drama out of this technical display

    Planet Hugill

  • Rossini’s opera is delivered with style and clarity

    The Stage

  • I can’t immediately recall a better evening of coloratura singing in London.

    Robert Thicknesse, Critics Circle

  • The extremely committed cast is headed by Mary Plazas as Elisabetta who, with her rich and vibrant soprano, commands the stage…

    Music OMH


Act I

SCENE 1: Leicester’s victorious campaign against Scotland is celebrated, provoking the jealousy of his rival, Norfolk.

The Queen honours Leicester’s victory. When he presents a tribute and two hostages, Leicester is shocked to recognise in those two his new wife Matilde and her brother Enrico. They are the children of Mary Queen of Scots; at her court they are in danger.

Rumours of the Queen’s affection for Leicester made Matilde risk following him to London. To protect them, Leicester decides to shun his wife and her brother.

SCENE 2: Believing him an ally, Leicester confides in Norfolk. Norfolk swiftly discloses to the Queen Leicester’s secrets. Heartbroken, Elizabeth condemns the guilty trio to death. She summons them and, feigning ignorance, asks Leicester

to be her consort. When he declines, Elizabeth furiously confronts him with the truth. Matilde and Enrico are imprisoned.

Act II

SCENE 1: Norfolk anticipates a chance at the throne as a result of his deception; the embittered Queen, however, refuses to see him, and instead sends him into exile.

Matilde is brought before Elizabeth. Her courage falters when Elizabeth offers freedom to them all if she will renounce in writing her marriage; she submits, signing just as Leicester enters. He refuses to renounce Matilde, in spite of the Queen’s threats. Alone, Elizabeth laments her unrequited love.

SCENE 2: Outside the prison the people bemoan the impending execution of Leicester, their popular hero. Norfolk sees an opportunity and stirs them to rebel against the crown.

SCENE 3: In prison Leicester dreams of Matilde. Norfolk arrives covertly, feigning friendship. He offers him a chance to see Matilde again, tempting him to join the crowd in rebellion. Leicester rejects the treasonous proposal.

The Queen enters the prison and Norfolk conceals himself. She offers Leicester an escape route; he declines, as it would be dishonourable, but he begs her to release the others. Elizabeth mentions that it was Norfolk who betrayed his trust, and Leicester informs her of his plot to overthrow her. Foiled, Norfolk attempts to assassinate Elizabeth but Matilde and Enrico, who are nearby, manage to restrain him.

Elizabeth orders Norfolk’s execution; she then pardons Matilde, Enrico and Leicester. She promises to return their hero to the impatient crowd, and they praise her clemency. Elizabeth vows to preserve her heart for her people.