We three queens | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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We three queens

Sondra Radvanovsky sings the last acts of Donizetti's three Tudor queen operas.


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Berwyn born, internationally acclaimed soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is performing an operatic marathon this week at Lyric Opera, singing the difficult final acts of all three Gaetano Donizetti Tudor queen operas: Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux in one fell swoop.

If this sounds like opera for short attention spans—well, yes! No need to spend hours watching the tragedy gel: Lyric provides giant projected text (“Henry VIII loves Jane Seymour”) that fills you in on what transpired during the acts you’re not having to sit through. Then you’re dropped right into the climactic moments before someone (often Radvanovsky) gets their head chopped off. There’s a tradeoff in emotional engagement for the audience but, in our distracted era of sound-bites and tweets, chances are they won’t even miss it.

The other folks who’ll appreciate this unique feat of vocal and dramatic prowess are those so steeped in these operas that they can jump right in at the last chapters without sacrificing a thing. Radvanovsky, who sang each of these operas all the way through in a single season at the Met a few years back, outdoes herself in this showcase, overcoming even a transparent farthingale that makes her look more like a fairy godmother than the last of the three queens she's channeling—the aged and ailing Elizabeth I.

Radvanovsky is exquisitely supported by the women (and men) of the Lyric Opera chorus; members of the Ryan Opera Center (smoothly handling featured roles), and the Lyric Opera orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Frizza.  v

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