Central City Opera's final offering of the season is Gloriana, a look at Elizabeth I, who reigned in England during Shakespearean times. Commissioned for Great Britain's current monarch's coronation in 1953, the story is remarkably candid for such an august occasion, being a behind the scenes story of the great Virgin Queen, her gift for statecraft and her loves and heartbreak.

The Queen's entrance is heralded with six trumpets, a fanfare to a formal and presentational style that is never breached, set off by Alice Marie Kugler Bristow's regal costumes and highlighted by Joyce Castle's Elizabeth. Castle's soprano packs the requisite firepower for the larger-than-life Empress, and is underscored by her fine acting which amplifies the tension between Elizabeth's formal self and her private passions.

Castle is admirably supported by the well-rounded tenor of Gran Wilson, as the ambitious Earl of Essex, who matches her in the dramatic department as well. Timothy Noble as Sir Robert Cecil (the step-brother of the man who likely wrote what we call Shakespeare) and Peter Volpe as Sir Walter Raleigh contribute to the rich personal and political intrigue of the story.

The entire production is almost flawless, including the period folk dances and expanded orchestra, with the exception being the plain white curtains used with almost amateurish effect to alter the playing areas of raked disc stage representing the world.

It must be said however, that Benjamin Britton's music and William Plomer's libretto are, quite frankly, a matter of taste. Given the Shakespearean overtones of the story, Plomer's text is rather prosaic, and when added to Benjamin Britten's often dissonant score, leaves one wanting for poetry and melody befitting Elizabethan theatre.

Central City Opera's Gloriana runs in repertory with Little Women and La Boheme through August 11th. 303-292-6700.


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