Elisabetta al Castello di Kenilworth is Gaetano Donizetti’s 26th opera. It was written in 1829 for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples and then then revised for the same theater the following year. Andrea Leone Tottola wrote the Italian libretto after Victor Hugo’s play Amy Robsart  and Eugene Scribe’s play Leicester, both of which were based on Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth. It’s about Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and his secret marriage to Amy Robsart. In reality, Dudley was married to Robsart before Elizabeth became queen.

It is the first of his “Four Queens” operas. Of course, nobody talks about his four queens limiting the count to the three operas about queens that followed EisabettaAnna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux. Well this one is at least as good as the best of the other queens and perhaps a bit better. Why it’s rarely done is just another imponderable in a mysterious world.

There’s a wonderful little quartet at the end of the second act that precedes the finale. It’s a gem worth listening to several times. Elisabetta al Castello di Kenilworth – quartet. In fact the whole opera is worth a listen so I’ve linked to it below.


Elisabetta – Mariella Devia
Amelia Robsart – Denia Mazzola-Gavazzeni
Leicester – Jozef Kundlák
Warney – Barry Anderson
Lambourne – Carlo Striuli
Fanny – Clara Foti

Conductor – Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra – RAI Milano
Chorus – RAI Milano