Gloriana by Benjamin Britten
This opera is a three act opera written to coincide with the celebration of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The opera was given its debut performance on June 8th 1953, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London and dedicated to the new Queen – who had been crowned only six days previous at Westminster Abbey.
The opera consists of three acts and is based on Lytton Strachey’s 1928 Elizabeth and Essex: A Tragic History.
Set in England around 1600, Queen Elizabeth is approaching the end of her reign.
The opera centres on in her duty to the monarchy and her illicit love for the very much married Earl of Essex. This is tested as Essex grows increasingly ambitious and uses her love for him to advance his ambitions as he asks to be appointed her Deputy in Ireland in order to quash the rebel Tyrone. She is cautioned by her advisors but ultimately gives in and appoints him to the role he craves. She is unaware that he has also been plotting to have her removed whilst flattering her to achieve his ambitions. His time in Ireland is a disaster and upon return to England and pleads with her his cause. Meanwhile Sir Robert Cecil informs the Queen that Essex has been plotting her replace her. The plot fails and despite pleas from his immediate family , Queen Elizabeth has been betrayed and she signs the death warrant. The opera concludes in the final scene where the queen is dying and she reflects on the tests that she has faced during her reign.