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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Recorded in 1984 in good, bright sound, the alternative Arthaus DVD presents one of the most brilliantly successful productions of the ‘Powerhouse’ period at the English National Opera. This was a production by Colin Graham, with sets by himself reflecting the layout of an Elizabethan theatre. With an ideal cast, led by Sarah Walker as Elizabeth I and Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Essex, both in superb form, it firmly established the greatness of an opera that until then had been greatly undervalued. Here is a piece which offers one musical jewel after another, with Britten’s melodic writing at its most winning, whether in solos like Essex’s lute-songs or the concerted numbers of the great ceremonial scenes like the masque scene set in Norwich. Sarah Walker sings and acts powerfully, with her final signing of Essex’s death warrant at one vehement yet regretful. Even the small roles are splendidly taken.

John Steane
Gramophone, April 2008

Gloriana, Brinen’s richest, most affirmative score, splendidly produced by the English National Opera, with Sarah Walker giving what was probably her greatest performance and the brilliantly adaptable but somewhat cramped set acquiring space miraculously created for it by the camera. © 2008 Gramophone

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