Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Gloriana. It was last on stage 20 June—6 July 2013 as part of the Spring 2012/13 season.
Queen Elizabeth I is approaching the end of her reign. Her affection for the impulsive Earl of Essex is tested when he grows increasingly ambitious. Should she listen to the guidance of her advisors or be swayed by emotion?
Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana was commissioned by the Royal Opera House to mark the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. William Plomer drew on Lytton Strachey’s Elizabeth and Essex to create the libretto, which artfully combines modern and archaic forms of English. Britten’s score is similarly diverse: it mixes the sounds and manners of Tudor England – from lute songs to courtly dances – with the composer’s own distinctive style.
Moving from the pomp of state ceremony to the intimacy of the Queen’s private rooms, Gloriana depicts the public and private faces of the Virgin Queen, and the deterioration of her relationship with the impulsive Earl of Essex. Director Richard Jones is known at the Royal Opera House for his characterful interpretations of Il trittico, The Gambler and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
News and features
16 June 2016
Latex cakes, enormous metal horses and a record-breaking tree – uncovering the stories and the artistry behind our favourite stage props.
2 November 2015
Composers have long explored the gamut of vocal expression from a whisper to a scream.
5 January 2015
Composers have often looked to the real world for operatic inspiration – though their real-life subjects often undergo some operatization on their way to the stage.
31 October 2013
Richard Jones’s Royal Opera production stars Susan Bullock and Toby Spence.
28 June 2013
Get ready with essential guides, production photos, interviews with the cast and a glimpse backstage into rehearsals.
28 June 2013
A look over this troubled relationship – and the glorious operas it produced.
Gloriana, Op. 53, is an opera in three acts by Benjamin Britten to an English libretto by William Plomer, based on Lytton Strachey's 1928 Elizabeth and Essex: A Tragic History. The first performance was presented at the Royal Opera House, London, in 1953 during the celebrations of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Gloriana was the name given by the 16th-century poet Edmund Spenser to his character representing Queen Elizabeth I in his poem The Faerie Queene. It became the popular name given to Elizabeth I. It is recorded that the troops at Tilbury hailed her with cries of "Gloriana, Gloriana, Gloriana", after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The opera depicts the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex, and was composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. Several in the audience of its gala opening were disappointed by the opera, which presents the first Elizabeth as a sympathetic, but flawed, character motivated largely by vanity and desire. The premiere was one of Britten's few critical failures, and the opera was not included in the series of complete Decca recordings conducted by the composer. However, a symphonic suite extracted from the opera by the composer (Opus 53a), which includes the Courtly Dances, is often performed as a concert piece.