Sunday, August 21, 2011


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 7th of January 2016 at 6.05 - 9.35 pm
Sunday 11th of March 2012 at 3.04 - 7 pm
Sunday 21st of August 2011 at 3.03 - 6.10 pm


DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena, an opera in two acts
Sondra Radvanovsky portrays the ill-fated queen, driven insane by her unfaithful king, singing one of opera's greatest mad scenes
Anna Bolena..................... Sondra Radvanovsky
Enrico............................... Ildar Abdrazakov
Giovanna Seymour........... Milijana Nikolic
Lord Rochefort................ David Crawford
Lord Riccardo Percy........ Stephen Costello
Smeton............................. Tamara Mumford
Hervey.............................. Gregory Schmidt
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato (EBU)

DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena, an opera in two acts
Anna Netrebko portrays the ill-fated queen, driven insane by her unfaithful king, singing one of opera's greatest mad scenes
Anna Bolena................. Anna Netrebko
Enrico........................... Ildar Abdrazakov
Giovanna....................... Ekaterina Gubanova
Lord Rochefort............. Keith Miller
Lord Percy.................... Stephen Costello
Smeton......................... Tamara Mumford
Sir Hervey..................... Eduardo Valdes
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato
DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena, an opera in two acts
Anna Bolena................. Anna Netrebko
Enrico........................... Ildebrando D'Arcangelo
Giovanna....................... Elina Garanca
Lord Rochefort............. Dan Paul Dumitrescu
Lord Percy.................... Francesco Meli
Smeton......................... Elisabeth Kulman
Hervey.......................... Peter Jelosists
Vienna State Opera Chorus & Orch/Evelino Pidò
(recorded in the State Opera, Vienna by Austrian Radio)

REVIEW (Zerbinetta)
REVIEW (NYT) (Netrebko)
REVIEW (Radvanovsky)

Poor Anne is dead, she has gone and lost her head,
like a *ball in* a bowling alley it is rolling right regally;
hapless Jane is wed, and lies in the royal bed,
so the king can *see more* of her legally;
blame all the headlessness on portly Henry Eight,
it was something he heedlessly and naughtily ate.
(Wan of me pomes. Want to hear the other one?)

This opera is about King Henry the Eighth's rejection of his wife Anne Boleyn (Anna Bolena) in favour of Jane Seymour (Giovanna di Seymour) her lady-in-waiting. It was the first of Donizetti's works to achieve significant success. As usual, history is not closely adhered to.

Three reviews of the Vienna 2011 production are available. The first (uncredited to its author and now deleted) is favourable in every department. The second (by L. L. Lash) is satisfied with the singers and the orchestra, but he notes that the director was given deafening sounds of disapproval). The third (by "Zerbinetta") is scathing with regard to the staging, and the lack of passion in the performance ("Everyone stood stiffly in place"), though Anna Netrebko "did not lose her head" in her first assumption of this role; she was passionate and magnificent, and she will open the New York Metropera season in this opera in 2011.  However, Elina Garanc(h)a from Latvia sang the coloratura bel canto music of Jane Seymour cleanly and evenly but boringly. At the NYMet we have seen her as Cinderella (Rossini) and Carmen (no lack of passion there!); I have a video recording in which Anna and Elina sing some duets; and I purchased this Vienna one from the Parsons shop (he and his store are both deleted from the Wellington scene); but they will not be together in the New York version.

A lengthy review of the first night at the Metropera (by Anthony Tommasini, NY Times) has pictures.
But for balance here are some choice excerpts from reviews of  the recorded Vienna performance: AN and EG are "phenomenal". EG's "fervently acted and sung portrayal".

This is a long opera, as evidenced by the four 12" discs in the Decca set I own. Marilyn Horne is Jane, but I was surprised to find that Anna  was not Joan Sutherland but Elena Souliotis from Buenos Aires; this is also from the Vienna Opera, in 1970; Sutherland and Bonynge did it for Decca in 1987 (Welsh Opera); there is a video recording from 1984, made in Canada. Of course, Maria Callas started the head-rolling in 1957 (La Scala, Milano).

But in 2016 at the Metropera, Sondra Radvanovsky  is the star (and she is US American, not USSR Russian; I guess the name Sondra shows that; but she lives in Toronto, Canada).

My version of the plot.
King Henry VIII has moved his fickle affection away from his current consort Anne Boleyn in favour of Jane Seymour.
1.1] WINDSOR CASTLE at night
Courtiers are wondering why Henry does not visit Anne. Enter Jane, who confesses (in a soliloquy) her liaison with the King. Anne comes in, and seeing the company looking sad, asks young Smeaton (who is an ardent admirer of hers) to entertain them with a song; he suggests that she is sighing for love; so she interrupts him; she ponders on her invidious position, and she tells Jane that being queen is not an enviable state to be in. She retires to her room, leaving Jane to worry whether Anne knows.
Henry turns up and tries to reassure Jane that she will soon be without a rival; but Jane is even more distraught.
1.2] WINDSOR CASTLE the park
Lord Rochford (Anne's brother) is surprised to meet Lord Richard Percy (Riccardo) returned from exile. Henry is about to go on a hunt, but he has hopes of catching his queen in a compromising situation; and through no fault of her own she will be discovered with two men (actually three counting her brother)  in her bedroom. Henry has instructed Harvey to spy on Anne and Percy. We see the whole cast in full throttle, with Anna soaring above them all, at the end of this scene.
 1.3] WINDSOR CASTLE, the Queen’s private apartment
Mark Smeaton (played by a woman), the page and minstrel of Queen Anne, passionately adores her; he has secretly borrowed a locket with a miniature portrait of her for his comfort, but he now comes to restore it to its place; he takes it from his bosom, kisses it and bids it Addio, repeatedly, till noises off compel him to hide (behind an arras tapestry, if the opera house can afford it).
   Anne and her brother Rochford enter; he pleads with her to allow Percy to see her. (Lord Richard Percy was a former suitor and is still deeply in love with her,  and she has not lost her feelings for him).
   Percy comes to her. She asks whether he is there to rebuke her for rejecting him; she says she has suffered for her wrong choice; she wanted a crown and got a crown of thorns.
   He forgives her for the pain she has caused him, and sees that she is unhappy; she confirms that the King now abhors her. So Richard reaffirms his love for her, but she begs him not to speak of love again, because of the terrible situation she is in as a wife under suspicion; he must go away and never see her again. They carry on with their mutual torment for some time, till he draws his sword or dagger to take his own life.
   Smeaton mistakenly thinks Percy is going to kill their loved one, and intervenes. Anne faints.
    Rochford warns that the King is coming, and when Henry makes his grand entrance with the whole court in tow, he exclaims: What do I see? Bared blades in my palace? Guards! He declares that this woman has betrayed him. (Anne is oblivious to all this.)
    Smeaton tries to convince him he has got it all wrong; if he is lying let him be slain on the spot. In baring his breast for execution, he drops the locket. Henry views this as proof of her betrayal.
    Anne awakes with the customary Where am I? Henry condemns her to death. Her fate is sealed.
    All express their personal reactions to this catastrophe, in a long finale.
Maids of honour profess their loyalty to their queen, and Anne is comforted.
   Hervey comes to summon them to report to the Council. Anne bids them testify to her innocence. Alone, she prays to God, asking whether she has deserved this shame.
   Jane Seymour visits her. If Anne will confess guilt the King will divorce her, and marry another. Anne finally realizes who her rival is, and curses her; then she understands that Henry has seduced Jane, and he is the guilty party; she prays God to show mercy on Jane.
Courtiers are discussing the trial: Smeaton is being interrogated by the Council and they fear for the young man, as the King is the prosecutor. Harvey emerges and reports that Smeaton has confessed. Could he have denounced Anne? He revealed something that made them shudder and blush, so Anne is doomed.
   King Henry comes out of the judgement chamber, gloating over Smeaton’s mistake in believing he has saved Anne’s life by his confession.
   Percy and Anne are brought in by guards, and as Henry is leaving Anne calls him back to hear her plea that he will not subject her to the indignity of a trial and thus bring disrespect on the royal name. Henry retorts that she did that by lowering herself to consort with Percy, a person of lower rank.
   Percy takes offence at this, and berates Henry for stooping to be the rival of the despised Percy and stealing his beloved from him. But  when Henry discovered them together at Windsor, Anne was dismissing him for ever. Henry suggests that she was doing that to replace Percy with Smeaton. Anne denies it and  says her crime was coveting a crown. Percy asserts that he is her true husband, it is written in Heaven. Henry declares they shall both be put to death, and a better woman will take her place. When they are taken away to be judged by the Council, Henry ponders whether Percy and Anne had been married. No, but she will be condemned, and her daughter likewise.
   Jane asks to be released from her engagement, and pleads for Anne’s life to be spared. But Harvey reports that the Queen has been found guilty, and she is to be executed together with her associates. Henry pardons Percy and Rochford, but they decide to die.
    Finally, the soprano’s obligatory mad scene, in which she thinks she is going to the altar to marry Henry (but don’t tell Percy); she remembers happy days of youth.
   She greets the three men who will die with her. In the end she goes to her death pronouncing not curses on the guilty pair but forgiveness.

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