Libretto by Felice Romani
Production owned by The Dallas Opera
"Radvanovsky sings with unflinching honesty and uncommon intensity."
--The New York Times
A queen falls from grace as her unfaithful king plots to bring his mistress to the throne. The golden age of Italian bel canto opera shines with dark reflections in Anna Bolena, Donizetti's moving retelling of Anne Boleyn's tragedy.
Condemned to death by King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn accepts her fate and tumbles into madness as she awaits her unjust execution.
In her role debut, American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky portrays the wronged Queen Anne in a striking production directed by Stephen Lawless and conducted by Antonello Allemandi.
Anna Bolena: Sondra Radvanovsky
Riccardo (Lord Richard Percy): Shalva Mukeria
Giovanna (Jane Seymour): Sonia Ganassi
Enrico VIII (Henry the VIII): Oren Gradus
Smeton, the Queen's page: Claudia Huckle
Performed in Italian with English supertitles. Supertitles may not be visible from the rear of the orchestra.
Performance Timing: Act I - 90 min.; Intermission - 20 min.; Act II 85 min. (3-1/4 hours)
Broadcast of WNO's production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia
Sat., Sep. 8 at 1 p.m.
Classical WETA Opera House, 90.9 FM and online at weta.org/fm/listenlive
Tune in to Classical WETA-FM to hear WNO's 2008 production of another of Donizetti's masterworks. Lucrezia Borgia, conducted by Plácido Domingo, stars American soprano Renée Fleming in the title role and rising Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Gennaro. In this later opera, Donizetti continues to explore the themes of royal power and forbidden love that he first examined in Anna Bolena.
Una Delle Regine: Anna Bolena
Thu., Sep. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium at the Embassy of Italy, 3000 Whitehaven Street, NW
Presented by Washington National Opera and the Italian Cultural Institute. Join conductor Antonello Allemandi and soprano Keri Alkema for a program of discussion and music that explores Donizetti's fascination with the Tudor period of English history and the opera's relevance to Italian audiences at the time of its composition. Admission is free, but reservations are required (available beginning August 30). For more information, visit www.iicwashington.esteri.it.
Sat., Sep. 15 at 6 p.m. on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
Free preview of Donizetti's Anna Bolena featuring members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.
Artist Signing: Sondra Radvanovsky
Mon., Sep. 24, post-performance in the Kennedy Center Grand Foyer
Meet Anna Bolena star Sondra Radvanovsky as she signs her recent recordings outside the Opera House in the Grand Foyer.
Thu., Sep. 27 at 6:15 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Opera House
Free 40-minute pre-performance lecture with musicologist Saul Lilienstein. Patrons must present a ticket or stub from any performance of this production.
Sun., Sep. 30, post-performance in the Kennedy Center Opera House
Artist Q&As are free, but patrons must present a ticket or stub from any performance of the production that is being discussed.
England, 1536. At Richmond Castle, courtiers discuss the state of royal affairs: Queen Anne's star is sinking since King Henry VIII has fallen in love with another woman. Jane Seymour, Anne's confidante and lady-in-waiting, appears, followed by the queen, who admits to Jane that she is troubled. Anne asks her page Smeton to sing a song to cheer everyone. His words remind her of the happiness of her first love, which she gave up to marry the king.
Alone in her bedchamber, Jane-who is in fact the king's new lover-is conscience-stricken about her betrayal. Henry appears and passionately declares his love, promising Jane marriage and glory. She is disturbed by his threats about Anne's future but realizes that it is too late for her to turn back.
Anne's brother, Lord Rochefort, is surprised to meet Lord Richard Percy, the queen's former lover, in Richmond Park. Percy, who has been called back from exile by the king, has heard of Anne's distress and asks about her. Rochefort answers evasively. Percy admits that his own life has been miserable since he and Anne have been apart. The king arrives with a hunting party, followed by Anne and her ladies-in-waiting. He coolly greets his wife, then tells Percy that he has the queen to thank for his pardon. In fact, he has arranged Percy's return as a trap for Anne and is grimly amused at their emotion and embarrassment as they greet each other. He orders one of his officers to spy on the couple.
Smeton, who is in love with the queen, is on his way to her apartments to return a miniature portrait of her that he had stolen. He hides when Anne appears with Rochefort, who persuades his sister to admit Percy. Percy enters and declares his continuing love. Anne admits that the king hates her, but she remains firm and pleads with Percy to find another woman worthy of his affection. Just as he draws his sword and threatens to kill himself, Henry bursts in. Smeton proclaims the queen's innocence and in the process the furious king seizes the miniature, providing him with welcome proof of his wife's seeming infidelity. Anne, Percy, and Smeton are arrested.
Anne has been imprisoned in her London apartments. Jane arrives to tell her that she can avoid execution by pleading guilty and confessing her love for Percy, thereby allowing the king to remarry. Anne refuses, cursing the woman who will be her successor. Jane admits that she is that woman. Shocked, Anne dismisses her, but then gives in to Jane's desperate pleading, insisting that it is the king, not her, who is to blame.
Smeton has falsely testified to being the queen's lover, believing that his confession would save Anne's life, but in fact he has sealed her fate. Anne and Percy are brought before the council. Anne tells the king that she is ready to die but begs him to spare her the humiliation of a trial. In the following confrontation, Percy claims that he and Anne were married before she became the king's wife. Even though he thinks this is a lie, Henry triumphantly replies that another, worthier woman will ascend the throne. Percy and Anne are led away. Jane pleads with Henry for Anne's life, but he dismisses her. News arrives of the council's verdict: The royal marriage is dissolved and Anne and her accomplices are to be executed.
Anne is in a state of delirium. She imagines herself on her wedding day, then recalls her girlhood love for Percy. Her fellow prisoners are brought in and Smeton blames himself for having caused Anne's impending death. When bells and cannon fire are heard, announcing the king's new marriage, Anne suddenly comes to her senses. She furiously curses the royal couple and goes off to face her execution.
Courtesy of OPERA NEWS.
- Viewpoint: Donizetti’s Operatic Breakthrough in Anna Bolena Everyone said that they could not remember ever being present at such a decided triumph.
- Washington National Opera Insight: Donizetti’s Anna Bolena Enjoy an hour-long free preview of musical highlights from the WNO mainstage production by members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.
- WNO Spotlight: Sondra Radvanovsky Learn more about the soprano star, who makes her role debut as the title character in Anna Bolena.
- More Than a Pretty Tune Thomas May explains how Donizetti's hummable melodies are rooted in a keenly theatrical sensibility.
- Audio Preview: Anna Bolena Classical WETA’s Nicole Lacroix hosts this audio preview of Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece.
Watch and Listen
Anna Bolena Q&A - Recorded after the September 30, 2012 performance (audio only)
Behind the Curtain: Sondra Radvanovsky on Anna Bolena
Watch highlights from Anna Bolena
WNO Commentary: Anna Bolena 1/4: The opera in its history: Act One, Windsor Castle (audio only)
WNO Commentary: Anna Bolena 2/4: Donizetti's early development: Act One, conclusion (audio only)
WNO Commentary: Anna Bolena 3/4: Bel Canto culture: Act Two, The Tower of London (audio only)
WNO Commentary: Anna Bolena 4/4: Act Two, conclusion (audio only)
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