Opera Scotland

Anna Bolena Anne Boleyn

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Gaetano Donizetti (born Bergamo, 29 November 1797; died Bergamo, 8 April 1848)

Felice Romani

Play Henri VIII (1791) by Marie-Joseph-Blaise Chénier (1764-1811), translated by Ippolito Pindemonte.

First performance: Milan (Teatro Carcano), 26 December 1830.
First UK performance: London (King’s Theatre, Haymarket), 8 July 1831.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Theatre Royal), 4 March 1872.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Donizetti had a successful career in Italy for over a decade before Anna Bolena (his thirtieth opera) at last brought international fame and fortune. It remained popular for forty years or so, with dramatic performers such as Grisi and Tietjens. It then disappeared until a revival in 1948. La Scala produced it with Callas in 1957, though the score was heavily cut. In the UK, modern revivals were given at Glyndebourne (with Gencer) in 1965, and eventually, in 1988, at Covent Garden (with Sutherland). English Touring Opera performed it widely in 2008. There are several excellent elements, including the dispute between Jane and Anne that ends with their reconciliation. The ending, where the pathos and defiance of Anne’s madness coincides with the off-stage wedding of Henry and Jane, is particularly effective.

Anna Bolena, second wife of Henry VIII (soprano)
Giovanna (Jane) Seymour, Lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne (mezzo-soprano)
Smeton, court musician (mezzo-soprano)
Riccardo Percy, Earl of Northumberland, formerly betrothed to Anne (tenor)
Henry VIII, King of England (bass)
Lord Rochefort, brother of Anne, friend of Percy (bass)
Hervey, Court official (tenor)

Plot Summary
Henry wishes to dispose of Anne in order to marry Jane Seymour. Anne is aware that she has lost Henry’s affection, and thinks regretfully of her first love Percy, still exiled in France. Smeton is unable to cheer her with his singing. Jane is consumed with a sense of guilt and attempts to break with Henry. The king organises a trap for Anne whereby she is discovered by his hunting party in a meeting with Percy, who has been permitted to come home. Her situation is disastrous even though she has just rejected Percy's approaches. The discovery of Smeton’s infatuation makes her destruction inevitable. In the Tower she is joined by Jane, who reveals that she is the rival who will succeed her as queen. Anne’s initial anger turns almost to pity and the two are reconciled. Word comes that Smeton has confessed to adultery on the understanding that this will result in Anne’s survival. When Anne meets Henry she infuriates him further by accusing him of adultery. Percy tries to persuade Rochefort to live on to clear Anne’s name, but all three men are condemned and executed with Anne at the end.

The Cast

Anna Bolena
 Anne Boleyn, second Queen to Henry VIII
 Henry VIII, King of England
 Jane Seymour, Anne's lady-in-waiting
 Lord Hervey, Court Official
 Lord Percy, formerly betrothed to Anne
 Lord Rochford, brother of Anne, friend of Percy
 Mark Smeaton, page and musician

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