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Donizetti’s fascination with Tudor England and the women who feature in this tumultuous history is indulged in Anna Bolena. The opera recounts the period which sees the demise of Boleyn as Queen of England and King Henry VIII’s second wife. This period of history, and in particular Henry's court, is rich with intrigue, betrayal and espionage and in many ways sets the scene for the future reign of their daughter Elizabeth I.
This is a very commendable performance of this extraordinary opera. The stage design and the costumes are opulent and striking and together they create nothing short of a visual feast. While the set design is flawless, the stage sometimes felt overwhelmed by the numerous cast and they looked as though they would be more comfortable in a larger space. Movement and positioning sometimes appeared cumbersome and required more imagination. The performers provided some outstanding musical and emotional moments, but the quality and delivery was sometimes uneven.
Elena Xanthoudakis had great command of her role as Anne Boleyn and by the end of the show reached a palpable depth of emotion. Sally Wilson played Jane Seymour with naturalness and sincerity and this helped to produce some moving scenes between the two women, who were both dear friends and bitter rivals. The scene in which they confront one another was undoubtedly the highlight of the performance.
Eddie Muliaumaseali’I’s deep tones created an impressive and imposing Henry VIII but capturing the allure and wit of this larger than life character could have been addressed more in this role. The opera includes some much needed comic relief but this also requires some fine tuning in this performance in order to sit more effectively alongside the tragic nature of this tale.
The extravagance and magnificent scale of this production provides dedicated fans of opera a unique opportunity to enjoy a solid interpretation of Donizetti’s powerfully dramatic music, and to experience some genuinely astonishing instances of vocal, musical and emotional bravura.
Reviewer: Patricia Di Risio