Anna Bolena

The dysfunctional Tudor family has fascinated the public for centuries ever since Henry VIII formed the Church of England by breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church so that he could divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, written almost exactly 300 years after Henry ordered the execution of his second wife, is a powerful dramatization of the downfall of Anne Boleyn, who in just three short years went from winning the crown of England to losing her head. The opera was forgotten for most of the twentieth century until a 1957 revival at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, with Maria Callas triumphing in the title role, returned the opera to the popularity that it deserves. Donizetti’s music emphasizes all the complexities of one of history’s most fascinating women, but at its heart, the opera tells a cautionary tale about illusions of power. The story focuses on the relationships between Henry VIII and Anne, Jane Seymour (the Tudor King’s third wife) and Anne, and Anne’s rekindled romance with Lord Percy. In each aria, scene, duet, and ensemble, a new layer of the queen is revealed. Having regained her lost identity, Anne Boleyn goes to the executioner in one of the most brilliantly dramatic final scenes in all of opera.

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