Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Anna Bolena 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, February 4, 12:00 P.M.

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Anna and her codefendants in prison (Mumford, Costello, Netrebko, Miller)
© Beth Bergman 2012


The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation and
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Anna Bolena 

Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Felice Romani
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance)
Giovanna Seymour
Anna Bolena     soprano, ANNA NETREBKO
Smeton     mezzo, TAMARA MUMFORD
Lord Rochefort     bass, KEITH MILLER
Lord Riccardo Percy
Sir Hervey     tenor, EDUARDO VALDES


The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: David McVicar
Set designer: Robert Jones
Costume designer: Jenny Tiramani
Lighting designer: Paule Constable
Choreographer: Andrew George
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Joan Dornemann,
    John Keenan, Bradley Moore,
    Carrie-Ann Matheson
Assistant stage directors: Eric Einhorn,
Gina Lapinski, Jonathon Loy
Prompter: Joan Dornemann
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir

Production a gift of Mercedes and Sid Bass
THE SCENES  (England, 1536) Timings 
ACT I   12:00–1:42
    Sc. 1 The queen's apartments
in Windsor Castle
    Sc. 2 Windsor Park  
    Sc. 3 A chamber in Windsor Castle  
ACT II    
    Sc. 1 Outside the room where Anna
is being held prisoner
    Sc. 2 A prison cell  
    Sc. 3 The execution grounds  

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

For more information on the broadcasts,
    please visit

Send quiz questions to
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    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail

This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.

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Ekaterina Gubanova, left, and Anna Netrebko
as Giovanna Seymour and Anna Bolena in
Act II of Anna Bolena at the Met

© Beth Bergman 2012


ACT I. England, 1536. At night in the queen's apartments in Windsor Castle, courtiers wait for the king's return, remarking that he has found another love and left the queen brokenhearted. When they withdraw, Giovanna (Jane Seymour) comes in, tormented by remorse over her own secret love for the king, since the queen is her friend. The queen, Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn), appears with her retinue, including the court musician Smeton (Smeaton), and calls for a song to relieve her sadness. Smeton, secretly in love with her himself, begins a serenade, but when he reaches a line about "first love," Anna asks him to stop; to herself she admits that her own first love, which she gave up to marry the king, is rekindled by the song. Noting that dawn is near, she dismisses her followers, confiding to Giovanna that being seduced by the glory of a throne leads only to loneliness and sorrow. After both women have retired, Giovanna returns in great agitation, dreading discovery by the queen. Through a secret door, Enrico (Henry VIII) appears and says he wants to bring their love into the open. She retorts that she could never be his except in matrimony, causing him to suspect that she is tempted by ambition rather than love. She denies this but worries about the fate of Anna; Enrico declares that the queen is guilty of adultery.

At daybreak in Windsor Park, on the day of a hunt, Anna's brother, Rochefort, is surprised to recognize Anna's former suitor, Riccardo (Richard) Percy, whom the king sent into exile. Percy says he has been pardoned; though glad to return to English soil, he is bitter about the loss of Anna. When the hunting party draws near, the king coolly greets Anna, ironically remarking that she is a subject of his constant attention. He greets Percy, who kisses his hand in thanks, but Enrico says it was really Anna who secured his pardon. Struggling to keep her composure, Anna feels a surge of love as she sees Percy. Rochefort fears that Percy will betray both himself and Anna, as Enrico instructs his courtier Hervey to keep a close watch on Percy. Feigning friendliness toward Percy, Enrico returns to the hunt, hoping soon to catch his own prey.

In a chamber of the castle near the queen's apartments, Smeton sneaks in to return a portrait of her that he has taken, but he hides when Anna arrives with her brother, who urges her — against her better judgment — to hear Percy for a few minutes. The latter enters, saying that he forgives Anna's breach of faith, because she has suffered so severely for it, and that he loves her as much as ever. She insists that her vows bind her, whereupon he threatens to take his own life. Thinking he is threatening Anna, Smeton steps out of hiding to stop him, angering Percy, who wants to fight the intruder. The commotion brings Rochefort, who sees that the queen has fainted. Enrico, accompanied by Hervey, walks in on the compromising scene and orders the disorderly men arrested. When Smeton protests his innocence and bares his breast to be stabbed, the portrait of Anna falls from his cloak. As Anna pleads, the enraged monarch says her tears only incriminate her further. Percy senses that fate is against him, Rochefort and Smeton deplore their contribution to Anna's downfall, and Giovanna blames herself. When Anna realizes she will be placed on trial, she fears that only in heaven will she be exonerated. Enrico retorts that he will not hesitate to impose the death penalty on anyone who sullies his throne.

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Anna Bolena defies Enrico VIII (Netrebko as Anna, Tamara Mumford as Smeton, Ildar Abdrazakov as Enrico,
Keith Miller as Lord Rochefort, Stephen Costello as Percy)

© Beth Bergman 2012

ACT II. Outside the room where Anna is being held, her loyal ladies-in-waiting comment that even Giovanna avoids the queen now that fate has turned against her. Anna emerges, distraught, as Hervey comes to lead the ladies to Anna's hearing before the council of peers. Giovanna finds the queen at prayer and urges her to confess to adultery, so the king can divorce her instead of putting her to death. Anna refuses, since she is innocent, and curses her unknown rival. Overcome by the sorrow she has caused the queen, Giovanna falls at her feet and confesses that she herself is the guilty one. Seeing her rival punished by her own torment, Anna pardons her and bids her farewell, as Giovanna recoils even more from her forgiveness.

Outside the council chamber where Anna's case is being tried, courtiers wonder what testimony Smeton will give. Hervey, sending for Percy and Anna, brings word that Smeton has confessed; this makes possible a charge of adultery against Anna. The courtiers withdraw when Enrico arrives, revealing in his conversation with Hervey that Smeton confessed because he had been led to believe he could save Anna's life and acquit himself. Enrico tries to avoid Anna when she and Percy arrive under guard, but she begs him to hear her declaration of innocence, seconded by Percy, who swears their love was never consummated. Enrico retorts that Smeton has confessed, whereupon Anna's indignation rises and Percy tries a new tack, declaring that since he and Anna were contracted to wed before she met Enrico, the royal marriage is invalid and should be annulled. Smarting from their defiance, Enrico swears that they will be punished regardless. When they are led off, Giovanna comes to beg Enrico to spare Anna's life; if she were the cause of Anna's death, she declares, she would go into exile. Though Enrico is annoyed by Anna's having caused this grief to his beloved, Giovanna persists in her pleading, interrupted only by the return of the courtiers and Hervey, who announces that the council has unanimously found Anna guilty, sentencing her and "any accomplice" to death.

In their prison cell, Rochefort blames himself for having spurred his sister's ambition for the throne, while Percy hopes their deaths will allow her to be spared. Hervey comes to announce, however, that Anna will die. Learning that the king has pardoned them, both men scorn his mercy.

As the executioner awaits Anna, sympathetic courtiers watch her approach. Her wandering mind imagines she is about to be married to the king, but the happy image gives way to one of Percy, accusing her, and she longs to return to the home of her youth. When Hervey enters with guards, calling for the other condemned prisoners, Anna is surprised to see Rochefort and Percy again. Smeton throws himself at her feet, confessing that he testified falsely in hopes of saving her. Anna imagines she hears Smeton's harp once more, accompanying her last prayer. The sound of bells and cannon-fire further confuse her, but when it comes time to go to her death, she draws herself up proudly, disdaining to condemn the guilty Enrico and Giovanna, so she can meet God with forgiveness in her heart, hoping for His in return. 

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Netrebko as Anna in Act I
© Beth Bergman 2012


Anna Bolena was the opera that secured an international reputation for Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), who had been active as a composer for more than a decade when his "tragedia lirica" about the doomed English queen had its first performance, at Milan's Teatro Carcano, on December 26, 1830. The music for Bolena uses some material from earlier Donizetti operas: the larghetto section of Anna's Act II mad scene, the most famous moment of the score, reworks an aria from Donizetti's Enrico di Borgogna (1818). 

Bolena's triumphant reception was inextricably connected to the artistry of Giuditta Pasta (1797–1865), the magnificent Italian soprano who created the opera's title role. A favorite singer of Rossini, whose Desdemona and Tancredi were two of her greatest successes, Pasta also created Amina in La Sonnambula and the title role in Norma for Bellini. Pasta's first Anna Bolena colleagues were equally distinguished. Filippo Galli (1783–1853), who sang Enrico VIII at the Anna Bolena premiere, was another Rossini favorite, as witness the bass's creation of Mustafà in L'Italiana in Algeri (1813), the title role of Maometto II (1820) and Assur in Semiramide (1823). Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794–1854), the most celebrated tenor of the Romantic era, was Donizetti's first Percy. Elisa Orlandi (1811–34), a nineteen-year-old coloratura mezzo-soprano of extraordinary gifts, created Giovanna Seymour. 

Although Barcelona's Liceu (1947) and Bergamo's Teatro Donizetti (1956) presented the first modern revivals of Anna Bolena, it was Luchino Visconti's 1957 La Scala production that reestablished Donizetti's opera in the repertory. Maria Callas, Visconti's brilliant star, revealed the musical and dramatic opportunities provided by the opera's central character, which is now regarded as one of her signature roles, although she sang the opera just a dozen times in two La Scala seasons.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Anna Bolena proved irresistible to a number of important sopranos, including Montserrat Caballé, Leyla Gencer, Joan Sutherland, Edita Gruberová and Beverly Sills, who sang Anna in Tito Capobianco's 1973 staging for New York City Opera. The Anna Bolena that NYCO mounted for Sills was conceived as part of a "Three Queens" trilogy of Donizetti operas, in which the soprano also sang Elizabeth I in the company premiere of Roberto Devereux (1970) and the title role in NYCO's first Maria Stuarda (1972).

In recent years, Anna Netrebko has established a strong association with Anna Bolena, beginning with her role debut, in April 2011, in the Eric Génovèse production (available on DVD from Deutsche Grammophon) that marked Bolena's Vienna State Opera premiere. Netrebko was Donizetti's Anna when the Metropolitan Opera presented the company premiere of Anna Bolena on September 26, 2011, in a new staging by David McVicar, conducted by Marco Armiliato. Ildar Abdrazakov (Enrico), Ekaterina Gubanova (Giovanna Seymour), Stephen Costello (Percy) and Tamara Mumford (Smeton) were Netrebko's costars at the Met. spacer 

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