Anna Bolena, though a relatively early piece (1830), is one of the grandest and most substantial of Donizetti's operas. All the circumstances of its creation were favourable. The composer had just freed himself from an irksome Neapolitan contract which required four new operas a year. He was put on his mettle by the need to justify himself to the Milanese public (for his previous Milan commission, Chiara e Serafina eight years before, had been a failure). Above all, he had collaborators to inspire the best in him: the librettist Felice Romani, the soprano Giuditta Pasta, the tenor Rubini. A group of Milanese nobleman and merchants engaged them all, and Bellini too, to give a season in rivalry with La Scala. Anna Bolena and La sonnambulaRead more were the result. And Anna Bolena has been a key work in the Donizetti 'rediscovery' of our day. The first modern revival was in the composer's native Bergamo in 1956, and the most important, Visconti's production at La Scala the following year, with Callas as its heroine. Since then the opera has been performed in many places, Wexford, Glyndebourne, Dusseldorf and Ankara among them, and been often broadcast.
When artists such as those concerned in the creation of Anna Bolena are assembled, then, Romani wrote, "the poet can throw away the pale melodramatic rubbish known as 'librettos' and soar to the heights of lyric tragedy; the composer can leave in his desk his worn-out stock of routine phrases and eternal cabalettas, and rise to dramatic truth and the music,of passion". Edward Dent, whe; admired Anna Bolena, once declared that "the grandeur and genuine passion . . . lies not in the arias, but in the force and rapidity of the dialogue". There is a good deal of dialogue in the opera, and none of it carelessly or conventionally written. The recitative is so dramatic, so richly wrought, that often we slip into a formal 'number' without having noticed it; and between the set sections of each number there is again, more often than not, impassioned dialogue. Formally the second scene, for example, is a tenor cavatina followed by a quintet; in effect it seems to be a continuous piece of drama. Anna Bolena is a fine example of Donizetti's move away from the stereotyped structures of opera seria towards a more flexible romantic music-drama. It is a much more 'advanced' kind of piece than, say, Verdi's Ernani.
A good deal about this first recording of the work is excellently achieved. Silvio Varviso proves a fine conductor. The passion, the pathos, the 'atmosphere' of the orchestral writing is completely realized; the Vienna orchestra plays very well (and is admirably recorded). He gives to the score its full stature (and only one tempo prompts a mild query, a slightly fast moderato for the tenor's first cabaletta; Donizetti reverses the usual order of things here: the first section of the aria is allegro, the second moderato). Donizetti's music, and Varviso's performance, are `graphic'; often. one can sense the shadows that fill the stage. The chorus is important in this work. As the curtain goes up they comment, sotto voce, on the uneasy situation while a long winding theme, in major and minor, steals from the orchestra—this is beautifully handled. So are the three elegiac choruses— for women, men and women—lamenting the queen's fate, which punctuate and define the formal shape of Act 2.
Of the taxing title-role—Anne Boleyn appears in each of the opera's six scenes— Elena Suliotis gives an uneven account. This young Greek soprano has feeling, both for the fiery outbursts and for the delicate, tender music. There is resin in the voice (often the timbre is strangely kin to that of Callas).
– Gramophone [11/1970], review of original LP release Read less
Works on This Recording
Anna Bolenaby Gaetano Donizetti Performer:
John Alexander (Tenor),
Elena Suliotis (Soprano),
Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano),
Nicolai Ghiaurov (Bass),
Janet Coster (Mezzo Soprano),
Stafford Dean (Bass),
Piero de Palma (Tenor)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1830; Italy
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
An excellent Anna BolenauJanuary 29, 2014By John S. (Castlemaine, Victoria)See All My Reviews"Elena Souliotis was a vocal phenomenon. She was also in many ways a meteor, as only 26 when this recording was made her best years as a great opera singer were over. Maria Callas named her as her successor. The very sound of her distinctive voice recalled Callas as did her courage as a performer, as well as her powerful lower register and the much criticised vocal gear changes. Any assessment of the recording of this recording is going to initially focus on her. Her Anna is a wonderfully rounded performance, the voice limpid in the upper register beautifully suggesting Anna's vulnerability, and formidable in attack. In 1970 it was still under her control. Her scenes with Marilyn Horn, the wonderful Jane Seymour, are memorable. Nicolai Chiaurov, to my mind is simply the best Enrico ever recorded. Here his voice is at it's pristine best. Never a singer to accentuate his singing with "added performance" he was primarily " a singer" who allowed his massive voice and the music to give us the performance alone. He is a coldly formidable and beautifully sung king. John Alexander is a masculine energetic Percy who copes well with the high tessitura of his role. A fine recording."Report Abuse