As I have said quite a number of times in the past, I am a big opera enthusiast. Anna Bolenna is a Bel Canto masterpiece, and I really liked this production of it. I do think the Sutherland production is better, having a stronger Enrico and while past prime Sutherland is for me the quintessential Bel Canto colouratura soprano.
When it comes to talking about this production visually, it does look beautiful, complete with luscious costuming and colourful settings. Some may find some parts inaccurate to the Tudor period, here for example the women show off their hair, something that strictly speaking they weren't allowed to do then.
The story and characters of the opera are compelling, while the music is typical Donizetti, both fun and gorgeous. As you would expect from opera productions, it is a musical feast with vibrant orchestral playing and lively conducting.
Anna Bolenna's performances are also excellent, though I have to say I was more impressed by the ladies than the men. Anna Netrebko is not what I consider a true colouratura soprano, but she does sing beautifully and her acting is suitably more sincere than the other Bel Canto productions where she's all bright and bubbly. Elina Garanca and Elisabeth Kulman are even better, Garanca with a strong mezzo register and a ringing top- her duet with Netrebko is the highlight of the performance- and Kulman assuming the trouser role with panache, wonderful Bel Canto style and vivid acting.
That is not to say the men aren't good, just not as good. Francessco Melli has several wonderful moments and shows a beautiful singing voice and decent technique and style, but there are some scenes that show some tentativeness and in need of more confidence. Ildebrando D'Archangelo has a great lyrical bass baritone voice, and he sings musically. Against all this, he needed more regality and power in his interpretation and his vocals lacked punch.
Overall, enjoyable but could have been even better. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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