Deutsche Oper Berlin

Anna Bolena


Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin

Gaetano Donizetti


In Italian with German and English subtitles

Donizetti tells the tragic fate of Henry VIII's unhappy second wife, who ends up under the executioner's axe, with unadorned clarity. And especially in the drawing of the title character, he succeeds in placing virtuoso vocal technique entirely at the service of highly romantic emotional expression 

About the work
The world premiere of ANNA BOLENA in 1830 was a seminal moment in Italian opera. The work placed the 33-year-old Gaetano Donizetti on a par with Rossini and asserted a new and more expressive style alongside the latter’s vocal brilliance. As their material Donizetti and Felice Romani, the best-known librettist of the age, chose one of most tragic, albeit gripping, stories in the history of Britain: the trial for alleged adultery of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, proceedings that were designed to provide Henry with his second divorce and which ended in Anne’s execution. On the one hand, Donizetti and Romani were responding to increasing public demand for “authentic” storylines that had really happened; on the other hand, they were following a fad, triggered by the novels of Walter Scott, for seeing England and Scotland as a cradle of tragic and blood-thirsty drama. It was a path that Donizetti was also to tread in his later works MARIA STUARDA and ROBERTO DEVEREUX, which have joined ANNA BOLENA to form a Tudor trilogy. Since the revival of the piece in the 1950s/60s, it has given Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé, Leyla Gencer and Edita Gruberová an opportunity to expand the art of dramatic bel canto. ANNA BOLENA calls not only for a charismatic heroine; the cast of characters is bulging with roles – from the unscrupulous king and his new paramour Giovanna Seymour to Anna’s confidant and alleged lover, Percy, – that combine exquisite voices, technical virtuosity and heightened powers of expression.

About the production
For the last three decades New Yorker David Alden has been establishing himself internationally as one of the most successful directors in the musical-theatre genre. Over recent years the Deutsche Oper Berlin has seen him bring his talent to the staging of Britten’s PETER GRIMES and BILLY BUDD and to a particularly triumphant run with Meyerbeer’s LES HUGUENOTS. Alden’s approach to ANNA BOLENA is informed by the same balance of tragedy and wry humour that formed his attitude towards the period operas of the 19th century. The costumes are true to their time, but Alden toys brilliantly with time periods, incorporating stylistic elements reminiscent of Thatcher’s Britain and poking fun at certain British foibles. Our heroine’s tragedy, rendered simply and shatteringly right up to the gory ending, remains at the core of the work.


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Deutsche Oper Berlin

Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin-Charlottenburg

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