It is difficult to have great sympathy for Anna Bolena – as she herself admits in Donizetti’s operatic take on Henry VIII’s second wife. But in this opera it is also difficult to feel anything for her replacement Giovanna (Jane) Seymour – and she too knows it!
Their only saving grace, apart from seeing their own faults, is that the representation of the Tudor king is completely revolting – quiet what either saw in him apart from the title of course is a mystery and yet both gush forth their love.
Quite why Welsh National Opera has not performed this fabulous work, which in my view dramatically outshines both Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux and Maria Stuarda, is beyond me as the story is far more gripping, the two sopranos’ duets outstanding and make for a rousing evening of music theatre.
It makes massive demands of the singers but at bold Longborough they are no stranger to ambition and our principals deliver. Jenny Miller has created a generally clean, crisp production with a simple set from Nate Gibson.
Lukas Jakobski and Caryl Hughes
Linda Richardson sings the regally demanding title role with some sparkling moments and, yes, does get our sympathy as she heads for the swordsman’s slice. The mad scene is goosebumps-creating.
In the vocally but not dramatically lighter role, Welsh soprano Caryl Hughes is completely engaging as Giovanna Seymour and she too has gripping ,intense scenes both with the woman she is to replace and the man who switches his affections (and lust) from doomed Anna.
There is real passion in the tenor of Jung Soo Yun as Percy and real strength to Lukas Jakobski’s pretty loathsome Henry, a literally towering figure in the quasi Tudor setting (with a backdrop that resembled a Renaissance Vaulted ceiling) although costumes were more evening wear (and the in on and off masks became a little tiring).
Our other doomed souls were excellently taken by Carolyn Dobbin and Mathew Buswell as Smeaton and Rochefort.
Conductor Jeremy Silver brought out the colour and richness of Donizetti’s score.
Images: Matthew Williams-Ellis