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Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Opera in two acts
Libretto: Felice Romani
Sung in the original Italian, with Polish surtitles
World premiere: Milan, Teatro Carcano, 26 December 1830
Polish premiere: Kraków, 1840
Premiere at the Krakow Opera: 25 May 2018
The show has been produced in collaboration with the Grand Theatre in Łódź
Music director: Tomasz Tokarczyk
Director: Magdalena Łazarkiewicz
Set designer: Paweł Dobrzycki
Costume designer: Maria Balcerek
Choir master: Jacek Mentel
Lighting and multimedia designer: Piotr Lenar
Music director’s assistants: Paweł Szczepański, Mieczysław Unger
Director’s assistant: Dagmar Bilińska-Korban
Chorus master’s assistant: Joanna Wójtowicz
Stage managers: Agnieszka Sztencel, Justyna Jarocka-Lejzak
Prompters: Dorota Sawka, Maria Mitkowska
Soloists’ coaches: Kristina Kutnik, Katarzyna Starzycka, Olga Tsymbaluk, Joachim Kołpanowicz
Chorus accompanist: Wioletta Fluda
Surtitles translated by Dorota Sawka
SOLOISTS, CHOIR and KRAKOW OPERA ORCHESTRA
This is a story of English queen, the second wife of Henry VIII, who will be beheaded as a result of the next romance of the king. The opera portrays the protagonist in the period when she is devoid of mercy. The story revolves around court intrigues, supposed to prove the titular character’s alleged betrayal, which is an excuse to sentence her. The great and well-written libretto allowed Donizetti to develop his talent in composing attractive arias, duets and ensemble scenes up to the great, final scene of the character's madness.
The opera requires artistry from the titular character – in the premiere, which took place in 1830 in the Teatro Carcano in Milan, the legendary Giuditta Pasta performed with success, and the piece immediately brought fame to the composer. Other prominent performers were Maria Callas, Monserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, Anna Netrebko, and Joanna Woś.
...Karina Skrzeszewska is truly regal in the role, and Karolina Sikora balances her well as Seymour ...; she's particularly great in the duet with Anna. Volodymyr Pankiv as Henry makes a strong impression thanks to his height and bass ...Olga Maroszek, who sang the role of the unfortunate musician Smeton also in the Łódz staging, has grown a lot since then.
Dorota Szwarcman, blog on the “Polityka” website, 6 June 2018
...One should appreciate the great care taken to develop the psychological character of the drama's heroes. (...) “Anna Bolena” ...is a typical opera of the bel canto era, giving the soloists plenty of room to showcase their vocal skills; that's an important strength of the Krakow staging. Both Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha (Anna Bolena) and Monika Korybalska (Giovanna Seymour) made full use of that in creating roles to remember. Oleś-Blacha presents Queen Anna with a full palette of dramatic expression, drawn with subtlety and no unnecessary embellishments, allowing her to build a tragic and poignant figure. As always, her liberty in delivering the phrase, approaching the highest registers, and her mastery of dynamics and expression are admirable. The final scene of madness was a real masterpiece. Monika Korybalska proved to be a worthy partner ...endowed with a splendid mezzo soprano of an interesting colour and natural freedom of emission. She also imbued her role with a fullness of emotion and fully developed expression, using a vast scale of feelings. …Their performance of the great duet “Dio che mi vedi in core” was a true vocal duel, and both came out victorious. (...) At the conductor's lectern, Tomasz Tokarczyk was a very precise leader, especially when conducting ensemble and group scenes. The orchestra under his direction had great energy and understanding of how Donizetti’s music should be performed. Under his dynamic baton, the music carried the proper amount of drama, a full range of emotion, an earnestness of feeling, and a well-presented clarity of rhythm and of the bel canto melody line. In order to form a full picture of the premiere, one should also include the choir with its impressive direction, vocal discipline, and homogenous sound.
Adam Czopek, “Maestro” website, 28 May 2018
...The entirety of “Bolena” is fascinating, and in this staging it's well worth both listening and watching. …The sparing direction of Magdalena Łazarkiewicz puts focus on personal dramas of the protagonists and is well accompanied by Paweł Dobrzycki's designs. (...) Tomasz Tokarczyk directed the music and conducted the performance with a dramatic verve and with much attention paid to the nuances of Donizetti's score. He worked very well with both the soloists and the beautifully sounding choir (as directed by Jacek Mentel).
...The title part was created by Karina Skrzeszewska. This is no overstatement. It was indeed a real act of creation, musically flawless, and dramatically impeccable. Karina Skrzeszewska's Anna was real, she commanded both a queen's majesty and the despair of a woman who's failed by her plans and hopes, and is betrayed by everyone she loved, sometimes against their own will. …This role is bound to make a mark on the Krakow opera scene. …It gave me great pleasure to listen to Olga Maroszek as Smeton, to Jarosław Bielecki as the unfeeling executor of Henry’s commands, and to Jerzy Wójcik as Anna's luckless brother who played a big part in her fall.
Anna Woźniakowska, “Polska Muza” website, 27 May 2018
A hall in the Windsor Palace. The courtiers comment on the love of the king and Giovanna Seymour. Giovanna herself has a guilty conscience, for the queen is unaware that Giovanna had become her rival. Anna is tormented by bad feelings, but she suspects nothing. To chase the sadness away, she asks Smeton the page for a song whose words remind Anna of her old love (the aria “Come innocente giovane”). She renounced her love for the King and she naively warns Giovanna that she should never succumb to the allure of power. Giovanna knows she behaves like a traitor. The King tries to comfort her, assuring her of his love, but Giovanna wants to have his assurances confirmed by a wedding. Enrico is initially outraged at her demand, but he finally promises to get rid of his wife, even if that means slandering her.
The park around Windsor Castle. Rochefort greets Percy, who returns from exile at the King’s summon. Riccardo Percy does not hide the fact that he still loves Anna (“Da quel di che, lei perduta”). Rochefort advises him to be cautious, especially since the royal retinue is coming. Enrico welcomes Percy warmly, while Anna tries to hide her feelings. The King orders Hervey to follow the queen’s former paramour, as he wants to obtain proof of her infidelity.
Outside the Queen’s apartments in Windsor. Smeton, the Queen’s page, has decided to return the medallion that he had secretly stolen from the Queen. He kisses her image one last time, as if saying his goodbyes to a lover, and then he hides at the sound of footsteps coming. It is Rochefort, coming to ask his sister to see Percy; Anna refuses at first, but succumbs eventually. She does remind Percy, however, that she is now a wife and the Queen. He begs her for reciprocity, and when Anna continues to resist, he takes out his weapon and attempts to kill himself. Smeton comes out of hiding to defend the Queen and this is the embarrassing situation in which the King finds his wife. The page assures him that he is innocent, but Enrico finds the medallion on him, and deems it to be proof of betrayal. He will not be the one to judge Anna’s guilt – it is up to the court. Giovanna, Rochefort, Percy, and Smeton feel that her death is a foregone conclusion; Anna also feels she cannot escape doom.
The Queen’s chambers at the Tower. Anna’s ladies-in-waiting try to cheer her up, but Harvey orders them to attend an interrogation. Giovanna begs Anna to plead guilty and thus save her life, while allowing the King to instate the woman he loves on the throne. Anna asks about the name of her rival, and Giovanna eventually admits it is her. The Queen tells her to leave, but she does forgive her.
Outside the royal council hall. Hervey announces to courtiers that Smeton pleaded guilty. He knows that this has sealed Anna’s fate. Anna begs the King to let her avoid the court, and Percy defends her, accusing the King of taking away his beloved, the woman who was betrothed to him. Anna prefers death to disgrace, and so admits that she loved Percy, who, in turn, reveals that they were married. Enrico, though shaken by this fact, knows that this means there are no more obstacles to his marrying Giovanna and making her queen. She begs him to spare Anna’s life, but the King refuses to listen. The council announces the verdict: Anna and her supporters are to be put to death.
A prison cell at the Tower. Hervey announces to Percy and Rochefort that the King has pardoned them, but when they both learn that Anna is to be executed, they choose to die with her. The ladies-in-waiting came to say goodbye to the Queen. Anna, driven mad, remembers old times and her youthful love (the aria “Al dolce guidami”), says goodbye to her brother, Percy, and Smeton. The page knows that it was his admission that caused his beloved Queen to be sentenced to death. The sound of bells announces the marriage of Giovanna to the King. Anna forgives everyone and is ready for death (“Coppia iniqua”).
Jacek Marczyński, Przewodnik operowy, Świat Książki, 2011