It’s a new season for the met, and for their series of cinematic broadcasts, and apparently it’s the first time they’re broadcasting in Italy(!) as well as Russia, as they were sure to emphasize, with three of the lead singers in Anna Bolena being Russian, and also because Anna Netrebko as the lead requested she be interviewed before the show so she could focus completely on her performance afterwards. She and Ildar Abdrazakov as Henry certainly sang with a Russian intensity. Not that this stopped them from goofing off behind host Renee Fleming during intermission when she was giving the normal “Come to the Met! Give us money!” speech at the entrance to a lounge they were relaxing in.
Netrebko also talked of researching the real Anne Boleyn, and Abdrazakov of portraying the real Henry, since the character in the opera isn’t too different from the real king, and he does. It seems unlikely, of course, that the real Anne Boleyn was secretly married to anyone before Henry or that she went mad opera-style in the Tower of London right before being beheaded, so while she can keep what she reads in mind she has to work with the character Gaetano Donizetti creates(they do like their mad scenes, those 19th century composers), and that she does justice to. Unfortunately the third Russian, Ekaterina Gubanova, didn’t have the ability to really pull off a Jane Seymour who probably worked better in Donizetti’s head than in his actual composition, and didn’t seem in her interview to have any depth to work with(though she also didn’t have as strong English as the other two). Tamara Mumford and Stephen Costello as Anne’s two admirers(Fleming got a laugh when she commented everyone in the opera is in love with Anne except Henry!) were a bit stronger, as was Keith Miller as Anne’s brother, though as Donizetti didn’t care to have him in love with Anne too he’s given less to do.
The opera itself wasn’t anything special; when it takes 35 operas until a guy has a hit, and it finally happens with a sensationalist historical story as subject, it’s hard to think of him as any sort of genius. The Met’s production wasn’t anything special either, though they did do well with the costumes, for which they hired a period expert to make sure they were accurate, to the point that the singers commented about how restrictive they were.
Anna Netrebko is apparently getting showcased at the Met this season; she’ll be starring in Manon coming up. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to that.