In the last forty years Donizetti's Anna Bolena has moved quietly from obscurity to rarity and finally to the repertory.
Sul guanciale del regio letto ...
Upon the pillow of her royal bed may there lie dread and suspicion ...
And arise between her and her guilty husband, my threatening ghost .
As in film noir there is no way out, around or through the dilemma that closes in inexorably. This is sung midway through the drama. Everyone knows how all of this is going to end. The operas power rises from the human struggle in the face of the inevitable. Anna, Jane Seymour, Lord Percy, Smeaton (a trousers role) sing of love, hope and happiness against the backdrop of a darkening sky and the axe :
... E la scure a me concessa,
And the axe that is accorded me,may the King more cruel deny her .
Of the three works now popularly know as the Queen Operas, Anna Bolena offers some of Donizetti's most exquisite arias, duets and ensembles. Callas at mid century revived it, Sills and Verrett in the seventies finally and irrefutably made its case and now the Met proves its' staying power. Tune in this Saturday at 11:00 am for Donizetti's Anna Bolena,here on KPAC and KTXI.
by Ron Moore