GP at the Met: Anna Bolena
About the Opera

The Metropolitan Opera premiere of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, starring soprano Anna Netrebko in her highly anticipated first North American performances of the tour-de-force title role, will be the 2012 season opener of THIRTEEN’s Great Performances at the Met Friday, January 20 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).

Watch a preview:

The opera, a compelling dramatization of the tragic final days of Anne Boleyn—whose husband Henry VIII spurns her and has her sentenced to death—is directed by David McVicar and conducted by Marco Armiliato. The cast includes Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova as Anna’s romantic rival, Giovanna (Jane Seymour); Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov as the cruel Enrico (Henry VIII); American tenor Stephen Costello as Anna’s first love, Lord Percy; and American mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford as the queen’s devoted page Smeton.

Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. For more than 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local arts programming to the New York community.

The telecast was originally seen live in movie theaters on October 15 as part of the groundbreaking series, The Met: Live in HD, which transmits live performances to more than 1600 movie theaters and performing arts centers in 54 countries around the world.

Generally considered one of Donizetti’s finest operas, Anna Bolena is the first in a trilogy of works based on the lives of Tudor-era queens that David McVicar will direct at the Met over the next few seasons (the other two are Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux). McVicar, whose production of Il Trovatore aired on Great Performances at the Met in August, has created a historically detailed setting for the opera, which re-emerged as a musical and dramatic showpiece for extraordinary sopranos when Maria Callas starred in a famous 1957 La Scala revival of the work.

“Donizetti takes the bel canto form and explores every possible dramatic opportunity within it,” McVicar says. “The lynchpin of the story is Anna Bolena’s inability to provide Henry VIII with the male heir that he craves. And, of course, to be a wife of Henry VIII is to risk as much as you gain.”

She made her Met debut in 2002 as Natasha in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Since then, Netrebko has sung nine additional roles with the company, including Donizetti’s Norina in Don Pasquale and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. This spring, she will return to the Met as the hedonistic heroine of Massenet’s Manon in her second new production of the season, also to be broadcast on Great Performances at the Met.

Gubanova made her Met debut in a 2007 revival of War and Peace and starred as Giulietta opposite Netrebko’s Antonia in Bartlett Sher’s 2009 new production premiere of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. At the Met, Abdrazakov has starred in the title role in the company premiere of Verdi’s Attila, as Méphistophélès in both Gounod’s Faust and Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, and as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Rising young tenor Costello made his Met debut as Arturo, Lucia’s doomed husband, in the new production of Lucia di Lammermoor that opened the 2007-08 season. He sang the role of Percy at the Dallas Opera in the 2010-11 season.

The design team for Anna Bolena includes two artists making their Met debuts. Scenic designer Robert Jones collaborated with McVicar on the acclaimed 2005 Glyndebourne production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and has designed numerous plays and musicals, including the Broadway productions of Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and the 2002 revival of Noises Off. Olivier Award-winning costume designer Jenny Tiramani, a leading authority on historical costuming, has designed for numerous theater productions and spent eight years as Head of Design at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Paule Constable, whose Met credits include the company premiere of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha and this season’s new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is the lighting designer for Anna Bolena. Her numerous honors include a 2011 Tony Award for her work on Broadway’s War Horse.

This production of Anna Bolena was made possible by a generous gift from Mercedes and Sid R. Bass.

Renée Fleming, who will star in Handel’s Rodelinda later this year on Great Performances at the Met, hosts. Gary Halvorson directs the telecast.

Great Performances is funded by Vivian Milstein, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, and Annaliese Soros. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®.

For the Met, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.

  • Jari

    Fantastic performances by Ms. Netrebko & Ekaterina Gubanova. My 11 year old was enthralled the entire time. Bravisima!

  • Pat Hardigree

    A gorgeous opera and performances.

  • Judy Rosenblith

    The entire cast is fantastic, but it is hard to see how Nebtrenko can sustain such beauty of tone through such a long and taxing opera. Brava.

  • Wendy Beardall

    It is 2:00 a.m. on Jan. 21st and I just turned off the TV after an amazing performance of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. It was breathtaking and I can only imagine what it would be like to be at the Met and see and hear it in person. Superb performances by all of the cast and a land-mark performance by Anna Netrebko. Thank you, PBS!

  • Robert L. Weaver

    Musically superb. Costuming was convincing despite a Dutch style imposed by the Holbein models. Most remarkable was the ability of Netrebko to sustain the drama in the third part despite the longest death scene I know of in opera! The weakest element in my opinion was the staging. In a production that was so meticulously historical in costuming, the stage setting lacked architectural style. The door to the council room looked very much like an automatic garage door when it was closed.

  • Jon Varga

    Although “Anna Bolena” has never been one of my favorite operas, it is a great work and the entire cast of this latest MET production made it well worth watching. Gubanova and Abdrazakov were flawless. Steven Costello’s performance was extremely appealing.
    Anna Netrebko executed (no pun intended) her demanding role superbly and with unrelenting bravura. She is a rare jewel on the operatic stage and her performances never fail to completely mesmerize me.
    The only negative aspect of this opera was the production itself. The costumes were somewhat drab – although authentic and meticulously rendered. The unimaginative sets were annoyingly dark, gloomy, and somber (perhaps a reflection of Anne Boleyn’s soul?). I kept expecting the cast to use flashlights so they could see their way around the stage.

  • Janet Lynch

    I really enjoyed the Met’s production of this opera with which I was not previously familiar. I too wish there was a bit more color in the costumes (sometimes the chorus looked a bit like a group of nuns at first glance) but I really appreciate the attention to period detail and reference to Holbein’s paintings for costume design. Most of all however I thoroughly enjoyed all the outstanding performances- Netrebko, Gubanova, Abdrazakov, Costello, Mumford, the guy who played Rochefort, and really everyone in the cast, as well as the orchestra. Filled with pathos- they really made you feel for the characters, and of course the singing was briliant. My only real complaint is with my local station which didn’t air the broadcast until 10 pm, meaning that you had to stay up until past 1 AM to see the whole broadcast, and I sincerely hope that they will re-air the broadcast at a more civilised time so more people can have the chance to see this fantastic production.

  • Kate

    It was late and I flipped channels then came across two women singing about loving a man. One was professing her love then saying its her fault once the other lady sang it was wrong. Nonetheless , it was amazing and the lady with a hair decoration wrapped around her head is truly one of a kind singer. Such great emotion and mesmerizing pitch. Truly heavenly sound.

  • Christine

    I have U-verse and though I set my DVR to tape the show, I ended up with a “Check Please” episode to start and did not see the end of the opera. Is there somewhere I can view it?

  • C Martineau

    One of the best performance I ever seen
    if not the best . Netrebko … is an enchantment
    and all singers were above all. Not to mention
    the costumes, the stage “eclairage” . A memorable
    evening. Thanks to all also for the sub-titles.

  • Jim Newsom

    Was not really an opera fan but I am a musician. When I saw this I was amazed at these performances. The facial expressions of the cast and the great music drew me in and I was enthralled by the whole performance. I really enjoyed this production. I’ve discussed with several of my friends. I also have some friends who perform here locally so it looks like I need to go listen soon. Thanks for making this great opera available to the public. Keep up the great work!

  • Fan

    Will this production be available in its entirety at in the future?

  • david ernst

    Dear Fan,

    The full operas from GP @ The Met are not available on The Metropolitan Opera owns the rights to the operas and if you’re interested in online broadcasts of the entire operas we encourage you to visit

    We hope you find this information helpful. Thank you for your question.

  • Crystal

    Unfortunately i missed this, and i really do wish to see it. Will it air again?

  • david ernst

    Hi Crystal,

    It’s up to your local station when to air a repeat. Please check the PBS Schedule Widget link below to see if it is airing in your local market.

    Just remember that the schedule only sees two weeks into the future!

    Thanks for your question and we hope you stay tuned for more Great Performances at the Met!

  • Lori Lee

    I have never been overly interested in Opera but when I tuned in I couldn’t turn away. Awesome, it was Awesome!

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.