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).
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.