Anna Bolena

The Metropolitan Opera staged its first-ever production of Donizetti’s 1830 opera with Anna Netrebko in the role of Anne Boleyn.

The Metropolitan Opera

New York

(212) 362-6000

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up


“To make a case for this great, overlooked opera, a company must have a stellar soprano” as its Anne Boleyn, said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. So it’s no surprise that the Met banked on Anna Netrebko in its first-ever production of Gaetano Donizetti’s 1830 opera; for five years, general manager Peter Gelb has been angling to make her the Met’s prima donna. After her opening performance, “he must have felt that the plan was working.” Looking “regal and splendid” as the doomed second wife of Henry VIII, the Russian soprano was in top form. She possesses a sound that’s “meltingly rich yet focused, with resplendent colorings.” Her middle range wavered slightly in pitch, but no matter: Hers is “a major voice” in the opera world.

The Met’s staging faltered far more often, said Zachary Woolfe in The New York Observer. Director David McVicar clearly takes this opera very seriously, but his attempts at period authenticity mostly just clutter the scenes with secondary figures, and his production ends in an anticlimax. McVicar may have wanted to create a sense of foreboding in the final scene by giving over the stage to a lone executioner, but “to end Bolena without Boleyn demonstrates an odd lapse in understanding of the opera’s dynamics, and those of opera in general.”

Sadly, Netrebko herself seems not to have fully understood this opera, said Heidi Waleson in The Wall Street Journal. Donizetti’s Boleyn is supposed to be the victim, seesawing between delusion, despair, and “queenly defiance.” Netrebko “did the defiance part well, and when the role called for power, insistence, conflict, and culminating high notes, there were thrilling moments.” By contrast, her charisma and voice sagged during Boleyn’s more vulnerable moments—a significant problem, because “if we don’t pity Anne, there’s no show.” The opera is a spectacular showcase for Netrebko’s vocal prowess. But “she hasn’t quite captured the soul of Donizetti’s beleaguered queen.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.