This opera was Donizetti's first success in 1830 after he had composed already thirty operas. It took the Vienna State Opera until April 2011 to premiere this opera in their house. The wait was worthwhile.
Three world-class stars dazzle the public with their artistry. Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena [Anne de Boleyn] plays the tragic second queen of Henry VIII. Her singing and acting give witness to her reputation. Unforgettable is the final scene -- her young daughter, the future Elizabeth I, arrives on stage -- when Anna, now very confused, dies before the execution.
The queen's rival Giovanna Seymour [Jane Seymour] is Elina Garanca. Her voice and acting are flawless; her stage presence is powerful.
Henry VIII is personified by Ildebrando d'Arcangelo who with his stentorian voice is giving the public a scheming, arrogant, and vicious king.
This trinity of singers with their superb voices and acting, give the performance an unprecedented top place in opera DVDs.
No money was spared on the period costumes for the main actors and the members of the chorus. The stage settings seemed to be the interiors of a windowless palace and the spacious prison cell in the Tower of London. All rooms have vertical doors that move up and slide down at ominous speeds. The stage director and set designer use just a few props: a straight-backed armchair, one divan-bed, one chair for a child. This bleakness and sparsity heighten the drama.
The supplied booklet provides the Synopsis and the sequence of acts and scenes of the opera, and a short essay about the opera's past and its present-day singers.
If you like this opera and are intrigued about Henry and his wives, you should also look at the Saint-Saens opera Henry VIII, also a fine production. In this opera Henry is getting rid of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and replaces her with Anne de Boleyn.