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Donizetti: Anna Bolena [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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With her sensational role debut at the Vienna State Opera, superstar diva Anna Netrebko diplays a performance of rare vocal and dramatic power. The Russian soprano sings the role of the unjustly accused second wife of British King Henry VIII, ‘veering between indignant fury and tender righteousness’ and demonstrating a new level of confidence in her technique with excellent ‘passagework, particularly in trills, and seamless runs even to the lowest notes’ (Opera News).
The performance also stars DG mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, in ‘a fantastic display of bel canto’ (Opera News) as Anna's rival Giovanna Seymour. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo brings his beautifully dark tone to the role of Enrico and young Italian tenor Francesco Meli sings the demanding role of Lord Percy with a ‘youthful virility’ (Agence France Press), promising great things for the future. On the podium Evelino Pidò 'drew playing of unusual precision and refinement...making every note matter' (Financial Times).
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So how have the performers risen to this challenge? In my opinion the whole enterprise is very fine indeed.
Anna Netrebko in the title role gives a performance of real dramatic bite ranging from the reflective and forgiving to the passionate and fiery. She is totally on top of the considerable musical demands of the part. Her voice has also acquired an interesting greater richness and depth of tone and this is one of her finest performances to date.
Elina Garanca is well able to match Netrebko musically and delivers bel canto singing of great accuracy. This is well up to the exalted levels we have come to expect of this artist. The scena and duetto in Act 2 featuring these two fine singers is a high point of intensity creating real sparks of temperament. However the part of Seymour as one would expect does not carry the same dramatic or musical weight as the title role so the limelight rightly remains on Netrebko.
Ildebrando as Henry VIII is in good fine voice too with plenty of regal sonority to his voice and convincing acting. His confidence in the kingly role reminds one of his authoritive Escamillo role in the Royal Opera's production of Carmen.
The roles of Seaton, Percy and Rochefort are all capably sung and acted whilst not being a serious challenge to the three main stars of the opera. The chorus is effective in a rather static production - although, to be fair, this is also the way they were cast by Donizetti - rather like commentators on the unfolding events. Little room for action therefore.
The production values focus attention on the singing with little action to distract the attention. This would be unsatisfactory if the three main roles were not acted or sung so well. The costumes have caused some negative comments concerning Tudor period but I did not find this to be an issue that bothered me!
The recording is crystal clear as regards both visuals and surround sound and I found the camera work to be sympathetic to both the singers and the opera itself.
I would suggest that this recording warrants the full 5 stars and provides a phenomenal role that seems to suit Netrebko perfectly.
In summary therefore, I would suggest that this disc warrants very serious consideration from anyone interested in purchasing a good, modern recording of this relatively rare work which offers both fine performance and production credentials.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
Just found your review which is useful as ever. One of my favourites Luca Pisaroni is singing in this at the moment in Japan so that led me to look it up and then led to a YouTube piece of Netrebko and Garanca which was beautiful-hence here and yet another opera to add to my collection. Hope all is well with you.
Anna Netrebko plays beautiful Anna Bolena with a passion that is truly regal. This is a great contrast to the flirtatious country girl in L' Elisir d' Amour, but she is joined again by Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as King Henry V111. Here his humorous capabilities as the Doctor are also put aside, for a very serious and strong portrayal of a menacing monarch who allegedly stopped at nothing in his desire for a male heir. Anna Netrebko and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo show their brilliant versatility also in Le Nozze Di Figaro by Mozart, in a video directed also by Brian Large.
Elina Garanca is wonderful, giving an equally dramatic and beautifully spell binding performance as Giovanna Seymour. A Lady in waiting, Giovanna is the object of Enrico V111's affections and soon to replace Anna as Queen.
The Libretto by Felice Romani takes artistic licence with History, but the stress of her imminent execution induces a sense of unreality as Anna tries to comfort her young daughter Elizabeth, just as Lucia di Lammermoor is driven to madness. There is much confrontation and reverie throughout, but Anna begins the finale with the beautiful arias Piangete voi? and Al dolce guidami castrei natio, with the Chorus.
The young Minstrel Smeaton is played excellently by Elizabeth Kulman, with Dan Paul Dumitrescu as Lord Rochefort, Francesco Meli as Lord Riccardo Percy, and Peter Jelosits as Sir Harvey.
The supreme Chor, Orchester und Buhnenorchester der Wiener Staatsoper is conducted by Evelino Pido. The sumptuous 16th Century period costumes are designed by Luisa Spinatelli.
Intense drama and scintillating music demanding the pinnacle of vocal prowess, all captured on Blu-ray. What more is there to say?
Anna Netrebko is brilliant in the title role but for me the top prize goes to Elina Garanca as Jane Seymour with a peerless vocal display (and good acting). The supporting cast are strong too.
PS I can also strongly recommend these two singing together in Bellini. Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
The orchestra under Evelino Pido perform superbly. The video direction by Brian Large is, as usual, exemplary, without wasted camera shots or close-ups which would destroy the atmosphere. There are of course close-ups but always well judged.
A must buy for opera lovers.
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Netrebko lit up the stage and Garanca is the perfect mezzo.Read more
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