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This is a remarkably fine performance of Donizetti's first major success - his 31st opera. By that stage he had really learnt his craft and knew precisely how to sustain musical interest and tension. In this opera he has also got the advantage of an inherently dramatic moment in history as envisioned by a good librettist.

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.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

Hello Ian
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.
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on 5 July 2014
Donizetti composed Opera full of light humour and beautiful love songs such as L' Elisir d'Amour, and other works such as Lucia di Lammermoor full of desperation and ending in tragedy. I recently attended the Metropolitan Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor at Teatro alla Scala, Milan. Anna Netrebko was unfortunately touring in concert but the production was the same, and I have the DVD. The Anna Bolena Opera was Donizetti's 31st completed in 1830, and amazingly, the first to be really successful during his lifetime.
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?
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I don't mind admitting that I didn't know this work but my daughter bought it for me this Xmas and I'm very glad she did. I'll need to listen to it a few more times to get a proper understanding of it but this is a great live performance with some wonderful singing.

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.

Buy it!

PS I can also strongly recommend these two singing together in Bellini. Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
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on 11 June 2014
I can only endorse the superlatives given by the other reviewers. The sets and staging appear fairly discrete but very effective. This is in no small part due to the performers. Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca are brilliant in singing and acting. The same is true of ldebrando D'Arcangelo as Henry 8th. All three look the parts which is a great bonus.
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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Great singing from Anna Netrebko & Elina Garanca. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo too gave a fine performance as Henry Reminding us at times that Henry was a fine athlete in his younger days.He struggled with some of his lower notes, but his upper register shone.Francesco Meli I have never liked. His top notes were feeble & he lacked power during Orchestral tutti's. A sign of the times I suppose as far as tenors are concerned, some notable tenors excepted.I am prepared to put up with Meli to hear such fine singing from the soprano & mezzo. History tells us that Anna was a notable beauty & Netrebko did us proud in that respect as did the lovely Garanca as Jane Seymour.. A splendid performance of a great opera
Charles Webb Pontypool Wales.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 December 2011
I guess that more than 50% of the people looking at buying this copy of Anna Bolena are here because they are fans of Anna Netrebko and/or El'na Garan'a and not because of their love of Donizetti's opera. IMHO the roles of Enrico and Lord Percy are incidental to what is really a battle between soprano and mezzo-soprano.

If you are hesitating about buying it because you are not sure if you will like the opera or even if you like the opera and are going to order it, I would suggest you all do one thing and that is order the mp3 download of the 1957 Live La Scala recording with Maria Callas Donizetti: Anna Bolena for only £1.58 for the complete opera. Firstly it is a cheap way to see if you like the opera and secondly it will give you something to judge this performance against.

The blu-ray disc is very good both visually and sound quality. I cannot fault the engineering of this disc.

The role of Anna Bolena is brought to life by the superb singing of Anna Netrebko. She has put on some weight recently but this is not necessarily a bad thing as she sounds better with this extra weight. Her voice seems fuller, more lustrous and with greater depth and focus. I have most of her DVD's and all of her albums and this is the best I have heard her. Bel Canto aficionados may debate whether or not Anna Netrebko's voice is suited to this style comparing her to Sills or Callas. She sings coloratura passages with an individual style that is both refreshing and precise. I'm afraid I am not a big fan of the Sills recording (blackboard and chalk come to mind) however I think the Callas recording is the benchmark. You need to listen to the MP3 of it yourself and make your own mind up as to Anna Netrebko's performance compared to Callas. I have never been a huge fan of Callas but she sang Anna Bolena when she was at her vocal prime and despite the poorish recording quality you can hear the most exquisite outstanding performance by Callas. My own opinion is that Anna Netrebko is the best that can be heard in today's World. Callas she is not but then I would not want her to be.

The lovely El'na Garan'a is superb as Giovanna Seymour, in my opinion she is the best mezzo-soprano singing today and equal to Anna Netrebko in performance stature. She seems to sing this role as though it was written for her. It appears so effortless for her to sing. The beautiful second act duet "Sul suo capo aggravi un Dio" between Elina and Anna is one of the finest I have every heard in any opera from any generation. I am pleased she was able to make this recording as she had to withdraw from the Met production due to her pregnancy. In the 1957 recording Elina's role was sung by Giulietta Simionato, one of the best mezzo-soprano's of her generation. There is no doubt in my mind that Elina's version is better.

Was I being too dismissive to say the roles of Enrico and Lord Percy are incidental? Ildebrando D'Arcangelo is excellent, very believable in the role and will not disappoint, he backs up the ladies with a rich dark vocal performance that helps make this performance as good as it is. Francesco Meli is also very good, nothing I can really say about his performance, certainly nothing negative. I definitely think he is someone worth watching for the future, he should be very pleased with this performance.

In summary. This blu-ray is a must have for any fan of Netrebko and/or Garan'a. It is IMHO better than the much lauded Sills performance and the equal of the Callas 1957 performance (vocally).
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on 5 January 2012
I don't like the costumes in this production - they are historically inaccuate. Who says that Tudor women can show off their long flowing hair? All women of all classes would have worn the basic coif cap or headscarf to remain respectable and modest in the eyes of God (For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. … Corinthians 11:3-16)
Back to business - the performances here rank from excellent to good, with no upsets.
The excellent ones are Elizabeth Kulman and Elina Garanca, two mezzo-sopranos.
The very good ones are Anna Netrebko in the title role, and D'arcangelo as King Henry VIII.
Franceso Meli's Percy is good, though not outstanding, as he could not sing in a consistent tone production, but he never missed a single note, though.
In this production, Anna Netrebko for most people is the main reason for seeing (and listening). She does not disappoint in this production, though Donizetti is never her pet composer.
While her coloratura is never as accomplished as Garanca, her vocal portrayal of Anna Bolena is still very convincing. Vocally, Netrebko is in top form here - her voice rings forth with differing expressions, and the taxing role poses no difficulty to her. Indeed, her performance here makes you forget that she missed out most of the coloraturas, because it is convincingly done.
D'arcangelo lacks the kingly attributes required of the role both visually and vocally, alas. But his singing is still very good, if not outright brilliant.
The outstanding performances here belongs to Garanca and Kulman, undoubtedly.
Garanca is fully at home in bel canto, and this Seymour is a role that she's grown up in. And we can see that clearly. If she converts her fach to soprano, the chances are she will be even better than Anna Netrebko.
Kulman in the lessor trouser role is not only convincing - she is the most affectingly portrayed character in the entire cast, if her role is but a small one.
Buy this for the three ladies. You'd not be disappointed.
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on 16 January 2013
This is a lovely production of this undeservedly lesser known opera. The rich, warm tones of the beautiful Anna Netrebko make a perfect regal, unhappy queen with Elina Garanca providing a perfect foil as Jane Seymour.

The excellent chorus are more than a mere background and make the most of some haunting pieces.

This is a visual treat too - the producer has ensured that the acting and staging are as satisfying as the singing.

I can really recommend this.
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on 19 April 2012
Apart from the proud reputation of the Zurich Opera House appreciation of opera in Switzerland is rather remote but the various doings of Anna Netrebko, a consumate theatre animal, receive considerable media attention. Consequently the soprano's presence in the title role of the 2011 production of Anna Bolena from Vienna stimulated more than usual interest and soon after coming on the market the DVD was shown on German speaking television.

The praise, heaped on this production, which would burden an elephant is entirely justified. Also it was a clever ploy to market the DVD as a star vehicle for both Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca for this fine mezzosoprano in the role of Giovanna Seymour is Netrebko's absolute equal in both singing and acting honours. It is hard to believe that these two definitive performances could ever be bettered. Also most worthy of note is the very good singing and acting of Elisabeth Kulman in the trouser role (the inevitable lot of opera's numerous pages) of Smeaton.

The men fare less well. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo has a fine bass voice and sings well but visually he lacks kingly splendour which in this particular opera is a necessity. I thought that Francesco Meli was rather lightweight in the first act but things improved greatly in the second. Both orchestra and chorus could not be faulted.

The opera is presented with minimal staging but it works well. The costumes, although not authentic, complement the staging. Netrebko, who in recent months has put on some weight, looks very fetching in her hunting outfit and it is tempting to speculate that her Tudor style costume might have benefited by the addition of the French hood, pioneered in England by Anne Boleyn. Enrico would have certainly benefited by the addition of Henry VIII's famous hat for the singer's rather ragged haircut is an irritant and detracts from performance appreciation

In 1989 I was fortunate to be at Covent Garden for Dame Joan Sutherland's farewell performance for which she selected the title role of Anna Bolena, always one of her Donizetti signature roles. As would be expected there was warm and sustained applause for the famous soprano but there were also some mutterings that Dame Joan was now simply not up to the demanding role and her career had continued for too long. In 1984 Toronto mounted a traditional version of the opera designed as a virtual solo promenade for Dame Joan. Second place was given to James Morris who possessed both a regal look and a commanding presence. In what may well have been a deliberate decision the role of Giovanna was relegated to the B team and reviewers barely ever mention Judith Forst, whose more limited capabilities simply cannot be compared to the achievements of Elina Garanca. Such is manifestly apparent in the great Anna/Giovanna duets of act 2 (often regarded as the opera's high point) for in addition to their splendid singing Netrebko and Garanca succeed in creating a real dramatic tension which is simply not achieved in Toronto

For any opera aficionado the jewels of the Vienna production are such that it must deserve a prime place in any Donizetti collection. That said I suspect that the always reassuring presence of Dame Joan, the majestic look of James Morris and the instantly recognisable Tudor costumes might well make the Toronto production the first choice for someone seeking an introduction to the opera

Trottman

Unfortunately a recent viewing of the Joan Sutherland version (March 2015) was something of a disappointment. The singing is at a very high standard and the observations made above remain valid but the picture quality is poor and the English subtitles are embedded. All interests are best served by the Netrebko/Garanca version

Trottman
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on 5 July 2013
Have seen this production live on the stage and the DVD is just as good. A good production and top flight singing.
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