An English queen on the stage

Sometime in the 19th century, the tragic fate of a long-dead English queen gave an Italian composer’s career a formidable boost. The story of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, inspired Gaetano Donizetti to compose «Anna Bolena,» the opera which catapulted him to fame. The National Opera is currently presenting a new production of the opera. Featuring vocalists Dimitris Kavrakos, Jenny Drivala and Mary-Ellen Nesi in the principal roles of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour respectively, the production opens tonight with further performances scheduled for Sunday and October 22. Dubbed as a semi-directed mise-en-scene, the production is directed by Vassilis Nikolaidis. A lyrical tragedy, the two-act Donizetti opera was complemented by a libretto by Felice Romani and premiered at the Teatro Carcano in Milan in 1830. One of the work’s highlights is provided by a duet between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s love interest, Jane Seymour. The daughter of courtier Sir Thomas Boleyn, Anne was born in 1501 or 1507. Pursued by Henry, Anne sternly refused to begin a love affair, stating that she would only accept marriage. King Henry attempted to annul his marriage to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, but Pope Clement VII appeared reticent to grant the annulment, leading to a great rift between the king of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Secretly married to King Henry in January 1533, Anne was crowned queen of England in June of that year. Later in the same year, she gave birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I of England. Boleyn was subsequently found guilty of adultery, incest and high treason and was condemned to death. She was beheaded in May, 1536. The Donizetti opera made a noted comeback during the postwar period. One the work’s most memorable stagings took place in 1957, in a revival at Milan’s La Scala. Featuring Maria Callas in the title role, the grandiose production was directed by Luchino Visconti. At the Olympia Theater, the National Opera’s Orchestra and Choir are conducted by Giorgos Petrou. The production features set designs by Tota Pritsa, costumes by Nikos Georgiadis, choreography by Effie Karacosta, lighting by Eleftheria Deco and choir direction by Nikos Vassiliou. Besides Kavrakos, Drivala and Nesi, the cast further includes Costas Mavrogenis, Stamatis Beris, Eleni Voudouraki and Constantinos Klironomos. Also participating in the production are Nikos Tilios, Vicky Tsiroyiannis and Vicky Bourcha, all members of the National Opera Ballet. Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias, tel 210.361.2461. Opens tonight with additional performances on Sunday and October 22. Performances commence at 8 p.m.

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