Gaetano Donizetti

Anna Bolena

Sep 26 - Jan 9

Sondra Radvanovsky embarks on her quest to sing all three of Donizetti’s Tudor queens, here as Anne Boleyn. Ildar Abdrazakov is King Henry VIII, Jamie Barton is Jane Seymour, the king’s consort, and Stephen Costello plays the queen’s love interest in Sir David McVicar’s gripping period production. Marco Armiliato conducts.

Ms. Radvanovskys technical command in this daunting Donizetti role was flawless. She is a true inheritor to the Callas approach to Bel Canto repertory... [She] sings with wondrous command of subtle shadings and vibrato... The superb mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton... held her own... [Her] sumptuous voice has utterly unforced carrying power... Ildar Abdrazakov’s stentorian voice and imposing presence were ideal for the ruthless Enrico” New York Times

Radvanovsky is embarking on the company’s first tour of the composer’s three Tudor queens, and this first installment was an absolutely spectacular start.” New York Classical Review

Read Synopsis Read Program
  • Sung In
  • Italian
  • Met Titles In
  • English
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Estimated Run Time
  • 3 hrs 30 mins
  • House Opens
  • Act I 85 mins
  • Intermission 30 mins
  • Act II 90 mins
  • Opera Ends
Sep 26 - Jan 9

This production has completed for the season.

Be sure to check out our remaining productions on the season list.

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A scene from Anna Bolena

World premiere: Milan, Teatro Carcano, 1830. Met premiere: September 26, 2011. The first of Donizetti’s operas to achieve wide success, Anna Bolena is based on the historical episode of the fall and death of England’s Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. While many operas use history as a point of departure for storytelling, Anna Bolena stays closer to real events than most. The lead role was created by Giuditta Pasta, a great prima donna of her day who would also sing the premiere of Bellini’s Norma the following year.


Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848) composed about 75 operas in a career abbreviated by mental illness and premature death. Most of his works disappeared from the public eye after his death, but critical and popular opinion of his huge opus has grown considerably over the past 50 years. Felice Romani (1788–1865) was the official librettist of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and worked with Donizetti on several other operas.

Production Sir David McVicar

Set Designer Robert Jones

Costume Designer Jenny Tiramani

Lighting Designer Paule Constable

Choreographer Andrew George

Gaetano Donizetti


Gaetano Donizetti


A scene from Anna Bolena

The trial of Anne Boleyn took place on May 15, 1536, and her execution followed four days later. The opera’s first act is set during the weeks leading up to the trial, in Greenwich Castle near London. Act II takes place at the Tower of London, between trial and execution.


One of the most striking characteristics of all of Donizetti’s works is the power and abundance of melody that, in context, reveals a deeper dramatic purpose. Nowhere in Anna Bolena is this combination more apparent than in the final scene. As Anne awaits her execution, she goes through a variety of emotions and mental conditions, including terror, illusory calm, and confusion bordering on hallucination—all leading to a final climactic outburst that is a masterpiece of musical insight and a superb example of opera’s ability to explore the human dimensions behind history.

Met History

Donizetti had been writing operas since 1818 and enjoyed considerable success elsewhere in Italy, especially in Naples. But the Milanese remained stubbornly aloof. The composer’s 1822 opera Chiara e Serafina had been written for La Scala, but it was received indifferently, with no further interest from theaters in Milan until the fall of 1830 when a group of aristocrats, fed up with the way La Scala was being run, decided to put on a rival season in Milan’s Teatro Carcano.