Donizetti’s Anna Bolena triumphs in Valencia under Maurizio Benini

SpainSpain Donizetti, Anna Bolena: Coro de la Generalitat Valenciana, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana / Maurizio Benini (conductor). Palau de Les Arts, Valencia,13.10.2022. (JMI)

Eleonora Buratto (Anna Bolena) and Ismael Jordi (Percy) © Miguel Lorenzo and Mikel Ponce

Director – Jetske Mijnssen
Set designer – Ben Baur
Costume designer – Klaus Bruns
Lighting designer – Cor van den Brink
Choreography – Lilian Stillwell
Chorus master – Francesc Perales

Anna Bolena – Eleonora Buratto
Henry VIII – Alex Esposito
Seymour – Silvia Tro Santafé
Percy – Ismael Jordi
Smeton – Nadezhda Karyazina
Lord Rochefort – Gerard Farreras
Hervey – Jorge Franco

Valencia’s new opera season has opened with this work by Gaetano Donizetti that, I believe, is being performed for the first time in the Palau de Les Arts. The result was a total success: a well-suited production, admirable music direction and a remarkable cast.

The staging by Jetske Mijnssen premiered in Amsterdam last May and is a Dutch National Opera, Teatro San Carlo and Palau de Les Arts co-production. It is a staging of great simplicity that narrates the plot in its historical period and with costumes appropriate to the epoch. The sets are almost the same throughout, an empty space at the front with a wall at mid-stage. The scene changes take place by adding doors in the wall that sometimes open to offer different views. These scene changes are completed by different furniture at the front of the stage. The plot unfolds perfectly, and everything works correctly.

Maurizio Benini is a conductor one might consider a specialist in bel canto opera. I had the opportunity to see him conduct this opera six years ago in Seville and he has repeated that fine performance here. His reading had two parts: the first act was dominated by his energy and strength, but he was at his best in Act II where his delicate conducting led to an outstanding interpretation. Both the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and the Coro de la Generalitat did very well, especially the women’s voices in the second act.

Anna Bolena was played with great success by soprano Eleonora Buratto, a full lyric soprano with a well-projected voice. She didn’t excite me in the first act although she did well overall. I found her a little short in her final aria, the famous ‘Giudici ad Anna’, where one always has in mind the unforgettable Maria Callas. Buratto was irreproachable in her performance in Act II and in the entire final scene. She sang a thrilling ‘Al dolci guidami’ where she earned the biggest ovation of the evening, ending the opera in bellezza, as Italians say.

Bass Alex Esposito as Henry VIII was good in terms both of singing and acting. His voice may not be exceptional, but he is a solid performer in every role he plays. Ismael Jordi as Percy was outstanding in vocal terms and gave an elegant performance, very appropriate to the bel canto demands of the character. I don’t find his voice outstanding but, if it were, we would be dealing with an exceptional tenor.

Jane Seymour was sung by mezzo-soprano Silvia Tro Santafé, who also offered a solid interpretation. I had to fight with my memories of the last singers I saw in the role, Elīna Garanča and Ekaterina Semenchuk, but it was a fine job on her part.

Finally, mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Karyazina as Smeton the page left me with a good impression. The secondary characters were well-covered by Gerard Farreras as Lord Rochefort and Jorge Franco as Hervey.

José M. Irurzun

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