After a half-century Anna Bolena returns to Teatro Colón in a concert version

ArgentinaArgentina Donizetti, Anna Bolena (concert version): Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Colón / Iñaki Encina (conductor). Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 27.6.2023. (JSJ)

Daniela Barcellona (l, Giovanna Seymour) l. and Olga Peretyatko (r, Anna Bolena) © Maximo Parpagnoli

Direction – Marina Mora
Visual conception – Gabriel Caputo
Lighting – Rubén Conde
Costumes – Mercedes Nastri
Chorus – Miguel Martínez

Anna Bolena – Olga Peretyatko
Enrico VIII – Alex Esposito
Giovanna Seymour – Daniela Barcellona
Lord Percy – Xabier Anduaga
Smeton – Florencia Machado
Lord Rochefort – Cristian De Marco
Hervey – Santiago Vidal

Anna Bolena is arguably the best known of Donizetti’s three ‘Tudor Queens’, undoubtedly in part due to the greater fascination with the historical story of the fated second wife of King Henry VIII than that of Mary Stuart or of Elizabeth I for whom Robert Devereux was a favourite and perhaps a lover.

The single production in the Teatro Colón compared with none for either of the other two works (I am aware of at least one production of Roberto Devereux outside the Colón) would seem to support this small number statistic view – and since it was given back in 1970 it was high time for a revival.

But this, for reasons unspecified, was presented as a concert version instead of being staged. In reality it was slightly more, with limited acting and coming together of the singers at appropriate moments.

The setting was a series of platforms placed in a semi-circle from which – or nearby – the singers performed, coming on or going off as necessary, and with the chorus in the shadows behind, only lit in the choruses. Dress was all black, and the lighting likewise was appropriately as a tragedy predominantly of darker hues.

As such the sense of the drama was created, even though not all that was sung and some other details were acted out – such as in Act I when Anna’s portrait was grabbed by Enrico from Smeton’s pocket rather than it falling out when opening his tunic.

Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko led an excellent cast as Anna and revealed coloratura of beauty and refinement. She was at her best with the delicacy of her voice in the more reflective passages rather than in the most dramatic moments.

Conversely Italian bass-baritone Alex Esposito presented a virile image of Enrico – somewhat different from the character we know from portraits – and was appropriately dramatic and menacing.

Daniela Barcellona brought passion and opulence of tone to the role of Giovanna (Joan Seymour) while the young Basque tenor Xabier Anduaga was a refined Lord Percy, Anna’s first suitor.

Mezzo-soprano Florencia Machado, one of the two locals in the cast, as the page Smeton, continues to amaze with her clarity and evenness of line, and fully justifying the foresight of her award as the winner of the Teatro Colón’s international young singers competition a decade ago.

Completing the cast with their solid performances were bass Cristian de Marco as Anna’s brother Lord Rochefort and Uruguayan tenor Santiago Vidal as Hervey.

Iñaki Encina led the orchestra in a correct reading of the score and the choral interventions were well sung.

If there was a highlight it had to be Anna’s mad scene, with the audience spellbound in almost complete silence throughout Olga Peretyatko’s convincing portrayal – both visually and vocally – of Anna’s final distracted breakdown before going to her death.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

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