WORKS: Anna Bolena
PERFORMER: Edita Gruberová, Delores Ziegler, Stefano Palatchi, José Bros; Hungarian Radio Chorus & Orchestra/Elio Boncompagni
CATALOGUE NO: NC 070565-2 DDD
It was with this, one of the earliest of his ‘English history’ operas, that Donizetti’s position was confirmed as the leading Italian composer of the day. The role of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, performed at the Milan premiere in 1831 by Giuditta Pasta, has in recent decades proved a superb vehicle for the talents of Maria Callas, Leyla Gencer, Beverly Sills, Renata Scotto and Joan Sutherland. Here, Edita Gruberová proves a worthy successor to those distinguished sopranos, investing Anna’s plangent Act I cavatina with an affecting simplicity, dealing fearlessly with the coloratura of its imaginative cabaletta, and offering a persuasive interpretation throughout the opera, culminating in the brilliant solo finale in which Anna goes to her execution.
Delores Ziegler makes the most of her opportunities as Anna’s rival, Giovanna, and Helene Schneiderman is convincing as Smeton, the page who is in love with Anna. The male roles are well handled, with José Bros bringing an attractive timbre to the tenor role of Lord Riccardo Percy, and Stefan Palatchi dominating as Henry VIII. Elio Boncompagni conducts authoritatively, keeping the action flowing with brisk tempi, and obtaining fine performances from a chorus and orchestra to whom Donizettian style is hardly first nature. Charles Osborne