Anna Bolenaby Gaetano Donizetti
November 10, 13, 15, 17 and 18, 2012
A notorious life hangs precariously in the balance.
The walls are closing in on Anne Boleyn as she fails to produce a male heir. Bursting with vocal pyrotechnics, Donizetti’s legendary masterpiece is a gripping tale of intrigue and betrayal. This sumptuous production marks the not-to-be-missed conclusion of Minnesota Opera’s Tudor trilogy.
Sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.
Estimated run time, including one intermission, is 3 hours.
Dates + Performancesat Ordway. Get directions
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|Anne Boleyn, Queen of England||soprano
|Henry VIII, King of England||bass
|Jane Seymour, Anne's lady-in-waiting||mezzo-soprano
|Lord Percy, Anne's former betrothed||tenor
|Lord Rochefort, Anne's brother||bass
|Smeton, the queen's page and minstrel||mezzo soprano
|Sir Hervey, an official of the king||tenor
Scene one – A hall in Windsor Castle As they await the king’s arrival, courtiers gossip over Henry’s cold treatment of Queen Anne and the possibility of a rival. Her favorite lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, privately expresses her guilty conscience over receiving Henry’s uninvited affections. At the same time, she tries to console the queen. Anne asks her court musician, Smeton, to sing a song, but it only disturbs her more. She advises Jane never to allow the throne to seduce her, while Jane can barely look her in the eye.
Anne and the courtiers retire. Jane encounters Henry and insists they discontinue their secret indiscretions – like Anne before her marriage to the king, she fears for her own reputation. Henry counters that the path to the altar is now entirely clear, as the day of Anne’s reckoning has come.
Scene two – The park of Windsor Castle Anne’s brother Rochefort is surprised to find Percy back in England at Henry’s request. Having once been betrothed to Anne, Percy was exiled to assuage his grief over the subsequent royal wedding. Henry arrives with the royal hunt, and Anne soon afterwards with her ladies. Unaware the king has set a trap, Percy thanks him for allowing him to return, and Henry reveals that it was intended to please Anne. When Percy kisses her hand, the court is taken aback, but Henry remains strangely unaffected.
Scene three – Anne’s private apartments Secretly enamored with Anne, Smeton tries to replace a small portrait of Anne which he stole. Hearing Anne and Rochefort approach, he is forced into hiding. Anne is concerned over Percy’s return, and departing, Rochefort promises to do what he can to help the awkward situation. Percy enters and Anne realizes the irony of it all – she left him for the throne and now all she has is a crown of thorns. Percy renews his earlier suit, claiming that if Henry hates his wife, he still holds her dear. Alarmed, Anne tells him to leave, but Percy refuses, ready to throw himself on his sword.
Rochefort returns in a panic, and the king bursts in with the rest of the court to witness the compromising scene. Henry suspects something is afoot, and as Smeton vehemently denies any impropriety, Anne’s portrait falls from his pocket. Henry uses this blunder as proof of her infidelity and orders all three to be imprisoned.
Scene one – A small vestibule leading to the rooms where Anne is imprisoned Anne is comforted by her ladies-in-waiting, but soon Hervey announces that all her women have been called before the Council of Peers. Jane tries to soothe the queen’s anguish. A plot has been hatched, and the only way Anne can avoid death is to confess her guilt. Jane begrudging reveals that she has inadvertently won Henry’s heart, and Anne flies into a jealous rage. When Jane begs for mercy, Anne’s anger subsides as she comes to realize Henry alone is to blame.
Scene two – A vestibule outside the council chamber The courtiers anxiously wait as the Peers confer inside. Hervey comes into the anteroom announcing that Anne and Percy have been called before the council – Smeton has been pressed into divulging her lurid affairs. In front of the king, both Anne and Percy deny his hateful accusations.
Left alone with Jane, Henry expresses his love, but she contines to feel guilty. Hervey announces the Peers’ verdict – the royal marriage is to be dissolved, and Anne, with her suspected lover Percy, is condemned. Jane begs her king to be clement.
Scene three – The Tower of London Percy learns Rochefort also faces execution, merely for his familial association. Hervey arrives with a reprieve from Henry for the two men, but as Anne is sentenced to die, they bravely agree to follow her to the chopping block.
Anne’s ladies appear, lamenting their queen’s fate. She soon enters, uneasily remembering happier days. Anne is brought to her senses with the arrival of Percy, Rochefort and Smeton under guard. Smeton admits his complicity in the trial – by lying he thought he was actually saving her life. Anne’s mind begins to wander again, but a cannon shot brings her back to lucidity – Jane has been proclaimed queen. Anne forgives the new royal couple and steels herself for the ascent to the scaffold.
|music by Gaetano Donizetti|
|libretto by Felice Romani|
|after Ippolito Pindemonte's|
|Enrico VIII ossia Anna Bolena|
|and Alessandro Pepoli's Anna Bolena|
|world premiere at the Teatro Carcano, Milan|
|December 26, 1830|
|November 10, 13, 15, 17 and 18, 2012|
|Ordway, Saint Paul|
|sung in Italian with English captions|
|stage director||Kevin Newbury|
|set designer||Neil Patel|
|costume designer||Jessica Jahn|
|lighting designer||D. M. Wood|
|Anna Bolena, wife of Enrico||Keri Alkema|
|Enrico VIII, King of England||Kyle Ketelsen|
|Giovanna Seymour, Anna's lady-in-waiting||Lauren McNeese|
|Lord Riccardo Percy, Anna's former lover||David Portillo|
|Lord Rochefort, Anna's brother||Richard Ollarsaba|
|Smeton, the queen's page and minstrel||Victoria Vargas|
|Sir Hervey, an official of the king||John Robert Lindsey|
|London and Windsor Castle, 1536|
Keri Alkema (Anna Bolena)
A voice with an “appealing brew of dark and creamy colors” (The New York Times), lirico-spinto soprano Keri Alkema has been praised for her “tonal opulence” (Washington Post) and “incisive musicality” (The New York Times).
For the 2012–2013 season, Ms. Alkema will sing her first performances of the title role in Anna Bolena at Minnesota Opera, a role she will also cover first at the Washington National Opera. She returns to the Canadian Opera Company in a role debut as Vitellia in Christopher Alden’s production of La clemenza di Tito and also will return to New York City Opera where she will be seen as Amaltea, the Pharaoh’s wife, in Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto at New York City Center. Future seasons will see her as Mozart, Verdi and bel canto heroines at the Canadian Opera Company, Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, Opéra National de Bordeaux, Austin Lyric Opera, Teatro Municipal de Santiago and Washington National Opera.
The 2011–2012 season saw Ms. Alkema in a number of international debuts: Glyndebourne as Mimì in La bohème, Opera North in Leeds as Adalgisa in Christopher Alden’s new production of Norma and the Canadian Opera Company as Giulietta in Les contes d’Hoffmann. She also debuted with the New York Philharmonic in the finale to Act I of Don Giovanni as Donna Elvira under music director Alan Gilbert. Other recent engagements have seen Ms. Alkema at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville as Freia in Das Rheingold, Atlanta Opera as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte and Teatro Municipal de Santiago as Amelia Grimaldi in Simon Boccanegra. Ms. Alkema made her soprano role debut to great critical acclaim as Donna Elvira in Christopher Alden’s production of Don Giovanni at the New York City Opera in which The New York Times praised her “compelling, rich-toned” performance.
Ms. Alkema has debuted on the concert stages of the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Das klagende Lied and Cincinnati May Festival again in Das klagende Lied and also Haydn’s Heiligmesse – Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida, both engagements under the baton of James Conlon, as well as with The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni under Roberto Abbado. She was also heard as Adalgisa in the original two soprano version of Bellini’s masterpiece Norma at the Caramoor International Music Festival with Will Crutchfield. An active member of the roster of the Marilyn Horne Foundation, she also performed at the Marilyn Horne Foundation Annual Recital at Carnegie Hall.
As a mezzo-soprano, Ms. Alkema was heard as Charlotte in Werther (Chautauqua Opera), Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Sarasota Opera), Zulma in L'italiana in Algeri (Opera di Treviso), Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (New York City Opera), Erika in Vanessa (Chautauqua Opera) and Meg in Little Women (Skylight Opera) under the direction of Mark Adamo. While a member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera, Ms. Alkema sang Clotilde in Norma, Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor, Flora in La traviata and Angelina in La Cenerentola. As Angelina, the Washington Post claimed that “she sang the role as well as I have ever heard it done, with a particularly electrifying 'Non più mesta.'” Also at Washington National Opera she has performed Contessa di Coigny (Andrea Chénier), Madeleine Lee in Democracy by Scott Wheeler and the Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte).
On the concert stage, Ms. Alkema has worked with such notable conductors as Plácido Domingo, Emmanuel Villaume, Ricardo Frizza, Heinz Fricke, Antony Walker and Ann Manson. She has also been soloist for Handel's Messiah with the Tucson and Virginia Symphonies, as well as Mozart's Requiem with the Delaware Symphony. A frequent recitalist, Ms. Alkema is currently on the roster of the Marilyn Horne Foundation, which sponsored her New York recital debut. She has done many residencies with the Foundation including recitals in Oberlin, Ohio, Winter Park, Florida, Brownville, Nebraska and for the Art Song of Williamsburg concert series.
Ms. Alkema has been a member of several prestigious young artist programs including the Santa Fe Opera and the Music Academy of the West, under the tutelage of Marilyn Horne. She has also been the recipient of prizes from the George London Foundation, Opera Index Competition, Liederkranz Foundation and Loren L. Zachary National Voice Competition.
Michael Christie (conductor)
Michael Christie becomes the music director of the Minnesota Opera in September 2012 after eight years as the Virginia G. Piper Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony. Whilst leading the Phoenix Symphony he concurrently was music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic from September 2005 to 2010. He served as the first chief conductor of the Queensland Orchestra (Brisbane, Australia) from 2001 to 2004. With his orchestras, he has embarked on a series of ambitious projects focusing on interdisciplinary collaborations with visual artists, dance companies and theater groups, as well as contemporary composers such as Gorecki, Ligeti, Adams, Golijov and Tan Dun. He is also music director of the Colorado Music Festival (Boulder, Colorado), where he has been much praised for his innovative programming and where festival audiences are at an all- time high and growing in each of his 13 seasons in Boulder. His relationship with the Colorado Music Festival was recently extended to the 2016 season.
Over his 16-year career, he has conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony and the Cincinnati Symphony, among many others. Christie made his New York Philharmonic debut in March 2007, stepping in for an ailing Riccardo Muti.
Michael Christie has also established an excellent reputation as an opera conductor, starting with his operatic and ballet performances at the Opernhaus Zürich. That special relationship began in the 1997–1998 season and continued for many seasons with his highly successful debut conducting performances of Romeo and Juliet and a new production of Hansel and Gretel. Most recently, extraordinary critical response has surrounded his Opera Theatre of St. Louis productions of Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer and his Minnesota Opera productions of Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Verdi’s La traviata and Nabucco, Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights and Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer winning world premiere production of Silent Night.
Mr. Christie has also worked at the Wexford Festival Opera conducting the European premiere of Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles. This production, a collaborative effort with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and directed by James Robinson, won the 2010 Irish Times Irish Theatre Award for Best Opera. He conducted the opera again at the Aspen Music Festival in August 2010.
Michael Christie earlier worked with the Finnish National Opera, the Queensland Opera (Australia) and in the Netherlands, conducting John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer.
Michael Christie first came to international attention in 1995 when he was awarded a special prize for “Outstanding Potential” at the First International Sibelius Conductors’ Competition in Helsinki. Following the competition, he was invited to become an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and subsequently worked with Daniel Barenboim in Chicago and at the Berlin State Opera during the 1996–1997 season.
Subsequently, he spent much of his time in Europe with engagements including the DSO Berlin, Orchestre National de Lille, Swedish Radio Symphony, Netherlands Radio Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, NDR Hannover Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic.
Australia has been a favorite musical destination for Michael. In addition to his tenure in Brisbane, he has also conducted the Sydney Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony and the Western Australian Symphony in Perth.
Michael graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music with a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance. He met and married Alexis, a physician, in Australia and they have a daughter, Sinclair, born in 2008.
Jessica Jahn (costume designer)
Jessica Jahn danced professionally in New York City before beginning a career in design. She has had the opportunity to work on various projects with directors such as Tommy Kail, Tina Landau, Kevin Newbury and Carl Andress, artist Michael Counts, as well as writers Eisa Davis, Norah Ephron and Charles Busch.
New York (selected work): Monodramas at New York City Opera; Love, Loss and What I Wore at the Westside Theatre; Die Mommie Die! at New World Stages (winner of the Lucille Lortel Award); and Judith of Bethulia at Theatre for the New City.
Regional (selected work): In the Red and Brown Water at the Alliance Theatre, Mary Stuart at Houston Grand Opera; Il trovatore, Roberto Devereux, Mary Stuart and Werther at Minnesota Opera; Life Is A Dream (world premiere) at Santa Fe Opera; Once on This Island at Papermill Playhouse; and Die Leibe der Danae at Bard Summerscape.
Upcoming: Mosè in Egitto at New York City Opera and Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Kyle Ketelsen (Enrico)
American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is in regular demand by the world's leading opera companies and orchestras for his vibrant and handsome stage presence and his distinctive vocalism. He returns to The Metropolitan Opera in the 2012–2013 season in Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen as Escamillo. Mr. Ketelsen will then make his role debut as Enrico VIII in Minnesota Opera’s production of Anna Bolena and later in the season he repeats his celebrated Leporello in three different productions of Don Giovanni at Houston Grand Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid and at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.
Highlights of Ketelsen’s previous season include Mr. Flint in Billy Budd and Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Don Fernando in Fidelio at Houston Grand Opera and the title role of Le nozze di Figaro at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Concert appearances include Brahms’ Requiem with the San Francisco Symphony, Beethoven’s Fidelio with the National Symphony Orchestra and Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon with the Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall as well as Teatro Comunale di Bologna’s Japanese tour as Escamillo in Carmen.
Mr. Ketelsen made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, and continued his career there singing the title role of Figaro, and Méphistophélès in Faust, both conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. His trademark role of Escamillo has been seen at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Bayrische Staatsoper and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. At the Royal Opera House Covent Garden he made his role debut as Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress and debuted at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence as Leporello in a new production of Don Giovanni. He joined the Canadian Opera Company in a role debut as Alidoro in La Cenerentola. Ever in demand, Ketelsen has performed at many of the world’s leading opera houses including: Teatro Carlo Felice, Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Pacific, Royal Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, Hamburg State Opera, Madison Opera, Washington National Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Michigan Opera Theatre, the Teatro Real in Madrid, Orlando Opera and Minnesota Opera.
In concert, Mr. Ketelsen made his Carnegie Hall debut with Haydn's Creation with the Oratorio Society of New York and repeated this work with Music of the Baroque in Chicago. In addition, he has collaborated with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Berlioz’s Lélio, de Falla's El retablo del Maese Pedro, and Kaija Saariaho’s Cinq reflets au l’amour de loin, and with the Philharmonia Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he has sung both Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Berlioz’s Lélio under the baton of Pierre Boulez in both Chicago and at Carnegie Hall. Having performed with the Saint Louis Symphony in the Messiah, and with the Seattle Symphony in Mozart’s Requiem under Itzhak Perlman, Ketelsen has also performed with the Orchestre National de France, the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, Richmond Symphony and Indianapolis Symphony. Among the newest additions to his concert repertoire is Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in Madison, under John DeMain, and Haydn’s Harmoniemesse under Franz Welser-Möst in Cleveland. He was also featured in recital with Elizabeth Futral.
Mr. Ketelsen has won first prize in several international vocal competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera National Council, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation (Career Grant), the George London Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, the Sullivan Foundation, Opera Index, the MacAllister Awards, Fort Worth Opera, National Opera Association, Connecticut Opera and the Liederkranz Foundation.
John Robert Lindsay (Hervey)
Colorado native tenor John Robert Lindsey is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he earned his Master of Music in vocal performance under the tutelage of Julie Simson. Past engagements include the Tenor Soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Sam Polk in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, the Stage Manager in Ned Rorem’s Our Town and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Mr. Lindsey was met with numerous successes in competitions recently. He was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions for the past two years, as well as taking third place in 2010 and first place in 2011 at the prestigious Denver Lyric Opera Guild competition.
For Minnesota Opera’s 2011–2012 season, Mr. Lindsey appeared as Jonathan Dale in Silent Night, Schmidt in Werther, Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor and Goro in Madame Butterfly. He also sang a concert of Carmen highlights with the Mankato Symphony. This season he returns as Ismaele in Nabucco, Hervey in Anna Bolena, Marcellus in Hamlet and Pang in Turandot.
Lauren McNeese (Giovanna)
The mezzo has one of those distinctive timbres recognizable six miles away in the dark, with a sparkling quality intriguingly laced with a hint of lemon juice. – Opera News
Mezzo-soprano Lauren McNeese’s colorful, resonant voice and beautiful stage presence are quickly establishing her as a sought out artist in the leading lyric mezzo-soprano repertoire. Opera News wrote of her portrayal of Dorabella at Lyric Opera of Chicago, “… she has one of those distinctive timbres recognizable six miles away in the dark … with a sparkling quality." In 2012 she made her debut with Dallas Opera and her return to San Francisco Opera and Ravinia Festival all as the Zweite Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. In the 2012–2013 season she will also make her role debut as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena with Minnesota Opera and return to Intermountain Opera as Dorabella. In early 2013, Ms. McNeese makes her house debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Parsifal. In the 2010–2011 season, she made her role debut as Hansel in Hansel and Gretel with Intermountain Opera, followed by her return to Michigan Opera Theatre as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro.
Recently Ms. McNeese was seen at the San Francisco Opera as Wellgunde and Rossweisse in the critically acclaimed production of Der Ring des Nibelungen directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Donald Runnicles. During the fall of 2010, Ms. McNeese made her debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the mezzo soloist in the dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette by Hector Berlioz, conducted by Charles Dutroit. In the 2009–2010 season she appeared with the Ravinia Festival as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, made her Pittsburgh Symphony debut as the mezzo soloist in Mozart’s Requiem under the baton of Manfred Honeck and appeared with the Los Angeles Opera as Wellgunde in Der Ring des Nibelungen, conducted by James Conlon.
A graduate of the Patrick G. and Shirley Ryan Opera Center, Ms. McNeese has been seen on the Lyric Opera stage as Dorabella in Così fan tutte conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Siebel in Faust, Wellgunde and Rossweisse in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflöte, Lapak the dog in The Cunning Little Vixen, Edith in The Pirates of Penzance, Flora in La traviata and Myrtale in Thaïs. She has also appeared with the Los Angeles Opera as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Wellgunde in Das Rheingold, Karolka in Jenufa, La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, directed by Woody Allen, Tebaldo in Don Carlos and Javotte in Manon conducted by Plácido Domingo.
Other recent engagements have included her debuts with the San Francisco Opera as Wellgunde in Das Rheingold, conducted by Donald Runnicles; Arizona Opera as Dorabella in Così fan tutte; Opera Company of Philadelphia as L’enfant in L’enfant et les sortilèges and La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi; Michigan Opera as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette; and PortOpera as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette. She has appeared with the Minnesota Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and Bellino/Teresa in Casanova’s Homecoming by Dominick Argento, the Wolf Trap Opera as Isolier in Le Comte Ory, where she was awarded a Shouse Education Career Grant and with the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto Italy as La Ciesca in the reprisal of the critically acclaimed Los Angeles Opera production of Gianni Schicchi. In concert, Ms. McNeese has appeared with the Toronto Symphony as the mezzo soloist in Mozart’s C-minor Mass, conducted by Helmuth Rilling and the Cincinnati May Festival as the mezzo soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, conducted by James Conlon.
Kevin Newbury (stage director)
Kevin Newbury is a theater and opera director based in New York City. His productions have been presented by many of the top American and international opera companies and symphonies including Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, L’Opéra de Montréal, Bard Summerscape, Portland Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, the Virginia Arts Festival and the Wexford Festival in Ireland. He has also directed many new plays in New York, including the award-winning Candy and Dorothy.
Mr. Newbury’s production of Virginia for the Wexford Opera Festival recently won the 2010 Irish Times Theatre Award for best new opera production. His work has also been nominated for a Grammy Award (Bernstein’s Mass with Marin Alsop, also named “one of the best events of the year” by The New York Times and The Washington Post, a Drama Desk Award (Best Actor, Candy and Dorothy) and the GLAAD Media Award (winner: Candy and Dorothy, nominated: Kiss and Cry).
Mr. Newbury is especially committed to developing new work. He has collaborated with many top American composers and playwrights, including Ricky Ian Gordon, Mark Campbell and Pulitzer Prize winners John Adams and Lewis Spratlan. In the coming seasons, he will be directing new work by Douglas J. Cuomo/John Patrick Shanley, Mark Adamo, Theodore Morrison/John Cox and Greg Spears/Greg Pierce.
Upcoming engagements include new productions with San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Minnesota Opera, Canadian Opera Company and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Mr. Newbury also just finished production on his first film, Mothra is Waiting, due out in 2013.
Richard Ollarsaba (Rochefort)
A native of Tempe, Arizona, bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba recently completed his studies for a Master of Music degree and a Post Graduate Certificate from the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute – University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem, North Carolina studying under Marilyn Taylor. Mr. Ollarsaba’s credits with the Fletcher Opera Institute include Cecil in Maria Stuarda, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and Sir John Falstaff in Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. He made his Piedmont Opera debut in its 2010 production of Il trovatore in the role of Ferrando. The following season, Mr. Ollarsaba returned to Piedmont Opera in its productions of Don Giovanni as Masetto and The Crucible as Reverend Hale. He then reprised Ferrando for North Carolina Opera in 2012.
Mr. Ollarsaba was a two-time fellow at the Music Academy of the West and a young artist with Chautauqua Opera. He is a first place winner of the Charles A. Lynam competition which earned him featured performances of select arias with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, where he was praised for his “wonderful artistry and beautiful and moving voice” – CVNC. He was a Metropolitan Opera National Council North Carolina district winner, taking second place in the regional competition.
Mr. Ollarsaba received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, Ohio, where he studied under Mary Schiller. As a Resident Artist for Minnesota Opera this season, Mr. Ollarsaba sings the High Priest in Nabucco, Lord Rochefort in Anna Bolena, Horatio in Hamlet and Timur in Turandot.
Neil Patel (set designer)
Neil Patel is a New York City-based scenic designer who works in theater, opera, dance and film. He has designed Oleanna, Sideman, [title of show], ‘Night Mother, Wonderland and Ring of Fire for Broadway. Off-Broadway, his credits include productions at Second Stage, Manhattan Theater Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, BAM, New York Theater Workshop, Vineyard Theater and Playwrights Horizon, having designed productions of By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, This Beautiful City, The Beard of Avon, Living Out, Here Lies Jenny, Dinner with Friends, The Long Christmas Ride Home, Quills and The Grey Zone. His regional work has been seen at the Guthrie Theater, The Kennedy Center, Center Theater Group, McCarter Theater, Arena Stage, Center Stage, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, among many others. His work with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company has been seen throughout the world, including the Holland Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Exit Festival in Paris and BAM. Opera credits New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Montreal Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Tokyo Nikikai Opera Theater, Houston Grand Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera and the Minnesota Opera (Madame Butterfly, Orazi e Curiazi, Donizetti's Tudor Trilogy). Tokyo: Candide, Bent, Torch Song Trilogy and Take Flight at Parco Theater. London credits include Sideman and Underneath the Lintel (West End), A Question of Mercy (Bush Theater) and Henry IV (RSC). Dance: Shadowland (Pilobolus) – Madrid premiere and European tour. Television and Film: In Treatment (HBO), The Feiffer Dancer Films. Awards include the Helen Hayes Award, the 2000 EDDY Award, numerous Drama Desk and Hewes nominations and the 1996 and 2001 Obie Awards for sustained excellence in set design.
David Portillo (Percy)
Tonio, tenor David Portillo, scored high marks and high notes with ease, singing with a luxuriant warm glow that seduced the ear as he bounded about the stage with abandon. – Opera News
Texas tenor David Portillo has established a reputation as an accomplished vocalist with uncommon technical facility. The 2012–2013 season finds him as Tonio in La fille du régiment at Fort Worth Opera Festival, David in Die Meistersinger with Lyric Opera of Chicago, his role and house debut as Percy in Anna Bolena with Minnesota Opera and the premiere of Jean-Jacques Rousseau with Grand Théâtre Genève in Switzerland. In 2011, David split the summer between Don Ottavio with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi with the Castleton Festival in Virginia. He joined the roster of Teatro alla Scala last fall, where he covered the role of Don Ottavio. His other engagements for the 2011–2012 season included his house debut as Almaviva with Tulsa Opera, his role debut as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Pittsburgh Opera, his role debut as Renaud in Gluck’s Armide, presented by the Metropolitan Opera and Juilliard School, and his return to Opera Theatre of St. Louis as Ferrando in Così fan tutte. He also sang the role of Ferdinand in Thomas Adès’ The Tempest for the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy. Future seasons include debuts with Washington National Opera and Opéra Angers-Nantes, and a return to both Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Mr. Portillo recently sang Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Pittsburgh Opera, Ferrando in Così fan tutte for Virginia Opera, Tonio in La fille du régiment for Dayton Opera and returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to sing Trin in La fanciulla del West and cover Hyllus in Hercules. His performance as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Fort Worth Opera was heralded by Opera News as “passionate and fully-fleshed, not the ineffective blusterer of many productions.” That same year, he returned to Wolf Trap Opera Company as Narciso in Il turco in Italia and Francis Flute in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He also took the concert platform as soloist for Haydn’s Creation, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Verdi’s Requiem for the Colorado Music Festival, Phoenix Symphony and Elmhurst Symphony, respectively. A graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, he performed Gastone in La traviata and the Sailor in Tristan und Isolde for the company. He has also covered Fenton in Falstaff, Nadir in Les pêcheurs de perles and Conte Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia.
David is also an alumnus of both the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera and Wolf Trap Opera in Washington, D.C., where his performances were met with public and critical acclaim. Other roles to his credit include Albert Herring, Alfredo in La traviata, Sam Kaplan in Street Scene and the Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues of the Carmelites.
A versatile recitalist, the tenor has appeared with Steven Blier and also performed a Schwabacher Debut Recital under the auspices of the San Francisco Opera Center. In response, the San Francisco Chronicle found that “His tenor rang out clearly and brightly, his diction was exemplary, and he moved with easy assurance from the 17th century to the 20th and through realms in between.”
David is the recipient of numerous prizes for his artistry, including a 2009 Shoshana Foundation Grant, 2009 American Opera Society of Chicago Award, a 2009 Sullivan Foundation Encouragement Award, a 2008 Winner of the Men’s Prize of the Union League of Chicago Young Adult’s Music Competition and a 2009 Winner of the Bel Canto Scholarship Foundation Competition. He is also a two-time recipient of a Shouse Career Development Grant from the Wolf Trap Foundation.
Victoria Vargas (Smeton)
Mezzo-soprano Victoria Vargas returns to Minnesota Opera, having appeared as Tisbe in Cinderella, Anna in Mary Stuart, Flora in La traviata, Nelly in Wuthering Heights, Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor and Suzuki in Madame Butterfly. This season, she sings Fenena in Nabucco and Smeton in Anna Bolena. Regionally, she recently sang with the Duluth Festival Opera and a concert of Carmen excerpts with the Mankato Symphony.
Ms. Vargas has been a young artist at Sarasota Opera and Chautauqua Operas, where she covered the role of Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria rusticana. At Chautauqua, she won the opera company’s Guild Studio Artist Award and returned for a second season as an Apprentice Artist, performing Laura in Luisa Miller and the Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte.
Other credits include Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro for Ash Lawn Opera and Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance; the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, the title role in Carmen and Dorabella in Così fan tutte for Hillman Opera; Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music for Lyric Arts International; and Miss Todd in The Old Maid and the Thief for Fredonia Opera Theater. She recently completed her master of music degree from Manhattan School of Music, where she appeared as Euryclée in Fauré's Pénélope, and the Beggar and Mrs. Peachum in The Beggar's Opera.
D. M. Wood (lighting designer)
D. M. Wood’s recent design credits include the world premiere of Wild Swans (Young Vic, London and A.R.T.); Il trittico (Royal Opera House – Covent Garden); Roméo et Juliette (Palm Beach Opera), Hänsel und Gretel (Virginia Opera); Die Liebe der Danae (Bard Summerscape); co-design of the world premiere of Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House – Covent Garden); Moskva, Cheremushki (Long Beach Opera); Werther, Mary Stuart, Roberto Devereux, Il barbiere di Siviglia and Il trovatore (Minnesota Opera); Roberto Devereux (L’Opéra de Montréal); Annie Get Your Gun (co-design: Young Vic, London); La Cenerentola (Glimmerglass Opera); Die Zauberflöte (Houston Grand Opera); The Sound of a Voice/Hotel of Dreams (Long Beach Opera); Les Miserables (Copenhagen); Tosca (Canadian Opera Co.); La Cleopatra/Oepidus Rex (Operahaus Graz, Austria); and Tristan und Isolde (Savonlinna Opera).
Ms. Wood's design for Suor Angelica (part of Il trittico at the Royal Opera House) won the U.K.'s 2012 Knight of Illumination Award.
Ms. Wood’s work in theater includes designs for Young Vic, American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), Primary Stages (NYC), NYSF – the Public Theatre, Children’s Theater Company (Minneapolis), Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Centerstage, Trinity Repertory Company and the Philadelphia Theatre Company.
Upcoming designs include L'enfant et les sortilèges (Bolshoi Theatre - Moscow), The Importance of Being Earnest (world premiere: Opéra National de Lorraine – Nancy, France); and Anna Nicole (Brooklyn Academy of Music).
Anne Boleyn was perhaps the most tragic of King Henry’s six wives, seconded only by her rival, Catherine of Aragon, who quite literally died of a diseased and broken heart. Faced with trumped up charges of adultery, incest and treason, Anne was a victim of her own hubris – the brief reign of the “Thousand Day Queen” witnessed a meteoric rise to power only to be followed by a colossal fall from grace.
Her origins were humble by aristocratic standards. Though she could claim descent from Edward I (as did most of the nobility’s inner circle), Anne’s family achieved distinction through the efforts of her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, a skilled diplomat. In 1512, he was one of three envoys sent to the Netherlands to meet with its ruler, Margaret, daughter of Austrian Emperor Maximilian I. Through the negotiations, Sir Thomas maintained a friendly relationship with Margaret, who extended an invitation for his daughter Anne to join her court, which was distinguished by the presence of her deceased brother Philip’s offspring. Among these noteable wards of state was Charles of Ghent, destined to inherit a mighty empire.
In 1514, another opportunity arose. English King Henry VIII’s sister was betrothed to the aging French King Louis XII, and Anne joined her sister Mary in France as part of the bridal household. Though the marriage would end with Louis’ death after only 82 days, the Boleyn sisters remained in the care of the new Queen Claude and her sister Renée. Thus, Anne spent her formative years absorbing Austrian and French culture. She also was surrounded by formidable female role models in her youth, first with Margaret of Austria and later with the new King François’ mother, former regent Louise of Savoy, and sister Marguerite d’Angoulême. It was an upbringing that may have inflated her sense of self-worth.
Anne returned to England in 1521 expecting to marry James Butler, the presumptive heir to Ormond, a county her father had long coveted. While negotiations lingered, she joined the court as a demoiselle d’honneur, returning first to Mary Tudor until a highly sought-after spot opened up in Queen Catherine’s domicile. At this point, she attracted the attention of Lord Henry Percy, the future earl of Northumberland, one of the wealthiest earldoms in the nation. Love blossomed, but due to Percy’s future peerage, any contract for marriage had to be approved by the king and his High Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. To Anne’s disappointment, Percy was affianced to a better match, the daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury, as part of an effort to maintain a stronghold in the north against potential French invasion via its ally, Scotland. Essentially, Anne’s modest pedigree had not sufficed.
Still, Anne had a presence at court and most likely was first noticed by King Henry in 1522 while performing in a masque. By Christmas 1526, a passionate romance had commenced. This was not Henry’s first extramarital affair – though always discreet, he had mistresses in the past, most notably Mary Boleyn and Elizabeth Blount, the latter liaison producing an officially recognized royal bastard, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. Unlike these women who were used and then tossed aside, Anne strategized to keep the king interested by withholding certain favors. For Henry’s part, he could not risk another illegitimate child and had already begun considering a separation from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
The divorce would not come easily, even though the religion-conscious Defender of the Faith King Henry thought he had a rational argument. Catherine had first come to England as the bride of his older brother Arthur, who died shortly after the wedding. The Bible’s Leviticus states that “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing … he shall be without children” (it didn’t matter that a later passage in the Deuteronomy encourages a dead husband’s brother to “go in unto her and take her to him to wife,” superseding the earlier pronouncement). In Henry’s way of thinking, his marriage to Catherine had been a sin against God. In issuing an earlier dispensation granting the subsequent marriage between Henry and Catherine, Pope Julius II had made a mistake.
They had been a reasonably happy couple in the beginning, but Henry had greater issues to consider. Out of a number of pregnancies, only one child, Princess Mary, had survived. Catherine was nearly six years older and at the end of her childbearing years. A daughter could be a valuable bargaining chip, whose marriage could be engineered for dynastic and diplomatic purposes, but in the 16th century, a son was truly needed to rule, particularly after some rather turbulent times. Henry’s father had resolved the infamous War of the Roses by killing Richard III on the battlefield, seizing the crown and marrying Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the predeceased Edward IV. Henry VII’s Lancastrian claim to the throne was shaky at best, and though he would eliminate several of his Yorkist contenders with obsessive paranoia, there were still several male Plantagenet relatives ready to take the crown. Even as he was the corporeal union of the two houses, Henry VIII had serious concerns about his first cousins, the Courtenays (grandchildren of Edward) and the Poles (offspring of his brother George). The lack of a male heir could throw the country back into civil war.
Unfortunately, the end of a royal marriage would require the approval of the pope, and it was now up to Clement VII to reverse the earlier papal decision. This type of clearance would take a certain amount of travel time, complicated by the fact that the new Austrian Emperor (and Catherine’s nephew) Charles V had invaded Rome, and the pope was virtually his prisoner, having sought refuge in the Castel d’Angelo. Granting Henry a favor at this particular juncture was a thorny issue given the ever-changing alliances among Austria, France, England and Italy. Also, Catherine wasn’t going quietly and had enlisted the help of Charles to put her case before Rome. Rather than retire to a nunnery, as all expected, she desperately clung to her lawful place as queen and to her daughter’s right to inherit the crown. She emphatically insisted that she and Arthur had not consummated their marriage (he had died too soon) and therefore had not violated any Biblical canons.
Clement ordered an investigation into the king’s “Great Matter” and sent Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio off to England. Meanwhile, an uneasy ménage à trois was maintained among Anne, the queen and the king – as for all outward appearances, the royal couple continued to perform their public duties including dining and sleeping together. Nonetheless, there is little doubt Henry doted on Anne, as evidenced by the 17 heated letters to her still in existence, but the couple was clearly frustrated by the risks of impregnation, the opportunities for love-making and the lengthy approval process.
The tribunal was held in summer 1529 and proved inconclusive. Eventually, Catherine was rusticated to the English Moors, never to see her husband or daughter again. Anne’s future thrived with a series of successes, including an elevation to a title in her own right as Marquess of Pembroke, and while in France visiting King François, she rewarded Henry accordingly. By the end of 1532, Anne found herself with child, and the couple secretly married, later altering their exact wedding date to allow for a nine-month gestation period in order to confirm the child’s legitimacy. Parliament passed the Act of Restraint of Appeals, a preliminary step toward an autonomous Church of England, and in May, the new Archbishop Thomas Cranmer declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine invalid.
Anne reached the pinnacle of her ascent when, visibly pregnant, she was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey in June 1533. Born in September, the child did not turn out to be the much-anticipated boy as all had hoped, but a girl, named Elizabeth after her grandmother. Disappointment ensued, but there was a good chance Anne would be expectant again soon, which turned out to be the case. By 1534, however, there were signs the relationship between the king and his new queen had begun to sour. In the Renaissance era, it was considered dangerous to have sexual relations with one’s pregnant wife, so Henry went elsewhere for satisfaction. Ever tempestuous and independent of spirit, Anne objected only to receive an angry rebuke from Henry to “endure it as well as those better than her” with the reminder that he who had made her could also break her.
The following March, Clement issued his long awaited ruling – there would be no divorce and Henry must to return to Catherine under threat of excommunication. In retaliation, Henry passed the Act of Supremacy declaring himself Head of the Church and God’s deputy on earth. This action legalized both his marriage to Anne and his divorce of Catherine. For a short period of time there had been two queens of England, but this new status demoted Henry’s first wife to Dowager Princess of Wales, a title which she had held following Arthur’s death.
On January 7, 1536, Catherine died and the royal couple rejoiced. There was no longer any uncomfortable impediment to their union. But with tragic irony, Anne miscarried her third child three weeks later (the second had been stillborn the previous summer), after hearing news of Henry’s fall from a horse in the tiltyard. Meanwhile, the ambitious Seymours posed their family pawn Jane as an attractive alternative. Anne had earlier caught her in an affectionate moment with Henry, and accused him shrilly: “I saw that harlot Jane sitting on your knees while my belly was doing its duty!”
In early spring of her last year, Anne made a fatal error – she quarreled with Thomas Cromwell, Wolsey’s eventual successor. They had been allies during the divorce fiasco, but the chancellor realized she had since lost her usefulness. Diplomacy was still a chief objective, and an Austrian concord was still highly desirable. Emperor Charles warmed to the notion of his cousin Mary Tudor, no longer a bastard after Catherine’s death, as heir presumptive of the English throne, thereby displacing Elizabeth.
Henry would not be easily fooled, so Cromwell planned Anne’s demise long in advance. A golden opportunity presented itself when she quarreled with Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool and one of Henry’s closest friends, over his lack of interest in her cousin, Madge Shelton (reportedly showering more attention on Anne instead), and then publically argued with the king, a serious gaffe. On April 30, Mark Smeaton, one of Anne’s chamber musicians, was arrested and racked. Under great duress and with hopes of being spared a death sentence, he confessed to adultery with the queen. Several of her ladies, including Jane Parker, George Boleyn’s wife, gave evidence, indicating that they had seen the typically flirtatious and witty Anne express affection beyond what was considered to be within the constraints of “courtly love” with her male-dominated company. Her own brother had been seen kissing her on the lips, and more than once, emerging from her private apartments in a state of dishabille.
In all, five men were arrested with Anne – George Boleyn Viscount Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton – and charged with making love with the queen at various times. The choice of these men, three of whom had close access to the king as gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, would have provided the most shock value, not to mention the incest with Anne’s own brother and the inclusion of a lowly, untitled musician. Norris and Anne were additionally charged with treason for socially intimating they wished the king eliminated. During their trials, even Henry’s virility became a topic of derision, as Anne’s pregnancies could be explained away by relations with any of these five men.
Fortunately, the now publically cuckolded Henry was nowhere near the courtroom. Having seen his wife for the last time on May Day, when he suddenly and mysteriously rode away in the middle of a jousting match, the king focused on Jane, to whom he was betrothed the day after Anne was put to death. He was good enough to commute his second wife’s burning at the stake to simple decapitation, sending for the finest swordsman in Calais and paying a hefty surcharge. She was also given a “kinder,” more private beheading on Tower Green. The men also received a gentler sentence. Rather than being hung, drawn, castrated and quartered at Tyburn, the standard sentence for crimes of state, they met the axe on Tower Hill. Time has shown the testimony against them to be entirely fictitious for the actual dates of their supposed assignations proved impossibly inaccurate.
After a period of virtual nonentity (future Queen Mary Tudor had nothing good to say about her former stepmother, and Elizabeth was strangely silent about her mother during her long reign), Anne and her saga became a popular topic for art and literature that still sparks interest today. In the 18th century, the Duke’s Theatre in London premiered Virtue Betray’d or Anna Bullen (1753) by John Banks, and in Venice, the blank verse tragedy Anna Bolena (1788) by Count Alessandro Pepoli was first presented. The City of Paris witnessed a mounting of Henri VIII (1791) by Marie-Joseph Blaise de Chénier (younger brother to the revolutionary poet André de Chénier) at the Palais Royal, followed by Anne de Boulen (1821) by M. Frédéric was written for the Théâtre l’Ambigu-Comique. Adapted and translated into Italian, Blaise de Chénier’s play served as a general basis for the opera Anna Bolena by Gaetano Donizetti, his first major success and one of his earliest works to reach Paris and London. What started as an off-hand commission from a group of Milanese dilettantes (they also championed La sonnambula in the same 1830–1831 season at the competitive Teatro Carcano) turned out to be the composer’s most ambitious project to date.
Of course, by that time the subject had become quite malleable – even librettist Felice Romani felt compelled to write an apologia to explain away the historical deviations. In reality, the romance between Percy and Anne had long since been extinguished, yet their secret “pre-contract” did become an issue at her trial, and he outlived his former paramour by a few months, finally succumbing to a long illness. In her confrontations with Enrico, the operatic Anna is portrayed with a more sympathetic eye, rather than as her reputation in history would indicate, a calculating shrew referred to alternately by her enemies as the Great Enemy and the Concubine. These alterations of the actual events are common in the Romantic era of bel canto – indeed, the later operas of Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy are just as loose interpretations of the facts for dramatic purposes.
Also compassionately depicted in Donizetti’s opera, Jane Seymour may have been less so in real life. She played the same game as Anne, supplanting a sitting monarch by using her feminine charms. There is no record of any regret for climbing over Anne’s dead body to get to the bridal altar. Opposite in temperament from her predecessor, Jane played the submissive spouse to an increasingly foul-tempered Henry and, most significantly, she gave him the much-desired male heir, Edward. Unfortunately, as childbirth was a risky endeavor in the 1500s, she died just two weeks after his birth.
Henry’s progeny had a difficult path ahead. The youthful Edward VI died after only six years on the throne. His grandniece Jane Grey lasted just nine days as a result of an ill-planned coup intended to save the new Anglican faith, and Mary Tudor’s cataclysmic rule earned her the notorious status as “Bloody Mary” for her reactionary return to Catholicism. It was only with the long sovereignty of Anne’s daughter that the country achieved political unity and international prestige. Choosing independence over procreation, Queen Elizabeth i would be the last and most stable Tudor monarch, ending a colorful, if not ruthlessly violent, often impetuous and politically volatile, royal bloodline.
b Bergamo, November 29, 1797;
d Bergamo, April 8, 1848
With nearly 70 operas to his credit, Gaetano Donizetti was the leading Italian composer in the decade between Vincenzo Bellini's death and the ascent of Giuseppe Verdi. Donizetti was born in the northern Italian city of Bergamo to an impoverished family. After showing some musical talent, he was enrolled in the town's Lezioni Caritatevoli where he had the good fortune to study with Giovanni Simone Mayr, maestro di cappella at Santa Maria Maggiore. Originally from Bavaria, Mayr was a successful composer in Italy during the era preceding Gioachino Rossini's rise to fame, with dozens of operas to his credit. Though offered many prestigious appointments throughout Europe, Mayr remained loyal to his adopted community and greatly enhanced the local musical institutions. Donizetti arrived at a time when Mayr was writing his greatest operas, and his impression on the younger composer was pronounced. Throughout his life, Donizetti regarded him as a second father, though he would outlive his master by only three years.
When it came time, Donizetti furthered his education at the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna (shadowing Rossini, who had once studied there). He had already penned several short operas before receiving his first commission in 1818 from the Teatro San Luca in Venice – this was Enrico di Borgogna to a libretto by Bartolomeo Merelli. (In later years, as impresario of La Scala, Merelli was instrumental in the beginnings of Verdi's career.) Further works were produced in Venice, but Donizetti returned to Bergamo for a few years of relative inactivity. A letter of introduction from Mayr to poet Jacopo Ferretti led Donizetti to Rome, where in 1822 he would have his first unequivocal success, Zoraide di Grenata. His career was just getting started.
Later that year Donizetti settled in Naples and used it as a base for the next 16 years. He arrived just as Rossini was finishing his seven-year contract with the royal theaters. Like Rossini he had the ability to work at the increasingly rapid pace demanded by the Italian theater industry and was able to produce three to four operas a year for most of his life.
Many remain timeless gems. L'elisir d'amore (1832), La fille du régiment (1840) and Don Pasquale (1843) demonstrate his expert handling of lighter subjects. Lucrezia Borgia (1833), Gemma di Vergy (1834), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), Maria de Rudenz (1838) and Maria Padilla (1841) display the composer's mastery of the Italian melodrama fueled by impassioned and unrestrained literature of the Romantic period. His influence on Verdi cannot be underestimated.
Donizetti's success in dealing with both comic and tragic settings was due in part to his own manic depressive personality. Well acquainted with personal misfortune, Donizetti lost in the span of eight years his mother, father, two infant sons, an infant daughter and Virginia Vasselli, his wife of seven years. He never truly recuperated after her death, locking the door to her room and refusing to utter her name again. His melancholia may have been induced by early symptoms of syphilis, which he contracted as a young man. It may have also been brought on by the responsibility he felt for harboring the disease that likely cost him his wife and children.
Donizetti made his Paris debut in 1835 with Marino Faliero at the Théâtre Italien and later premiered Les martyrs (1840) at the Paris Opéra. A French translation of Lucia made his name a household word, and in 1840 the composer captivated audiences with La favorite, which became hugely popular throughout Europe and North America. One of his very last works for the stage, Dom Sébastien (1843), was cast in the mold of French grand opéra and was extremely well-received.
The composer had hoped to assume Niccolò Zingarelli's post as director of the Naples Conservatory, but when the 85-year-old composer died in 1837, Donizetti's considerable musical contribution to the city was overlooked. Preference was given to a lesser composer, Saverio Mercadante, chiefly because he was a native Neapolitan. After his brief stint in Paris, Donizetti turned toward the Austrian state, where he became music director of the imperial theaters. Two of his final works had their premiere at Vienna's principal venue, the Kärntnertortheater: Linda di Chamounix (1842) and Maria di Rohan (1843). After the success of Linda, he was appointed Composer to the Austrian Court, a position Mozart had held a half century before.
By 1845, symptoms of his illness had become incapacitating, and his erratic behavior could no longer be excused by overwork. With his family's intervention Donizetti was placed in a French sanitarium at Ivry for 17 months, then transferred to a Paris apartment. There he was regularly visited by musicians and colleagues, including Verdi, but by this point he was paralyzed, disoriented and rarely spoke. In September 1847, friends arranged his return to Bergamo, where he passed his final days at the home of a wealthy patroness.
John Stewart Allitt
Sutherland, Ramey, Mentzer, Gavazzi, Hadley, Mentzer, Surian; Bonynge
Welsh National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
The Three Queens (Anna Bolena/Maria Stuarda/Roberto Devereux)
Sills, Verrett, Lloyd, van Allan, Howell; Mackerras, Rudel, Ceccato
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Gruberova, Ziegler, Palatchi, Bros, Morosow, Schneiderman; Boncompagni
Chor und Orchester des Ungarischen Rundfunks und Fernscherns
Netrebko, Garanca, D'Arcangelo, Meli, Kulman