Anna Bolena

Gaetano Donizetti (1797 – 1848)

Information on the piece

Tragedia lirica in two acts
Libretto by Felice Romani after "Henri VIII" (1791) by Marie-Joseph de Chénier and "Anna Bolena" (1788) by Alessandro Pèpoli.
First performed on 26 December 1830 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan.
Premiere at Zurich Opera House on 5 December 2021
Premiere at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 15 December 2023

3 hrs 20 mins / 1 interval

In Italian with German and English surtitles

Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance

recommended from 15 years on
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A production of Zurich Opera House

About the performance

About the work
The world premiere of ANNA BOLENA in 1830 was a seminal moment in Italian opera. The work placed the 33-year-old Gaetano Donizetti on a par with Rossini and asserted a new and more expressive style alongside the latter’s vocal brilliance. As their material Donizetti and Felice Romani, the best-known librettist of the age, chose one of most tragic, albeit gripping, stories in the history of Britain: the trial for alleged adultery of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, proceedings that were designed to provide Henry with his second divorce and which ended in Anne’s execution. On the one hand, Donizetti and Romani were responding to increasing public demand for “authentic” storylines that had really happened; on the other hand, they were following a fad, triggered by the novels of Walter Scott, for seeing England and Scotland as a cradle of tragic and blood-thirsty drama. It was a path that Donizetti was also to tread in his later works MARIA STUARDA and ROBERTO DEVEREUX, which have joined ANNA BOLENA to form a Tudor trilogy. Since the revival of the piece in the 1950s/60s, it has given Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé, Leyla Gencer and Edita Gruberová an opportunity to expand the art of dramatic bel canto. ANNA BOLENA calls not only for a charismatic heroine; the cast of characters is bulging with roles – from the unscrupulous king and his new paramour Giovanna Seymour to Anna’s confidant and alleged lover, Percy, – that combine exquisite voices, technical virtuosity and heightened powers of expression.

About the production
For the last three decades New Yorker David Alden has been establishing himself internationally as one of the most successful directors in the musical-theatre genre. Over recent years the Deutsche Oper Berlin has seen him bring his talent to the staging of Britten’s PETER GRIMES and BILLY BUDD and to a particularly triumphant run with Meyerbeer’s LES HUGUENOTS. Alden’s approach to ANNA BOLENA is informed by the same balance of tragedy and wry humour that formed his attitude towards the period operas of the 19th century. The costumes are true to their time, but Alden toys brilliantly with time periods, incorporating stylistic elements reminiscent of Thatcher’s Britain and poking fun at certain British foibles. Our heroine’s tragedy, rendered simply and shatteringly right up to the gory ending, remains at the core of the work.

Our articles on the subject

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Advents-Verlosung: Das 2. Fensterchen

In today's Advent calendar window, we are giving away 3 DVDs of "Der Schatzgräber" - an opera in a prelude, four acts and a postlude by Franz Schreker. If you would like to win one of the three DVDs, please send an e-mail today with the subject "The 2nd window" to

DER SCHATZGRÄBER (THE TREASURE HUNTER) by Franz Schreker was a triumph at its world premiere in Frankfurt in 1920 and went on to play 44 times at assorted venues over the next five years. It then fell victim to a shifting zeitgeist and slipped from opera-house programmes, with a National Socialist ban on performances sealing its demise. Even after 1945 the Schreker revival was a long time coming – and THE TREASURE HUNTER has not featured prominently in the renaissance.

As with the vast majority of Schreker’s libretti, the story of Els and Elis explores the relationship between fantasy and reality, between art and life. Soulmates in the sense that they are both at the mercy of the king’s disposition, Els and Elis set off in search of different treasures. Elis, the minstrel, uses his magic lute to locate a stash of jewels and do humanity a good turn. Els, an innkeeper’s daughter who has grown up motherless in a tough, male-chauvinist world, becomes a liar, cheat and murderess in pursuit of her goal, tasking her suitors to steal the queen’s jewels and then having them killed once they have returned with the haul of treasure. Yet even with the gold in their possession, the pair are not content, and so, true to form, Schreker turns his attention to the theme of yearning per se, which is the actual “treasure” that the composer is interested in, “a dream of happiness and redemption”. Elis and Els are caught up in a swirl of dreams, memories, premonitions, songs and music. Their stories take on a dreamlike quality in a world beset by greed, murder and emotional inconstancy. For Franz Schreker the path to redemption could only be via art. Composed during the turmoil of the First World War, the TREASURE HUNTER score amounts to Schreker’s personal confession of artistic faith, executed in florid strokes of late-Romantic musical colour.

Conductor Marc Albrecht; Staging Christof Loy; Set design Johannes Leiacker; Costume design Barbara Drosihn; With Tuomas Pursio, Doke Pauwels, Clemens Bieber, Michael Adams, Joel Allison, Michael Laurenz, Thomas Johannes Mayer, Seth Carico, Daniel Johansson, Gideon Poppe, Stephen Bronk, Elisabet Strid, Patrick Cook, Tyler Zimmerman a. o.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin

Closing date: 2 December 2023, the winners will be informed by email on 4 December 2023. The DVDs will then be sent by post. Legal recourse is excluded.