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One Down, Two to Go: Sondra Radvanovsky Takes on the Tudor Trilogy

New York
Metropolitan Opera
06/29/2015 -  & October 1, 5, 9, 13, 2015, January 5, 9, 2016
Gaetano Donizetti: Anna Bolena
Jamie Barton (Giovanna Seymour), Sondra Radvanovsky (Anna Bolena), Tamara Mumford (Mark Smeaton), Ildar Abdrazakov (Enrico VIII), David Crawford (Lord Rochefort), Stephen Costello (Riccardo Percy), Gregory Schmidt (Hervey)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Marco Armiliato (conductor)
Sir David McVicar (production), Robert Jones (sets), Jenny Tiramani (costumes), Paule Constable (lights), Andrew George (choreographer)

S. Radvanovsky (© Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

One of the more exciting elements of the Met’s 2015-2016 season is its completion of Donizetti’s "Tudor Trilogy," three operas set in sixteenth-century England during the reigns of Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I. The first, Anna Bolena, and second, Maria Stuarda, have already appeared at the Met in heralded house premiere productions by Sir David McVicar. The third, Roberto Devereux, will open later this season, also under McVicar’s direction. Judiciously spaced throughout the season, all three productions will feature the scintillating lyric soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in the leading roles, which progress from Henry VIII’s ill fated second wife Anne Boleyn to their daughter Elizabeth’s equally ill fated cousin Mary Stuart to Elizabeth herself when she must sentence her lover to death.

Radvanovsky’s voice, well suited to the dramatic and spinto categories, does not, alas, offer universal appeal. Some observers find the ascents too forced and the texture too metallic to convey the most effective feeling. As she worked her way through her first Met Anna Bolena, some rough patches were evident. But the overall impression was that of a powerhouse. Sustained runs and majestic cadenzas commanded the stage drama at every turn. The final cabaletta, "Coppia iniqua," brought the house down. Mezzo Jamie Barton, in the role of Henry’s scheming third wife-to-be Jane (Giovanna) Seymour, undertook her schemes with a purring mezzo that drew out all the part’s ruthless drive. As Henry himself, the solid Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov regally captured the ruler’s sense of outrage when he uncovers Anna’s betrayal. He may have lost some feeling in the character’s unforgiving hauteur, but the depiction was compelling nevertheless. The young tenor Stephen Costello’s steady tones achieved a performance of near-break out proportions in the role of Anna’s lover Percy. In the trouser part of the musician Smeaton, Tamara Mumford won well deserved notice.

McVicar’s production remains too somberly realistic to draw out this Renaissance human tragedy in its fullest dimensions. His effort with Maria Stuarda is more colorful, though one will have to wait until next March to see what he will do with Roberto Devereux. Marco Armiliato led a fine performance.

Paul du Quenoy



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