Queen for a Day

Donizetti's ''Anna Bolena'' delivers urgency, despair and beauty to the downfall of one of Henry VIII's most ill-fated wives

By Kate Wingfield
Published on September 20, 2012, 3:12am | Comments

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As Giovanna, mezzo-soprano Sonia Ganassi creates an appropriately less impressive, but nevertheless well-drawn, rival. Her pressure on Enrico to make an honest woman of her makes sense; anything less and she is just a mistress. What doesn't work, as the Italian is interpreted here, is her other reason: fame. Giovanni just doesn't seem the type, especially with her compassion for Anna, her guilt and a golden-toned mezzo that is touched with mournful sweetness.

As Smeton, Anna's young admirer, contralto Claudia Huckle convinces in this trouser role, bringing much presence and restraint. Rich as whipped cream, she sings with wistful beauty. Serving as Anna's troublesome love interest, Riccardo, Shalva Mukeria, though never generating much chemistry with Radvanovsky, nevertheless anchors the action with consistency and, when called for, a pleasingly taut and sometimes ringing tenor.

ANNA BOLENA
Sept. 21, 24, 27, 30
Oct. 3, 6
Kennedy Center
Opera House
$25-$300
202-467-4600
kennedy-center.org

In the Cromwell-like role of Sir Hervey, Aaron Blake proves an effective mime, cleverly suggesting his canny place at court and singing with a clear and interesting tenor. Mention must also be made of Kenneth Kellogg as Anna's brother Lord Rochefort, who delivers a nicely understated performance and a glimpse of a bass impressive enough to make one wonder how he would fare as Enrico.

Though they have their cumbersome moments, Benoit Dugardyn's vast but movable wood panels (suggesting the Globe Theatre – and the Shakespearean aspects of Anne Boleyn's story) evoke a striking 16th century aesthetic when paired with Ingeborg Bernerth's red-touched costumes.

History will always deliver some the best drama, but it's a rare thing to see it imagined and executed – every pun intended – with such artistry and humanity.