Serena Farnocchia as Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn)
Serena Farnocchia as Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn)
© Robert Workman

Liverpool Empire

All praise to Welsh National Opera for its bold programming of three Donizetti operas in one season. Under the umbrella title of ‘The Tudors' the company is presenting this trio of rarely performed works.

In Anna Bolena we have Donizetti imagining her final days in the dangerous world of the court of Henry Vlll and in its debut performance in Liverpool there was as much drama off stage as on as three key players succumbed to illness.

Andrew Greenwood does a fine job leading the orchestra in some glorious sounds from the pit and Stephen Wells takes on the mantle of George Boleyn in an assured performance.

The opera is crammed full of wonderful music ranging from heartbreaking arias, through passionate duets to trios and full ensemble pieces.

The director Alessandro Talevi conjures up a dark world in which men in black coats lurk in the background watching and hatching plots as the main characters fear for their lives. The black set of Madeleine Boyd works well as a sinister and shadowy place where dark deeds can be planned but the costume designs of no particular period give no indication of rank and the unrelieved black is hard on the eye. The ladies costumes in particular are most unflattering.

Alastair Miles as Henry Vlll is suitably villainous and he gives a powerful performance as does Robert McPherson as Lord Percy.

As Jane Seymour, Katharine Goeldner charts her love, betrayal and guilt with dramatic intensity in a fine rendering of the role.

However the biggest triumph of the night belongs to Linda Richardson singing the title role rather earlier than expected. She gives a stunning performance conveying a raft of emotions from love to grief ending in her dramatic scenes of madness.

There was good support in the minor roles and the Chorus of WNO turned in some sterling work.

And well done to WNO for an impressive programme covering the whole season in a beautifully presented and informative book at a reasonable price.

- Richard Woodward