is a tragic opera (tragedia lirica) in two acts composed by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after Ippolito Pindemonte's Enrico VIII ossia Anna Bolena and Alessandro Pepoli's Anna Bolena, both recounting the life of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of England's King Henry VIII.
It is one of four operas by Donizetti dealing with the Tudor period in English history—in composition order, Il castello di Kenilworth (1829), Anna Bolena (1830), Maria Stuarda (named for Mary, Queen of Scots, it appeared in different forms in 1834 and 1835), and Roberto Devereux (1837, named for a putative lover of Queen Elizabeth I of England). The leading female characters of the latter three operas are often referred to as "the Three Donizetti Queens."
Anna Bolena premiered on 26 December 1830 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan, to "overwhelming success." Weinstock notes that only after this success did Donizetti's teacher, Johann Simon Mayr, "address his former pupil as Maestro." The composer had begun "to emerge as one of three most luminous names in the world of Italian opera", alongside Bellini and Rossini.
After its opening performances in Italy in 1830, Anna Bolena was first given in London at the King's Theatre on 8 July 1831. Its first US performance was given in French (as Anne de Boulen) in New Orleans, at the Théâtre d'Orléans on 12 November 1839. The New York premiere of the opera, and the first Italian presentation of the work in the United States, took place at the Astor Opera House on January 7, 1850 with conductor Max Maretzek and Apollonia Bertucca in the title role. It appears to have been presented in Europe, up to 1850, in 25 cities and then again in 1881 in Livorno. After the rise of verismo, it was performed infrequently.
Rarely seen in the first half of the 20th century, it was revived more frequently after World War II. On 30 December 1947, the opera was performed at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, to mark that theatre's centennial (it had opened in 1847 with Anna Bolena). The cast was Sara Scuderi as Anna, Giulietta Simionato as Jane Seymour and Cesare Siepi as Henry VIII. In April 1957, the opera was revived at La Scala for Maria Callas (one of the twelve performances was recorded) in a lavish production directed by Luchino Visconti, with Giulietta Simionato as Jane Seymour. It proved to be one of Callas' greatest triumphs.
Since its 1850 performance, the opera was not performed again in the United States until it was presented in a concert version by the American Opera Society in October 1957 with Gloria Davy the title role and Simionato as Giovanna Seymour for performances at both Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. On 26 June 1959, the Santa Fe Opera mounted the first fully staged production of the work since 1839. Several famous modern sopranos have lent their voices to the role, including Leyla Gencer, Montserrat Caballé, Marisa Galvany, Renata Scotto, Edita Gruberova and Mariella Devia. In the 1970s, Beverly Sills earned a considerable degree of fame when she appeared in all three of Donizetti's "Tudor" operas at the New York City Opera. (She also made studio recordings of all three operas.) And Anna was one of the last new roles performed by Dame Joan Sutherland, in a concert version in the 1980s.
While not yet part of the "standard repertory", Anna Bolena is increasingly performed today, and there are several recordings.
It was presented by the Dallas Opera in November 2010, which has also staged Maria Stuarda. The Minnesota Opera presented Anna Bolena as part of the "Three Queens" trilogy. The Vienna State Opera gave it in the Spring of 2011, with Anna Netrebko in the title role and Elīna Garanča as Giovanna Seymour. New York's Metropolitan Opera mounted it for the first time in September 2011, opening the company's 2011-2012 season, with Netrebko and with David McVicar directing. Opera Seria UK in Manchester, England, staged Anna Bolena in 2012 as the first in their "Tudor Queens" trilogy, which continues into 2014. And the Welsh National Opera presented the trilogy between September and November 2013, in many different venues in Britain. The Lyric Opera of Chicago also included Anna Bolena in their 2014-2015 season. Sondra Radvanovsky has sung the title role at several opera houses including the Met in 2015.