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Anna Bolena

Approximate running time


Anna Bolena is an operatic tragedy written by Gaetano Donizetti, that charts the life of Henry VIII second wife Anne Boleyn. Premiering in the December of 1830, the piece is one of Donizetti's most popular works and articulates the composers fascination with the Tudor period of English history.

The Opera is still enormously popular to this day, with revivals of the work consistently performed across the UK and Europe.


Beginning in 1536 and set in Windsor and London the Opera treads somewhat familiar ground, charting the short lived marriage of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII.

Act 1

The King's courtiers begin to suspect that their ruler has grown tired of his second wife Anne Boleyn and is eager to replace her with Jane Seymour. The King explicitly makes this point to Seymour promising that the thrown will soon be hers.

Anna's Brother, Lord Rochefort meets with his sisters first lover, Lord Percy. They discuss Anna's situation and comment on loves fickle nature. Percy and Rochefort meet with Anna and the King. Henry is suspicious of Percy's intentions regarding Anna and orders one of his officers, Hervey to spy on his every move.

Noting Anna's unhappiness Percy once more declares his love for her, asking to see her again. Anna refuses saying that neither she nor Percy can ever speak of their love. Percy unsheathes his sword to stab himself, causing Anna to scream in anguish. This alerts the queens page, Smeaton, who observes the scene from his hiding place behind a screen. Smeaton rushes out fearing Percy is about to attack Anna. The two men are about to fight when Anna feints. The King enters and seeing the unsheathes swords declares both Percy and Smeaton traitors. He orders both of them be taken to the dungeon.

Act 2

Anna and her ladies enter, Hervey, the Kings spy, announces the council of peers have requested an audience with Anna's ladies. Anna Bolena is momentarily alone before Jane Seymour enters and tells Anna to avoid execution by admitting her guilt. Anna refuses and condemns her successor, before asking Jane to leave and revealing her belief that Henry alone is to blame for the situation.

Smeaton reveals he has slept with Anna condemning the pair of them to death. In an audience with the King, Anna and Lord Percy are told they will both be executed, Percy explains that he and Anna will be married in heaven.
Jane Seymour and the Kings council plead for Anna's life compelling the King to be merciful. The King ignores them before demanding they leave. Percy, Rochefort and Smeaton are brought in to Anna's cell, all are consumed with grief. From outside the cell Anna hears a canon, guards enter to lead the four away, Anna faints.


Anna Bolena, Soprano
Henry VIII, Bass
Giovanna Seymour, Mezzo Soprano
Lord Rochefort, Bass
Lord Percy, Tenor
Smeaton, Contralto
Hervey, Tenor

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