If you have nothing nice to say about the Met’s Anna Bolena, write a review…
by Christie Connolley
Tuesday morning, I couldn’t wait to read the reviews of the Met’s premiere of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. I grabbed my laptop to Google the results before I even reached for my toothbrush. There were so many amazing elements that when they came together in the heart of NYC should have equaled bliss, but after reading review after review it was clear it was anything but.
Manuela Hoelterhoff in Bloomberg observed, “Even Netrebko, a Russian diva with a big following, was a pallid presence in the first act, though she did come alive as the executioner loomed… He needs to arrive earlier.” Martin Bernheimer of Financial Times comments on Anna Netrebko undertaking the role: “Ideally, however, this excruciating challenge demands a voice one size bigger and one size heavier. It also demands an easier top extension and a better coloratura technique. (Trills? What trills?)” But it was Anne Midgette’s review that really delved into the pathology of this production. Check out the Operagasm Review Rundown of Ms. Midgette’s review for the Washington Post.
Even an International Diva has some missteps: “In 2011, Anna Netrebko, the soprano superstar du jour, has started taking on Anna Bolena herself — first at the Vienna State Opera in April, and now at the Metropolitan Opera, where she opened the season in the company’s first-ever production of the opera on Monday night. Netrebko is today’s most popular international soprano, and has been hailed, like Callas before her, as a great singing actress. Yet her “Anna Bolena” showed none of the detailed work and care that made Callas’s so memorable. Monday’s performance was littered with missed intonations, smeared runs, and a good deal of running about stage with clasped hands, a move that evidently qualifies as operatic acting in many people’s books.”
Some praise, a compliment even… well, a back-handed one: “Netrebko has a beautiful voice, and though it sometimes lacked the stamina for this long evening there was one moment on Monday when it really shone. In the aria in the final scene, when the character is lapsing in and out of madness, she sat back and let her signature limpid, round, melting tone pour out. The audience, delighted finally to have something to applaud, rewarded her with a deserved ovation, and the singer acknowledged their applause with a warm smile. Netrebko is not someone who worries too much about staying in character.”
A cast of miscasts: “It would have helped to cast singers who were actually suited to the parts: the first act, in particular, bore some of the trappings of an apprentice cast. (Indeed, the best showing came from an alum of the Met’s young artist program, Tamara Mumford, who showed a dark-toned voice in the pants role of the page/musician Smeaton.) The tenor Stephen Costello, almost 30, who sang the part of Percy (the man Anna threw over to marry the King), again showed the reasons he has been hailed as promising with a supple, lyric tenor that grew increasingly confident in melodic lines; unfortunately, it did not include either stamina or top notes. The Met has been grooming the bass Ildar Abdrazakov, who sang Enrico (Henry VIII), but star quality has failed so far to materialize, which left us on Monday with a youthful cipher of no particular vocal impact in lieu of a scene-chewing villain.”
Ouch!: ” The whole thing seemed like an idea that had worked well on paper and gone wrong in practice. We’ll get the leading soprano to open the season! We’ll put in some young singers to show that we’re grooming future stars! We’ll bring in a director known for his psychological penetration, since after all this was a plumb role for Callas, the great actress! Alas, what this all added up to was an evening that represented what too many members of the glittering opening-night crowd probably expect of opera: something long, dull, and not very believable, with a lot of gesticulation and, under it all, some pretty music.”