We were fortunate enough to once again be invited to view the MN Opera Companies Comic Artists Night at the Opera this past week. This time, the show was Anna Bolena. Full disclosure- I have a special affinity for opera of this kind, called “Bell Canto” style, that really focuses on all those crazy vocal gymnastics opera singers are capable of, and on the singing itself.
Anna Bolena is about King Henry the 8ths 2nd wife, Anna, and the process by which she was usurped and executed. It had about as much basis in historical events as your average movie blockbuster, but that’s ok, because it made for good theatre. This opera is the 1st of 3 operas by this composer about the lives of the Tudors. For reasons nobody can seem to remember, the company chose to produce them in reverse order. So, last year we saw the opera about Queen Elizabeth Vs Mary, and this year we saw an opera about Elizabeths mother. Little bitty Elizabeth even showed up a couple of times, and in the final scene was in a childrens version of the dress she wore in the final scene of Mary Stuart.
So, the basic plot is this, Anna is anxiously contemplating the fact that she hasn’t been able to provide Henry with a male heir yet, meanwhile Henry is snaking around with Annas best buddy, anddeclarng intentions to marry her. In the meantime, an old flame of Annas is allowed back from exile at Henrys say-so. Annas brother talks her into seeing him, because he seems to be just about loosing his mind about her. He sneaks into her rooms to see her, and tries to woo her. She admits that she hates being Henrys wife, feels bad about having ousted Henrys first wife, and pretty much admits she’s still in love with him. At this point, a minstrel page-boy who has a crush on Anna rushes out from where he was hiding in her rooms waiting for her, flips out, and sends other people coming to see what the ruckus is about. He also drops a locket that he stole out of Annas room, that has her picture in it. Henry storms onto the scene, declares that she has been unfaithful to him, and that that’s treason, so she should be put to death. The page boy tries to speak up for her, saying that she didn’t actually do anything (although the choreography in at least this productions seems to set up that the only reason she didn’t was that she hadn’t had the time) and so the kind has him arrested to. The kid is tortured until he admits Anna was unfaithful. Anna is locked up in the tower to await a trial that pretty much everyone admits is a complete farce of a formality. Her buddy whose been messing around with Henry shows up to try to convince her to admit she was cheating so that maybe Henry will only exile her. She says she can’t shame the throne or herself like that. They have an oddly touching moment of friendship. Annas brother and would-be-beua are also locked up and slated to be executed. Henry agrees to pardon Annas brother, but he decides to be killed anyways out of solidarity. Then there’s a brief trial, Anna is unsurprisingly convicted. Her buddy tries to convince the king to spare her, but he’s having none of it. Anna is executed. Henry marries her freind. Spoilers, Spoilers, I know, but looking up that Ann Bolin dies is a simple wikipedia search.
Ok, the plot is fairly daytime-TV, but the acting was excellent and the music and visuals were sublime. They reused some of the set pieces we saw in their production of Mary Stuart, for one thing, which I thought was a nice and thought provoking piece of continuity. I honestly do suggest giving it a look if you live in MN. Tickets start at $20, which is not bad at all.
On to the pictures! As always, click the thumbnail to enlarge. These were all drawn on my iPad during the show itself.