Tragic opera in two acts.
First performance: 26 December 1830, Milan.
In Windsor Castle, King Henry VIII of England, married to Anne Boleyn, is in love with another woman, Jane Seymour, Anne’s lady-in-waiting, who is torn between loyalty to her mistress and her love for the King. Anne, convinced by her brother to meet an old love, falls into Henry’s trap, who, knowing of the feelings between the two, takes advantage of them and accuses his wife of being unfaithful, repudiates her and marries his new young love
After the opera’s successful debut in Milan, this work was neglected for 127 years before making a triumphant return in 1957, thanks to the fantastic performance of the divine Maria Callas, directed by Luchino Visconti. Callas completely enchanted the critics of the period, thanks to her intense identification with the character of the hurt, abandoned woman.
Queen Anna Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII, is a woman in pain, who has lost the love of the king and has been put aside so that the king can pay court to her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. It was precisely after listening to this opera that the composer J.S. Mayr, Donizetti’s friend and adviser, for the first time declared him to be a maestro.
Donizetti was an extraordinarily prolific composer, also due to the sheer speed imposed on musicians and composers by the melodramatic theatre of the early 19th century. “Be quick” was his motto, to the extent that he was able to compose one of his greatest works, Lucia
di Lammermoor, in just forty days. It was his rapidity that stimulated him and fed his most creative moments: “You know my motto? Quick! It may be reprehensible, but whatever I have done that is good has always been done quickly!”, he wrote in a letter in 1843.