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Donizetti Anna Bolena

Longborough Festival Opera , June 22 - July 1, 2019

 Photographs by Matthew Williams-Ellis, courtesy of Longborough Festival Opera


Longborough is one of the longer established venues on the country house opera circuit. It is quite a small scale operation but yields nothing in terms of quality. Its theatre was built over 20 years ago and has a small, 500 seat, auditorium with a noticeably warm acoustic.  Wagner, albeit cut down to some degree, is its focus and forte.  Anna Bolena was its first serious Donizetti opera, although it staged Don Pasquale a few years ago and plans to do L'Elisir d'Amore next year.


While I am perhaps a little less jaundiced than I once was about the long interval picnic that is always a feature of country house opera, I do wonder whether the break makes it difficult for performers and audiences to maintain their focus. That was certainly my reaction to this year's Grange Festival's otherwise outstanding production of Verdi's Falstaff, where the short third act second half didn't give time to regain the superb momentum of the first half.  Here Anna Bolena's rather episodic structure meant that the first half really only set up the situation and any tension lost was quickly regained with the concentrated build up to the tragic end in the second half. 


Longborough has a smallish stage, as might be expected, and does not appear to have all the advanced stage gizmos that some have.  However, the designer, Nate Gibson, used the space well with two levels separated by steps and a central wedge that divided it into two and provided a place where a singer could dominate proceedings. This gave scope for a number of well judged  scenes. The lattice backdrop meant that Enrico and Hervey could be seen to be lurking with evil intent at various times.  


Linda Richardson sang Anna, as she did for Welsh National Opera when they mounted the so-called Tudor Trilogy ( ). Now as then, I found her singing  was well able to cope but that, overall, her performance was not particularly gripping. For me the ghost of Callas will always stalk this opera. Jung Soo Yun was an excellent, mellifluous, Percy while Lukas Jacobski made a convincing and haughty Enrico, towering over Giovanna Seymour. his voice suitably harsh. The other parts were well taken and the small chorus nicely filled the auditorium. Jeremy Silver conducted what was an excellent evening and one which I think came as something of a revelation to some, judging by audience comments. 

Russell Burdekin was at the July 1 performance.


The Team

Anna Bolena - Linda Richardson

Percy - Jung Soo Yun

Smeton- Carolyn Dobbin

Enrico - Lukas Jacobski

Giovanna Seymour - Caryl Hughes

Hervey - Alex Haigh

Rochefort - Matthew Buswell



Conductor -  Jeremy Silver

Director – Jenny Miller

Designer -  Nate Gibson

Lighting - Ace MacCarron    




Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Smeton with Anna's minature







Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Enrico and Anna. The occasional use of masks by the  chorus added a sense of unease and mystery







Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Giovanna and Enrico






Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Percy, Hervey and Rochefort






Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Anna,  Enrico and Percy 







Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Anna,  Enrico and Percy 







Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Anna faints at court







Photo - Matthew Williams-Ellis

Anna about to be executed




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