What’s a girl to do on Halloween? There’s the ‘stay home and pass out candy’ option…been there, done that. The ‘go to a party’ option…didn’t know of any. Or—this year, at least—there was the ‘go to the opera’ option. Ding ding ding!
While not a huge opera aficionado but I do enjoy a well-sung aria and this weekend’s offering was Anna Bolena. You may know her as Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s ill-fated wives and mother of Elizabeth I.
After successfully supplanting Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and causing one of the biggest church splits in the history of, well, church, Anne achieved her heart’s desire and became Queen of England. Unfortunately for her, now that Henry has figured out wives are disposable, he’s ready to move on to Contestant #3 in the royal lottery, Jane Seymour.
That’s where our story begins. Anna Bolena is an opera by Donizetti and clearly written for a non-English crowd. I’m not just talking about the language, either, there are several little slams at England and protestantism in the text. But never mind, it’s a good–if not necessarily accurate–story.
Our seats were what we call at Women of Faith “the heavenlies” and in the opera are known as “the gods”. In other words, we were just below the celing. The seats were comfortable enough, and steeply raked so we could see over of the people below us. The sound was excellent. Unfortunately, the set designer apparently didn’t care about the likes of us as anytime someone appeared on the upper level of the set (which happened often) they appeared headless. Considering Ms. Boleyn’s ultimate fate, perhaps that was unintentional foreshadowing.
Denyce Graves sang the role of Jane Seymour, the conflicted (and somewhat gutless) woman who was simultaneously Anne’s friend and Henry’s lover. Poor Denyce appeared to be in some distress as her normally flawless voice was husky at the beginning and downright pained at the end. (I could feel her throat hurting; my own vocal cords flinched in sympathy.)
Soprano Hasmik Papian did a fine job as Anna but tenor Stephen Costello’s voice shone the brightest, imo. Bass Oren Gradus made a delightfully evil Henry; given some of the later portly portraits of the old boy it was pretty funny to see him constantly snacking while others sang around him.
All that drama required an equally dramatic dinner afterward. Our little group was unanimous: Rise. We inhaled the cheese plate before I snapped a picture, but next came the crab & Boursin cheese souffle and the artichoke souffle…
Followed by the Grand Marnier souffle…
Betrayal, beheading, and souffle: just the ingredients needed for an excellent Halloween.