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Designer Soutra Gilmour designed ETO's 2005 Maria Stuarda, and for Anna Bolena has used the same combination of historic costumes and a two storey scaffolding-like set. The advantages of the set are that it provides a higher level walkway and numerous places for people to lurk and overhear (essential in this opera of secrets). Though the structure is dressed with flexible screens decorated with tapestries, the results look unfortunately rather like an assemblage of telephone boxes and bus shelters and work less well visually than the 2005 version.

Luciano Botelho (Percy), Riccardo Simonetti (Henry VIII) and Julie Unwin (Anne Boleyn)
Luciano Botelho (Percy), Riccardo Simonetti (Henry VIII) and Julie Unwin (Anne Boleyn)

Anna Bolena is the type of bel canto opera which requires an excellent cast. In her programme note Ludmilla Andrew (herself a noted Anna) points out that 'Technically there must be no surprises once you're out on that stage. Everything must be worked out before hand so that the voice always sounds effortless, beautiful, exciting and expressive.' Not all the cast quite managed this, but they came pretty close. It is always impressive the way ETO, on a small budget, can cast such challenging operas.

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Copyright © 15 March 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK


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