Review: Welsh National Opera, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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Welsh National Opera’s ambitious Donizetti project reached the South Coast this week with Anna Bolena.

This tragic opera culminates in a celebrated ‘mad scene’, as the breakdown of the heroine’s mind is depicted in magnificent vocal virtuosity.

Everything else is secondary. Therefore the performance of Linda Richardson in the title role was the most important ingredient in an evening dominated by singing of the highest calibre, and she most certainly did not disappoint.

She was ably supported by the tenor Robert McPherson’s ringing tone as her lover Percy, by Katharine Goeldner as her rival Jane Seymour, and by the villain of the piece, the experienced bass Alistair Milnes as King Henry VIII.

The conducting of Andrew Greenwood brought crisp and alert playing from the orchestra, while the chorus was its usual admirable self.

So far so good, but the production did not really help the cause. The costumes were drab, while to represent his virility the King wore his Y-fronts outside his trousers.

Moreover the bleak sets failed to enhance the atmosphere of a drama which is not portrayed with the greatest intensity in the music.

If it’s a drama in the Tudor Court, set it in the Tudor Court. It makes sense.