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Plot summary of Donizetti's Anna Bolena

Anna Bolena
Music by Gaetano Donizetti

Plot Summary

Act One

Felice Romani's libretto for Anna Bolena was based only very loosely on historical fact.

Act One, Scene One, takes places at night in the apartments of the Queen at Windsor Castle. Courtiers comment that the queen's star is setting, because the king's fickle heart burns with another love. Giovanna (Jane Seymour) enters. Troubled, she wonders why the queen has asked to see her. ("Ella di me, sollecita più dell'usato, ha chiesto.")

Anna (the queen, Anne Boleyn) enters and notes that people seem sad. ("Si taciturna e mesta mai non vidi assemblea.") The queen admits being troubled to Giovanna. At the queen's request, her page Smeton plays the harp and sings to cheer the people present. ("Deh! non voler costringere a finta gioia il viso . . .") The queen asks him to stop. Unheard by any one else, she says to herself that the ashes of her first love are still burning, and that she is now unhappy in her vain splendor. The queen is unwilling to tell Giovanna what is troubling her. All leave, except Giovanna.

Enrico (Henry VIII) the king enters. Enrico tells Giovanna that soon she will have no rival, that the altar has been prepared for her , that she will have husband, sceptre, and throne. Each leaves by a different door.

Act One, Scene Two, takes place during the daytime in the park surrounding Windsor Castle. Lord Rochefort, Anna's brother, is surprised to meet Lord Richard Percy, who has been called back to England from exile by Enrico. Percy asks is it true that the Queen is unhappy and that the King has changed. "And does love ever remain content?," replies Rochefort. Hunters enter. Percy is agitated at the prospect of possibly seeing Anna, who was his first love. Enrico and Anna enter and express surprise at seeing Percy. Enrico does not allow Percy to kiss his hand, but says that Anna has given him assurances of Percy's innocence. "Ah! do not betray me, o heart!," says Anna to herself. She still has feelings for Percy. In an aside, Enrico tells Hervey, an officer of the king, to be the spy of every step and every word of Anna and Percy.

Act One, Scene Three, takes place in Windsor Castle in a small room leading into Anna's apartments. Smeton takes from his breast a locket containing Anna's portrait and he kisses it. He has stolen it and has come to return it. He hears a sound and hides beyond a screen. Anna and Rochefort enter. Rochefort asks Anna to hear Percy. Then he leaves. Smeton peeps out from behind the screen, but feels that he cannot escape. Percy enters. Percy says that he sees that Anna is unhappy. She tells him that the king now loathes her. Percy says that he still loves her. Anna tell him not to speak to her of love. Before leaving, Percy asks whether he can see Anna again. She says, "No. Never again." He draws his sword to stab himself, and Anna screams. In the mistaken belief that Percy is attacking Anna, Smeton rushes out from behind the screen. Smeton and Percy are about to fight. Anna faints, and Rochefort rushes in. Just then, Enrico enters and sees the unsheathed swords. Summoning attendants, he says that these persons have betrayed their king. Smeton says that it is not true, and tears open his tunic to offer his breast to the king for slaying if he is lying. The locket with Anna's portrait falls at the king's feet. The king snatches it up. "Ecco il tradimento," "Here is betrayal," he says. He orders that the offenders be dragged to dungeons. Anna says to herself that her fate is sealed.

Copyright 2002 John R. Pierce. All rights reserved.

To Act Two

To Act Two

Anna Bolena at

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