It would have been better, of course, if this 1984 production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, or at least its title role, had been filmed 20 years earlier, when Joan Sutherland's voice was in its spectacular prime. But like her Canadian Opera Norma, dating from 1981, this is a better-late-than-never documentation of one of the most remarkable voices of the 20th century.
Lotfi Mansouri spared no effort or expense in making this production special. He personally directed the staging, and handpicked an outstanding cast (right down to the very young and then-unknown Ben Heppner in the small role of Hervey). The visual elements--sets, costumes, and camera work--are also handled with great care, and Sutherland's positive response to this dedication can be sensed in her performance as the unfortunate wife of King Henry VIII. James Morris is best-known as a Wagnerian singer--perhaps the leading Wotan of our time--but he is equally at home in many of the villainous roles that are the fate of bass- baritones (Iago, Scarpia, Don Giovanni). In this sinister tale of an innocent woman ruthlessly destroyed, he shows a surprising knack for the bel canto style. Judith Forst is also excellent in the role of Jane Seymour. --Joe McLellan
157 minute DVD starring Joan Sutherland in one of her greatest triumphs, portraying Anne Boleyn, opposite the formidable Henry VIII of bass james Morris in this 1984 production by the Canadian Opera Company.