Bel canto opera has never quite been essential to my metabolism…though recently I attended the new Canadian Opera Company production of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” in the acoustically superb (and purpose-built) Toronto opera house … directed by Stephen Lawless (UK) and starring the great Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role.  The performance was intelligently & tastefully conducted by Corrado Rovaris (Italy).  As one who has experienced Joan Sutherland as Lucia and Janet Baker in the Tudor trilogy with Charles Mackerras conducting at English National Opera (London), this took a back seat to none..

The convincing pacing and dramatic arc were thanks to Rovaris. His “minimal” conducting style (unfailngly for the benefit of those in front of him, not behind..,) idiomatic grasp and sheer musicianship in this genre drew warmly attentive playing from the orchestra and inspired the impressive cast of singers.

Sondra Radvanosky was spectacular, displaying an astonishing range of color and dramatic involvement via her sustained mezza voce and pianissimi — as much as her fiorature roulades..  This truly was a memorable display of the vocal art.

The Elizabethan sets transported me back to the Old Globe, as did the staging of director Stephen Lawless. The audience remained silent for the entire evening, testifying among other things to the importance of warmly responsive acoustics.