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Culture in Cinema This Summer

Mariella Devia as Anna Bolena.

The popular opera and ballet simulcasts continue at the Amherst Cinema

With the conclusion of both the June in Buffalo Festival at UB and the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition at Kleinhans, the local classical music scene is in a bit of a lull. Of course, as anyone who was at one of the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival concerts in East Aurora this past weekend can attest, local chamber music lovers will still have another opportunity to hear some genuine musical rarities, performed with a high level of polish, on the series at St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church this Friday and Saturday evenings.

While local performances of live music then drop off for a couple of weeks, until Nickel City Opera’s new production of La Bohème debuts on June 29, live simulcasts continue at the Amherst Dipson Theatre as part of the Culture in Cinema series.

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena

Conductor Roberto Abbado, the nephew of the renowned conductor Claudio Abbado, who has earned an enviable reputation in his own right, will be on the podium on Tuesday, June 19 at 2pm, for the broadcast of Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena from the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, Italy. The Metropolitan Opera premiered its first ever production of the opera with more than a bit of a time lag, since the work received its premiere in 1830. Donizetti composed four operas dealing with the history of Elizabethan England, including Roberto Devereux and Maria Stuarda, and while these two works have received numerous modern productions, Anna Bolena has remained somewhat left behind, perhaps due to the demands of the title role. Anna Netrebko made her debut in the role at the Met, and while her performance was generally praised, the Met’s conductor, the usually reliable Marco Armiliato, drew some criticism for not keeping a tight enough grip on the action, and the Met’s sets were described as “tamely traditional.”

The libretto for Anna Bolena is very loosely modeled on the still gripping, tragic story of Anne Boleyn, the young second wife of the increasingly dissolute English monarch Henry VIII. Graham Vick, the director of this innovatively staged production, describes his production as “two women making use of the bed to get to the throne and a man making use of the throne to get to the bed.”

The all-Italian cast features soprano Mariella Devia, who has made a career out of singing bel canto roles, in the extremely vocally demanding title role, with Sonia Ganassi, who has been described as “a consummate bel canto specialist,” in the role of Jane Seymour, and Roberto Scandiuzzi in the pivotal role of Henry VIII, the much married monarch who loved neither wisely nor too well.

Glazunov’s Raymonda

Balletomanes will welcome the rare opportunity to experience a live simulcast from the Bolshoi Ballet on Sunday, June 24 at 11am, of Alexander Glazunov’s complete three act ballet Raymonda. One of the best things in the Culture in Cinema series has been the opportunity to see live productions from the leading ballet companies in Europe and the brightest star among those companies may well be Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. The company’s home in the magnificently appointed State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia re-opened just last year after a budget-shattering, six-year long total restoration. The results, at least from the point of view of audience members and simulcast viewers, were well worth the hundreds of millions of dollars spent.

Glazunov composed Raymonda, his sole full-length ballet, in collaboration with Maurius Petipa, the legendary ballet master of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre. While productions of the entire ballet have remained in the repertoire of Russian ballet companies, productions in other countries have almost exclusively consisted of extracts. Most of these abbreviated productions have been based on the third act Grand Pas Classique Hongrois, considered to be among Marius Petipa’s supreme masterworks, with notable productions staged by George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

This production features choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, with Bolshoi prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, whose performance in the title role has been described as “enchanting, witty and beguiling in step and manner, as she sailed with adorable grace through ferocious choreography,” with Alexander Volchkov in the role of the knight Jean de Brienne, Raymonda’s fiancé and Pavel Dmitrichenko as Raymonda’s would be seducer, the Saracen warrior Abderakhman.

The Amherst Theatre (3500 Main Street, across from UB South Campus), has been specially upgraded to accommodate the Culture in Cinema series. For more information, visit

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