To celebrate the 86th anniversary of her birth (25 May 1929), I bring to a close Beverly Sills’ traversal of the Donizetti “Tudor Queens” with this live Anna Bolena from 1973.

I had the good fortune of being present at two of these performances, as well as seeing Sills countless times in her glory days at NYCO in the early 1970s. (Younger Parterrians may also enjoy hearing Samuel Ramey at age 31.)

Yes, the voice may have started to show some wear by 1973, but Sills was one of those singers who you just had to experience live. Her stage presence was electrifying, and she frequently sacrificed tonal beauty to create a stunning dramatic moment. This is why I prefer these live recordings over the studio versions recorded for Westminster and subsequently re-released by Deutsche Grammophon.

While I love Montserrat Caballé’s performances in these roles for her sheer musicality and luscious tone (I also have live recordings of her in all three operas), and can somewhat appreciate Joan Sutherland’s technique (she was never one of my favorite singers), neither came close to creating such vivid, unforgettable characterizations as Sills did. She was My Queen.

Gaetano Donizetti: Anna Bolena

New York City Opera
Julius Rudel, conductor
03 October 1973

In-house recording

Anna – Beverly Sills
Enrico – Robert Hale
Giovanna – Susanne Marsee
Percy – Enrico Di Giuseppe
Rochefort – Samuel Ramey
Smeton – Hilda Harris
Hervey – Jerold Siena

This completes Donizetti’s “Tudor Queen Trilogy” as performed by Beverly Sills at New York City Opera. You may also enjoy Roberto Devereux and Maria Stuarda.