It is one of four operas by Donizetti dealing with the Tudor period in English history—in composition order, Il castello di Kenilworth, Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux. The leading female characters of the latter three operas are often referred to as "the Three Donizetti Queens."
The duet "Sul suo capo aggravi un Dio" between Anna and Jane Seymour, who later became Henry VIII's third wife, is considered one of the finest in the entire operatic repertoire.
Anna Bolena premiered on 26 December 1830 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan, to "overwhelming success." Weinstock notes that only after this success did Donizetti's teacher, Johann Simon Mayr, "address his former pupil as Maestro." The composer had begun "to emerge as one of three most luminous names in the world of Italian opera", alongside Bellini and Rossini.
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