It is one of a number of operas by Donizetti which deal with the Tudor period in English history, including Il castello di Kenilworth in 1829, which was then followed by Anna Bolena. Maria Stuarda appeared in different forms in 1834 and 1835. Finally, in 1837, Roberto Devereux was presented. The leading female characters of the operas Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux are often referred to as the "Three Donizetti Queens."
The duet "Sul suo capo aggravi un Dio" between Anna and Jane Seymour is considered one of the finest in the entire operatic repertoire.
It premiered on 26 December 1830 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan to "overwhelming success". Thus the composer had begun "to emerge as one of three most luminous names in the world of Italian opera", joining Bellini and Rossini.
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