The Wives of Henry VIII


27 May 2016, 10:30 p.m.

Opera House – Red Salon

In Brief


Opera House – Red Salon
May 27, 2016
Start time
10:30 p.m.
End time
11:45 p.m.


The time: transitional. Somewhere on the cusp between the late middle ages and the dawn of the Renaissance. Full of movement, change and evolution. A dynamic period, but brimming with uncertainty. Sound familiar?
The subject: marriage. It would be difficult to find a more conspicuously modern problem.
The main setting: the royal court.
That is, the court of Henry VIII: a world sultry with eroticism and filthy with scandal and betrayal. A venue for fraud and deceit, slander and valid accusations, legitimate and groundless lawsuits, and of great – and sometimes fatal – amusement.
Five weddings and five funerals – that is, the fates of five women and one man. Henry VIII is the key figure: the five different female characters appear in the mirror of his plans, decisions and choices. The cruel, unbridled and mortally dangerous monarch also had a lyrical side, with a sideline as a poet and composer of music. The women all supplicate themselves to this complex figure, attempting to win him over, to see into his secret emotions, and it to him that they address their last words and, no doubt, their curses.
The production takes a close look at a world ruled by cruel laws, for we cannot forget the maxim indignatio principis mors est: to anger the sovereign means death. And what can be better proof of this than the five women – Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Howard – each at one time his happy spouse and young bride – as well as the tragic outcome of fate.
This production being developed in honour of the commemorative Shakespeare year will also include Henry VIII’s own musical compositions and poems, masterworks by the poets attached to the courts (as translated by Dezső Mészöly), excerpts from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and from Sir Thomas More, partially attributed to Shakespeare, as well as selections from Romantic operas and contemporary music, such as Libby Larsen’s song cycle Try Me, Good King: The Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII.

Director: Kristóf Widder
Dramaturg: Szabolcs Molnár
Pianist: Lilian Jászberényi
Performed by: Eszter Zavaros, Balázs Csémy, Márton Pallag