Met Opera – Week 22 – August 13, 2020

Thursday, August 13
Puccini’s Turandot ~ 2Hrs and 21Mins
Starring Nina Stemme, Anita Hartig, Marco Berti, and Alexander Tsymbalyuk, conducted by Paolo Carignani. From January 30, 2016.

This is the third time around – and so the third cast we’ve had the opportunity to see – in
Franco Zeffirelli’s spectacular, golden production of Puccini’s Turandot. This one stars the great dramatic soprano Nina Stemme as Turandot, the icy Chinese princess who refuses all suitors due to the mistreatment visited upon her female ancestors by men in the past. Marco Berti is Calàf this time, the mysterious prince who succeeds in solving Turandot’s riddles, but then has to take a bit more time – and drama – to finally win her love. Berti made a serviceable Calàf, if you just love Puccini and want to hear and see this glorious production it again (we’ve already commented on the Met’s many issues with finding really good tenors these days!). Anita Hartig actually steals this show with her gorgeously and emotionally sung Liù, the faithful slave girl who gives her life to save Calàf. Alexander Tsymbalyuk is Timur; Ping, Pang, and Pong (Dwayne Croft, Tony Stevenson, and Eduardo Valdes) have rarely been presented with more panache, and Paolo Carignani conducts.

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Met Opera – Week 22 – August 10-12, 2020

Tuesday, August 11
Bizet’s Carmen ~ 2Hrs and 52Mins
Starring Aleksandra Kurzak, Clémentine Margaine, Roberto Alagna, and Alexander Vinogradov, conducted by Louis Langrée. From February 2, 2019.

And speaking of tenors – and the Met’s seemingly dismal lack of them… alas, for its third Carmen – we have the second one with Alagna – and we have the very same Sir Richard Eyre production that we have already seen twice before and that had its Met premiere back in 2009. But still – it is Bizet’s ever-popular and wonderfully tuneful opera, even with Roberto Alagna – again – as Don José (and by now an obviously aging one at that!), the wayward military officer whose desperate love for the Gypsy, Carmen, proves to be both of their undoing. Clémentine Margaine is Carmen this time, and sadly does not hold a candle to Elīna Garanča, or even to Anita Rachvelishvili, who both sang the role earlier. This cast also includes soprano Aleksandra Kurzak as the demure Micaëla (hummmm – she is now Alagna’s wife and seems, coincidently, to be appearing in a lot more operas these days) and bass Alexander Vinogradov as the swaggering bullfighter Escamillo. Maestro Louis Langrée was on the podium to conduct the opera, which as everyone should know by now, features one instantly recognizable melody after another. ‘Nough said.

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The Met Streams Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’

Sunday, August 9
Mozart’s Don Giovanni ~ 3 HRS 13 MIN
Starring Hibla Gerzmava, Malin Byström, Serena Malfi, Paul Appleby, Simon Keenlyside, and Adam
Plachetka, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From October 22, 2016.
After the wonderful May 22nd (with
Sutherland & Morris) and July 3rd (with
Kwiecien & Frittoli) streams of this
marvelous opera, you might think that
we’ve had enough Giovanni for a while – but
this cast has some definite winners in spite
of the repeat of its drab and decidedly
unexciting three-story set recreating an
uninterestingly dark 18th-century Seville.
The consummate singing actor, baritone
Simon Keenlyside (we’ve seen him in Don
Carlo and The Tempest, and as a
remarkable Hamlet) smolders dangerously
in the title role of Mozart’s version of the
legend of Don Juan, creating an unusually
dark portrait of the man who believes he is
a law unto himself, and is all the more
dangerous for his eternally seductive allure.
Keenlyside is far more sinister than either
Morris or Kwiecien in this role. Adam
Plachetka is a fine foil as his occasionally
unruly servant Leporello. As you may
remember, Giovanni tangles with Donna
Anna (Hibla Gerzmava) as the opera opens, and things begin to unravel for him – amusingly aided and
abetted by the reappearance in Seville of Donna Elvira (the wonderful, Malin Byström), who is
determined not to let her seducer go free. Paul Appleby as Don Ottavio, Donna Anna’s eternally
steadfast fiancé adds his delightful tenor to the ensemble. Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads the
Met Orchestra

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The Met Streams Handel’s ‘Agrippina’

Saturday, August 8
Handel’s Agrippina ~ 3 HRS 25 MIN
Starring Brenda Rae, Joyce DiDonato, Kate Lindsey, Iestyn Davies, Duncan Rock, and Matthew Rose,
conducted by Harry Bicket. From February 29, 2020.
If this image doesn’t repulse
you – then this is an opera
you MUST see! Handel’s
breakout masterpiece,
Agrippina – he was only 24
when he wrote it – offers an
outrageous, satirical look at
the political maneuverings
and personal entanglements
of the Roman emperor
Claudius and his cadre of
advisers, hangers-on, and
his particularly cunning
wife, Agrippina. Baroque
black comedy had its longawaited
Met premiere this
year in a new production by
Sir David McVicar that
updates the original action
to the present time. The
New York Times called it “a
devilish delight” – and I
completely agree.
Extraordinarily talented mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato delivered a knockout performance in the

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The Met Streams Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’

Friday, August 7
Wagner’s Parsifal ~ 4 HRS 24 MIN
Starring Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem, Bernd Weikl, and Kurt Moll, conducted by James
Levine. From March 28, 1992.
James Levine’s conducting of Wagner’s
last opera, Parsifal, has been described as
“a model of concentrated rapture.” The
Met’s orchestra and chorus—to say
nothing of this classic, all-star cast—are
certainly spellbinding in Otto Schenk’s
production (with sets by Günther
Schneider-Siemssen). Siegfried Jerusalem
(could there be a better name for a
Wagnerian tenor?) is Parsifal, the
ignorant young “pure fool” who finally
achieves wisdom, recaptures the Holy
Spear and restores the Order of the Holy
Grail. The bewitching Waltraud Meier is a
perfect Kundry, Kurt Moll’s Gurnemanz is
both compassionate and wise, while
Bernd Weikl’s suffering fallen knight
Amfortas completes the talented

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The Met Streams Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’

Thursday, August 6
Puccini’s Madama Butterfly ~ 2 HRS 44 MIN
Starring Kristine Opolais, Maria Zifchak, Roberto Alagna, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Karel Mark
Chichon. From April 2, 2016.
This is the third goaround
for Anthony
Minghella’s Japanese
noh theater and
bunraku inspired
production of Puccini’s
Madama Butterfly and
it certainly provides us
with an absolutely
stunning setting for the
familiar tragedy. The
heartbreaking story of a
charmingly naive
geisha, who fervently
believes that her
faithless American
husband will return to
her, stars soprano
Kristine Opolais (we’ve just seen her in Manon Lescaut and Rusalka) who brings all of her passionate
commitment to this portrayal of Cio-Cio-San, the teenage girl who gives up everything for an
American navy sailor – Lt. B.F. Pinkerton. Roberto Alagna is the naval officer who refuses to take
seriously the depth of Cio-Cio-San’s love, and whose subsequent marriage to an American woman
precipitates Butterfly’s suicide. Maria Zifchak is always wonderful as Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s faithful
servant, and Dwayne Croft is the best possible sympathetic American consul, Sharpless, who tries but
fails to avert the tragedy he knows is coming. Karel Mark Chichon conducts.

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The Met Streams Verdi’s ‘Simon Boccanegra’

Wednesday, August 5
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra ~ 2 HRS 20 MIN
Starring Kiri Te Kanawa, Plácido Domingo, Vladimir Chernov, and Robert Lloyd, conducted by James Levine. From January 26, 1995.

This classic production by Giancarlo Del Monaco sumptuously captures the look and feel of 14th century Genoa and is a definite compliment to Verdi’s tragic story. The opera itself examines the treacherous path between public duty and private grief traveled by its hero, Boccanegra. Plácido Domingo plays Gabriele Adorno, who is the sworn enemy of Simon Boccanegra (Vladimir Chernov), the Doge of Genoa. Gabriele is in love with the beautiful Amelia (Kiri Te Kanawa) who turns out to be none other than the long-lost daughter the Doge himself. James Levine’s authoritative conducting of the Met orchestra and chorus highlights the dark power of yet another Verdi masterpiece.

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The Met Streams Offenbach’s ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’

Tuesday, August 4
Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann ~ 2 HRS 51 MIN
Starring Erin Morley, Hibla Gerzmava, Kate Lindsey, Christine Rice, Vittorio Grigolo, and Thomas
Hampson, conducted by Yves Abel. From January 31, 2015.
Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo
takes on the title role in
Offenbach’s fantastical opera,
giving a very favorably reviewed
performance as the tortured poet
who is decidedly unlucky in love.
He is joined by a trio of excellent
leading ladies: Erin Morley sings
the high flying coloratura
demanded of the mechanical
doll Olympia, Hibla Gerzmava is
the fragile Antonia, and
Christine Rice sings Giulietta,
the Venetian courtesan. Bartlett
Sher’s production with sets by
Michael Yeargan (described by
the New York times as “a flimsylooking
mash-up of images from
Kafka, Fellini and Magritte”) is
seen tonight in its second Live in
HD presentation. In addition to
Hoffmann and his three loves
above, this one also stars suave baritone, Thomas Hampson who plays all four sinister villains and the
marvelous Kate Lindsey (again) as Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s friend and muse. Yves Abel conducts.

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The Met Streams Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’

Monday, August 3
Mozart’s The Magic Flute ~ 1 HRS 52 MIN
Starring Ying Huang, Erika Miklósa, Matthew Polenzani, Nathan Gunn, and René Pape, conducted by James Levine. From December 30, 2006.

This production is the groundbreaking HD broadcast that launched the Met’s world renowned Live in HD series, now seen by millions of opera lovers in movie theaters around the world for over 14 years. Adults and children alike were enchanted by the whimsical humor and breathtaking puppetry of Julie Taymor’s 2004 hit production, presented for the HD inaugural in a much shortened English-language version. Under the baton of Maestro James Levine, a winning ensemble cast included the wonderfully athletic Nathan Gunn (as Papageno, the bird catcher), Ying Huang (an alluring Pamina), Matthew Polenzani (as Prince Tamino), Erika Miklosa (as the Queen of the Night), Greg Fedderly (as the wicked Monostatos – the actually trim tenor was unrecognizable with his flabby, fake pot belly, bald white face and horribly hooked nose which induces giggles every time he exposed it), and wonderful bass René Pape (as the prophet, Sarastro). They all brought fresh life to Mozart’s timeless fairy tale. It is an absolute visual and aural delight for young and old alike, with some of the most impressive costume and set designs in all of the Met’s digital archive. It is worth noting that the three Ladies of the Night are Wendy Bryn Harmer, Kate Lindsey, and Tamara Mumford – all of whom are now BIG Met stars in their own right – Mozart’s Ladies of the Night, like Wagner’s Rheinmaidens, are often Met debut roles that give us a hint about the upcoming new generation of Met Divas! Shortening the score for this special version definitely involved a lot of painful decisions. The overture and several entire arias and ensembles were cut. Other arias were abridged through some very deft trims, but otherwise the Met went all out. Even if you were able to hear the entire opera in June, this one has a great cast and is beautiful, short and sweet – although I don’t love the English – it just doesn’t sound as “right” as the German does to me!

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