Met free Streaming – Week 27 (Bel-Canto Favorites)

(Dates in parentheses are for original stream)

An entire week full of fun and the greatest bel canto casts on earth – and you can save up all your Kleenex for Sunday – all happy endings until then!

Monday, September 14
Donizetti’s Don Pasquale
(April 11) ~ 2Hrs and 22Mins
Starring Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecień, and John Del Carlo; conducted by James Levine. From November 13, 2010.

Donizetti’s timeless comedy shines in Otto Schenk’s enchanting production, conducted by James Levine and featuring a wonderful, ensemble cast. The young Anna Netrebko is Norina, the spunky widow beloved by Ernesto (a suave Matthew Polenzani), who is about to be disinherited by his miserly uncle, Don Pasquale (John Del Carlo). It takes the clever scheming of Dr. Malatesta (Mariusz Kwiecien) to set things right and to teach the old curmudgeon a lesson—fits of temper, clever plots, mistaken identities, and all kinds of comic confusion make this a pure delight.

Pasquale has been a runaway success since its premiere in 1843. Donizetti’s boisterous comedy deals with a buffoonish old man’s “marriage” to a clever young widow who outsmarts him at every turn. The opera is a touchstone of the bel canto style, showcases many of the composer’s most charming melodies, and has also become a particular favorite of basses, who are provided with a deliciously hammy and expansive title role. 

Tuesday, September 15
Rossini’s Le Comte Ory
(April 16) ~ 2Hrs and 23Mins
Starring Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, and Juan Diego Flórez; conducted by Maurizio Benini.  From April 9, 2011.

Rossini’s rarely heard, but perfectly delightful comedy receives a brilliant performance in Bartlett Sher’s Met premiere production with a trio of today’s greatest bel canto stars in the leading roles: Juan Diego Flórez is the Count Ory, a handsome rogue who finds women—all women—irresistible. Diana Damrau sings the virtuous Countess Adèle, and Joyce DiDonato is Isolier, the count’s page, who is also in love with the countess. Jokes, misunderstandings, and gender-bending disguises—including knights dressed as nuns— abound in this hilarious tale of deception and seduction. Maurizio Benini conducts.

Set during the Crusades in 13th-century Touraine, Rossini’s French farce tells the story of a caddish count who, along with the rest of his footmen, disguises himself – multiple times – in order to hide in a convent and woo his latest love interest, a virtuous young countess named Adèle. Hilarity abounds, as do many of the Rossini’s most piquant and tuneful musical moments—including a powerful trio featuring a man dressed as a woman, a woman dressed as a man, and a noblewoman masquerading as an abbess. A true delight.

Wednesday, September 16
Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
(March 20) ~ 2Hrs and 19Mins
Starring Natalie Dessay, Felicity Palmer, Juan Diego Flórez, and Alessandro Corbelli; conducted by Marco Armiliato. From April 26, 2008.

Madcap physical comedy and impeccable coloratura come together in the marvelous Natalie Dessay’s indelible portrayal of a feisty tomboy raised by a regiment of French soldiers. Juan Diego Flórez is the young Swiss villager who conquers her heart—as well as a slew of high Cs. This one also features uproarious performances by Felicity Palmer and Alessandro Corbelli, and a cameo appearance by Tony Award winner Marian Seldes.

One of the most ebullient works in the repertoire, Donizetti’s delightful comedy is the unlikely tale of a bright, headstrong young woman whose “fathers” all belong to a French army regiment. Much to the dismay of the doting but overprotective soldiers, Marie falls in love with the Tyrolean villager – Tonio— in a touchstone tenor role that overflows with youthful ardor and an astounding 9 high C’s in a single aria. Hilarity and virtuosic bel canto crossfire are the hallmarks of this wonderful opera.

Thursday, September 17
Rossini’s La Cenerentola
(July 17) ~ 2Hrs and 43Mins
Starring Elīna Garanča, Lawrence Brownlee, Simone Alberghini, Alessandro Corbelli, and John Relyea; conducted by Maurizio Benini. From May 9, 2009.

If ever a composer was born to set the enchanting fairy tale of Cinderella to sparkling music it was Rossini. His much put upon heroine Angelina (Elīna Garanča) has to cope not only with the usual nasty stepsisters, but also an over-the-top, farcical father, Don Magnifico (Alessandro Corbelli). In this version the Prince (Lawrence Brownlee) and his valet (Simone Alberghini) swap identities from the very beginning, which causes no end of delightful confusion. With Cesare Lievi’s delightful storybook production and Maurizio Benini’s expert conducting, it’s all a light and deliciously marvelous musical soufflé.

Cenerentola is the ideal role for a virtuosic mezzo-soprano like Garanča to rocket from rags to riches and this particular retelling also features supporting characters whose voices soar right along with her. Cinderella’s Prince, her stepfather, and the Prince’s valet are given delightfully memorable arias, and Rossini rounds out his score with ingenious ensemble flourishes. A bel canto masterpiece, La Cenerentola brings its stock fairy tale characters to dazzling life.

Friday, September 18
Bellini’s I Puritani
(June 1) ~ 2Hrs and 35Mins
Starring Anna Netrebko, Eric Cutler, Franco Vassallo, and John Relyea; conducted by Patrick Summers. From January 6, 2007.

Soprano Anna Netrebko took New York by storm when she performed the role of the fragile Puritan maiden Elvira. Her daring take on the heroine’s famous mad scene earned her standing ovations from sold-out houses night after night. Overflowing with perfectly beautiful Bellini arias and ensembles, this bel canto gem also stars Eric Cutler as Elvira’s true love Arturo, Franco Vassallo as her suitor Riccardo, and John Relyea as her sympathetic uncle Giorgio.

The complex saga of star-crossed love and family drama is set against the strife of the 17th-century’s English Civil Wars and is best known for its mad scene – one of the repertory’s most spectacular. Elvira, a young Puritan woman, is set to marry Arturo, even though he is a royalist. When his duty to the crown comes between them, however, and Elvira finds herself abandoned on her wedding day, she descends into madness with a breathtaking outpouring of virtuosity that only this style of opera can deliver. Don’t worry though, the lovers are re-united in the end, the war is ended, amnesty declared and all live happily ever after!

Saturday, September 19
Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore
(May 30) ~ 2Hrs and 22Mins
Starring Pretty Yende, Matthew Polenzani, Davide Luciano, and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; conducted by Domingo Hindoyan. From February 10, 2018.

Donizetti’s enchanting comic opera, The Elixir of Love is almost as intoxicating as the wine that is passed off by its traveling peddler as the potent love potion of the title. It is the heart warming tale of a hapless, big-hearted peasant and the better educated landowner he worships. The score is an almost endless sequence of tuneful ensemble numbers and show-stopping arias—not the least of which is the beloved tenor aria near its conclusion, “Una furtive lagrima,” (One furtive tear) when our hero finally believes that his love is returned. It is an opera full of delicious delights.

The bubbly bel canto comedy concerns a spunky female landowner – Adina, a love-struck peasant – Nemorino; a dubious peddler – Dulcamara, whose love potion may or may not help bring the pair together and a pompous flirt- Sergeant Belcore. It is a delight for the entire family. This, and another of Donizetti’s light-hearted comedies, La Fille du Régiment are among the two best operas possible for introducing young people to the genre.

In this performance, the amazing South African soprano, Pretty Yende, stars as Adina, imbuing the character with a wonderfully lovable warmth while showing off her truly luscious bel canto voice in seemingly effortless coloratura passages from beginning to end. Tenor Matthew Polenzani is Nemorino, Adina’s love-struck admirer, whose voice is still quite wonderful, but who (truth be told) is actually just a bit old to be quite convincing in this part (after all, we’ve just seen him as the aging king and father – Idomeneo – a role in which he excelled). The cast also includes baritone Davide Luciano as the swaggering Sergeant Belcore and the multi-talented bass-baritone, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as the wily and wonderful Dr. Dulcamara. Domingo Hindoyan conducts Bartlett’s Sher’s charming production.

Sunday, September 20
Bellini’s Norma
(April 5) ~ 3Hrs and 4Mins
Starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja, and Matthew Rose, conducted by Carlo Rizzi. From October 7, 2017.

The blazing title role of Bellini’s Norma has been a star-making vehicle for some of opera’s most beloved sopranos, so when Sondra Radvanovsky first took on the part at the Met in 2013, it marked a new chapter of her career. She returned four years later to reprise her riveting portrayal, this time opening the 2017–18 season in an evocative new production by Sir David McVicar. Her performance is nothing less than a tour-de-force, combining dramatic commitment with true bel canto singing —and beautifully balancing the role’s powerful intensity with moments of delicate lyricism. As Adalgisa, the young priestess torn between love and duty, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato delivers an interpretation imbued with great beauty and emotional nuance. Tenor Joseph Calleja is the aggressive Roman proconsul Pollione, with Matthew Rose as Norma’s father, the warrior Oroveso. Leading the Met Orchestra and Chorus, maestro Carlo Rizzi draws out the vibrant color of Bellini’s masterful score.

Bellini’s fiery masterpiece concerns a strong-willed priestess in love with a Roman soldier and is a supreme vehicle for singers with a flair for high drama and seemingly limitless technique. The opera’s standout arias, full of filigreed passagework and florid runs, have put many daring singers to the test, but also perfectly capture the turbulent psychological states of the main characters as they endeavor to make sense of their conflicted emotions – but this one has a twist – its female victims join together against the forces (and the men) who control their lives and take their destinies firmly into their own hands.

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