Monday, September 21
Puccini’s La Rondine ~ 1 Hr and 54 Mins
Conducted by Marco Armiliato; starring Angela Gheorghiu, Lisette Oropesa, Roberto Alagna, Marius Brenciu, and Samuel Ramey. Transmitted live on January 10, 2009.
Puccini’s beautiful score charmingly conveys the plight of Magda (the “swallow” of the title) who unexpectedly finds true love with the handsome young Ruggero. Their idyllic life together comes to a premature end however, because she is haunted by the fear that her checkered past will ruin his future. Real-life couple (at the time!) and operatic stars Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna portray Puccini’s star-crossed lovers. Ezio Frigerio’s elegant and sophisticated art deco sets add a dazzling touch to Nicholas Joël’s production, which premiered in 2008.
Goaded by a group of Austrian directors to create a Viennese operetta in the style of Léhar and also inspired by the recent success of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Puccini delivered his lightest opera—though not without including a suitably melancholy ending. At least the tarnished heroine, impossibly in love with a debt-strapped playboy, doesn’t die. The tale is also lightened by its chic setting—Paris and the French Riviera—and a string of lovely, unforgettable tunes, including the famous Act I aria “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta.”
Puccini’s musical vision of the American West is authentically brought to life in Giancarlo Del Monaco’s production. Deborah Voigt is Minnie, the girl of the title and owner of a bar in a California mining camp. Marcello Giordani sings Dick Johnson, the bandit-turned-lover hunted by the cynical sheriff Jack Rance (Lucio Gallo), who wants Minnie for himself. Complete with whiskey-drinking cowboys, gunplay, opera’s most famous poker game, and a snowstorm on stage, La Fanciulla del West is Puccini at his most colorful.
Though less familiar to most audiences than several other of Puccini’s greatest hits, this action-packed tribute to the American Wild West, which actually received its world premiere at the Met in 1910, is every bit as compelling. Its sweeping, evocative score captures the feel of a Gold Rush–era mining camp, which is the perfect place for a sweet-talking bandit to fall for a gun-toting bar owner with an enormous soprano voice and a heart of gold.
Kristine Opolais is the young woman whose conflicted desires for both love and luxury lead to her tragic end and Roberto Alagna plays the man who falls for her and cannot desert her in Puccini’s early hit. Richard Eyre’s production, which updates the action to the 1940s in occupied France, was one of the highlights of the Met’s 2015–16 season. Massimo Cavalletti as Manon’s brother and Brindley Sherratt as her aging admirer co-star, and Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi is on the podium.
When he set out to write a new opera based on the same irresistible heroine that inspired Massenet’s very popular opera Manon, the young Puccini was undaunted by the risk of provoking comparisons. As he explained: “Why shouldn’t there be two operas about Manon? A woman like Manon can have more than one lover.” And in his take on the alluring young country girl who becomes the toast of Paris before suffering an ignominious end, the composer came through with a masterpiece more than equal to Massenet’s, trading the French composer’s urbane elegance for overwhelming emotionality.
Starring Patricia Racette, Maria Zifchak, Marcello Giordani, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Patrick Summers. From on March 7, 2009.
Anthony Minghella’s stunning production of Puccini’s great tragic opera opened the Met’s 2006–07 season and was seen by thousands of people around the world as part of it’s Live in HD series. Patricia Racette is Cio-Cio-San, the trusting and innocent young geisha of the title, who falls in love with American Navy lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton (Marcello Giordani), only to be abandoned. Maria Zifchak is her loyal servant Suzuki and Dwayne Croft is Sharpless, the sympathetic American consul who does all that he can but is unable to avert tragedy.
This particular production provides a stunningly artistic setting for the story of the noble, but hopelessly naive geisha waiting in vain for the return of her American Navy lieutenant. Key to this beautiful staging are traditional Noe puppets and symbolic visuals that tap into Japanese culture while honoring the timeless beauty of Puccini’s mid-career masterpiece.
Sir David McVicar’s bold new staging of Tosca, Puccini’s operatic thriller about Napoleonic Rome, pleased Met audiences when it rang in the New Year in 2018. Only weeks later, the production was seen by opera lovers worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. In this performance, Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva is the passionate title diva, opposite charismatic tenor Vittorio Grigolo as her lover, the idealistic painter Mario Cavaradossi. Baritone Željko Lučić is the menacing Baron Scarpia, the evil chief of police who employs brutal tactics to ensnare both criminals and his own sexual conquests. On the podium, Emmanuel Villaume conducts the electrifying score, which features some of Puccini’s most memorable melodies.
In his classic potboiler, Puccini has stirred together some of humanity’s strongest motivating forces—love and loyalty, fear and cruelty—to create an operatic drama that grabs the listener with its famous opening chords and never lets go. Set in Rome in 1800, the story concerns a jealous yet devoted diva, the painter/revolutionary whom she loves, and a sadistic police chief determined both to crush a political rebellion and to claim Tosca for himself. All three are among opera’s most indelible characters.
In recent seasons, Christine Goerke has summited some of the greatest heights of the Germanic soprano repertoire, appearing as the Dyer’s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten, the title character of Elektra, and Brünnhilde in the complete Ring cycle. She has also wowed audiences as Turandot, the icy princess at the heart of Puccini’s grand final masterpiece. In this performance from the 2019–20 Live in HD season, Goerke stars alongside tenor Yusif Eyvazov (as Calàf) and soprano Eleonora Buratto (as Liù) in Franco Zeffirelli’s classic staging, which dazzles with its opulent visions of mythic China. Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin is on the podium, drawing a vivid array of musical colors from the incomparable Met Orchestra and Chorus.
A legendary ancient princess presents each new suitor with a series of riddles – success will win her hand, but failure will cost his head. A brave warrior prince rises to the challenge, determined to thaw Turandot’s frozen heart. Puccini lavishes the tale with some of his finest and most spectacular music—not to mention “Nessun dorma,” an aria instantly recognizable far beyond the confines of the opera house. Combined with Franco Zeffirelli’s breathtakingly opulent production, it makes for one of opera’s grandest experiences.
Sunday, September 27
Puccini’s La Bohème ~ 2 Hrs and 16 Mins
Starring Angela Gheorghiu, Ainhoa Arteta, Ramón Vargas, Ludovic Tézier, Quinn Kelsey, Oren Gradus, and Paul Plishka, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. From April 5, 2008.
Puccini’s paean to young love and the bohemian life has captivated generations of Met-goers through Franco Zeffirelli’s iconic production. Movie theater audiences for the high-definition transmission of this staging got to see it with fresh eyes in a touching performance starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas as the frail seamstress and her poetic lover.
As classic as opera gets: the most-performed work in Met history in the company’s most-performed production, by the great director Franco Zeffirelli. An archetypal tragedy filled with gorgeous and deeply moving music, Puccini’s timeless tale of love, camaraderie, jealousy, and loss in the garrets and cafés of bohemian Paris has reliably enchanted—and devastated—audiences since its 1896 premiere.