By Lynne Gray, PhD
Please note this can be seen at www.metopera.org
Viewing Note: On the Met’s home page, you now need to scroll down past the multiple ads for Pay Per View concerts and the [BUY TICKETS] boxes and go to the box that says “Nightly Opera Stream: <name of opera> and click on [WATCH NOW].
Monday, August 17
Puccini’s Tosca #4 ~ 2Hrs and 19Mins
Starring Patricia Racette, Roberto Alagna, and George Gagnidze, conducted by Riccardo Frizza. From November 9, 2013.
This time around, Luc Bondy’s production of Puccini’s famous opera stars Patricia Racette in the title role of the diva whose jealousy is her undoing, opposite Roberto Alagna as her lover, Cavaradossi, the painter whose political ideals exacerbate the fall into tragedy. George Gagnidze is Scarpia, the villainous chief of police who wants Tosca for himself. Riccardo Frizza leads the Met’s musical forces in this powerful verismo score.
So – while I love Patricia Racette, this is not her very best role, especially considering her co-stars – although she is powerful in it. By now you know how I feel about Alagna, and Gagnidze is suitably evil if not particularly distinguished as Scarpia. Unless this is one of your very favorite operas, the 4th time around is probably not necessary – and certainly not if you were fortunate enough to see the Pavarotti/Verrett version in June.
Tuesday, August 18
Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini #2 ~ 2Hrs and 29Mins — Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. From April 7, 1984.
This sumptuous production by Piero Faggioni (sets by Ezio Frigerio and costumes by Franca Squarciapino) seduced Met audiences into the enchanting world of Zandonai’s rarely heard opera over 36 years ago. It is the second go-around for this rare opera, but this time with a spectacular, all-star cast. Basically, it is a tragic retelling of Dante’s story of the immortal forbidden passion of Paolo and Francesca in 13th century Italy and is as musically elegant and beautiful as the details of this production itself. James Levine’s fervent conducting galvanizes the fabulous cast.
Even if you saw the first one, I definitely recommend seeing this one – opportunities these days to see and hear these great artists are few and far between. Take advantage of them if you are able.
Wednesday, August 19
Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin #3 ~ 2Hrs and 51Mins
Starring Anna Netrebko, Elena Maximova, Alexey Dolgov, Peter Mattei, and Štefan Kocán, conducted by Robin Ticciati. From April 22, 2017.
When Deborah Warner’s production of Eugene Onegin opened the Met season in 2013, star soprano Anna Netrebko had only recently begun singing the role of Tatiana; however, when she returned to the part at the Met a few years later for this production, her dramatic approach, like that of the character herself, had grown. So, this is most certainly a smoldering vocal performance, which this time embodies more of the nuanced aspects of Tatiana’s mature personality as an elegant, cosmopolitan princess. Opposite her today is Peter Mattei, the aristocratic, Onegin who discovers the power of love too late. Mattei has with a rich, supple baritone voice (Barbiere, Parsifal, Nozze, and Wozzeck) which is perfect for this role, even if he is a bit old for it! As the ardent poet Lenski, bright-voiced tenor Alexey Dolgov offers a heartbreaking portrayal. Elena Maximova is Lenski’s carefree lover Olga, and bass Stefan Kocán delivers a moving performance as the aging Prince Gremin. Maestro Robin Ticciati leads the Met Orchestra and Chorus. All in all, a fine version if you missed either of the previous ones.
Thursday, August 20
Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera ~ 2Hrs and 15Mins
Starring Aprile Millo, Harolyn Blackwell, Florence Quivar, Luciano Pavarotti, and Leo Nucci, conducted by James Levine. From January 26, 1991.
This classic production by Piero Faggioni, conducted by James Levine, captures all the brooding power and elegance of Verdi’s drama of love mixed with politics. Luciano Pavarotti stars as Riccardo, the sympathetic, but unlucky ruler who is in love with his best friend and advisor’s wife, Amelia (Aprile Millo). Leo Nucci is the husband torn between loyalty and his thirst for revenge, and Florence Quivar sings Ulrica, the mysterious fortuneteller who foresees the tragic ending.
Another outstanding opportunity to see a great classic with an all-star cast that would be close to impossible to match today. Take advantage of it if you possibly can!
Friday, August 21
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra #2 ~ 2Hrs and 29Mins
Starring Adrianne Pieczonka, Marcello Giordani, Plácido Domingo, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. From February 6, 2010.
Definitely a sumptuous and venerable production by Giancarlo del Monaco which opened in 1995 with legendary star Plácido Domingo giving a riveting performance as the fiery young revolutionary, Gabriele Adorno – a classic tenor role. In this 2010 revival, he made history by taking on the baritone title role of Boccanegra himself, one of Verdi’s most fascinating characters, and treating audiences once again with his portrayal of the complex and conflicted father. While I prefer a more classic baritone singing the role, Boccanegra who is beset on all sides, juggling political adversaries bent on his murder with his love for his long-lost daughter Amelia (Adrianne Pieczonka), and so requires acting skill as well, which Domingo can certainly deliver. James Levine’s conducting, of course, brings out all the color and surging emotion of Verdi’s magnificent score. Might be a kick if you saw him as Adorno less than two weeks ago, to see him as Boccanegra today.
Saturday, August 22
Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia #3 ~ 2Hrs and 39Mins
Starring Kathleen Battle, Rockwell Blake, Leo Nucci, Enzo Dara, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, conducted by Ralf Weikert. From December 3, 1988.
With its hilarious hijinks and vocal virtuosity, Rossini’s wonderful, madcap comedy is always a delightful treat – even for the third time. For this 1988 telecast, the Met assembled an outstanding cast capable of tackling both the musical and physical challenges of this bel canto farce, seen here in a whimsical production by John Cox. From the moment he takes the stage with Figaro’s iconic aria “Largo al factotum,” Leo Nucci combines winning charm with his smooth but robust baritone and proves himself to be a charming Figaro. Soprano Kathleen Battle, like DiDonato and Leonard, charmingly tosses off one glittering vocal display after another as the feisty Rosina, while tenor Rowell Blake delivers an ardent Count Almaviva. Ralf Weikert conducted the lively performance, which also included the excellent comic duo of Enzo Dara as Dr. Bartolo and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Basilio. Another great classic to treasure and enjoy.
Sunday, August 23
Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel ~ 1Hr and 42Mins
Starring Judith Blegen, Frederica von Stade, Jean Kraft, Rosalind Elias, and Michael Devlin, conducted by Thomas Fulton. From December 25, 1982.
For our fourth classic of the week and our second Hansel und Gretel, Director Nathaniel Merrill and designer Robert O’Hearn work operatic magic in a definitely wonderful production of Humperdinck’s cherished favorite. What child’s education could be complete without hearing and seeing this musical retelling of the classic fairy tale, replete with guardian angels, a sandman, a dew fairy, and, of course, a witch and her enticing gingerbread house. This particular performance, like the first one that was streamed in June, is a shortened version designed for young audiences and sung in English. It features the absolutely great Frederica von Stade as the loveable but mischievous Hansel and vivacious Judith Blegen as his charming sister Gretel. The remarkable Rosalind Elias takes on a very unusual role for her as the evil Witch.
Gather up some children – or anyone who is still young at heart and treat yourself to a charming fairy tale with a happy, happy ending. We could all use some more like this!
All photos: Metropolitan Opera Archives