Met Free Streams – Week 25 (20th Century and Beyond)

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 31

Strauss’s Elektra ~ 1Hr and 52Mins

Starring Nina Stemme, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier, Burkhard Ulrich, and Eric Owens, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. From April 30, 2016.

In 1909, not five years after scandalizing the cultural intelligentsia with his lurid one-act opera Salome, the young Richard Strauss shocked them again with a darkly psychoanalytic take on the Sophocles play about an ancient Mycenaean princess’s wish to avenge the assassination of her father, Agamemnon. Sparks fly throughout her confrontations with various members of her family, and the chilling score calls for singers capable of competing with the largest orchestra in the standard opera repertory. 

The great singing actress Nina Stemme gives a heart-wrenching performance in the title role of Strauss’s blazing one-act drama, adapted from the ancient Greek myth. Patrice Chéreau’s acclaimed production—the last staging he worked on before his death in 2013—also stars Waltraud Meier as Klytämnestra, Elektra’s nightmare-haunted mother, Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis, her sister, and Eric Owens as Orest, their brother, whose return home brings their family story to a terrifying climax. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the monumental and highly influential score.

Tuesday, September 1

Britten’s Peter Grimes ~  2Hrs and 48Mins

Starring Patricia Racette, Anthony Dean Griffey, and Anthony Michaels-Moore, conducted by Donald Runnicles. From March 15, 2008.

Benjamin Britten’s gripping parable about an outsider fisherman’s persecution in a small Suffolk coastal village, and his slow descent into madness, offers one of the repertory’s most complex tenor roles as well as some of its most haunting and atmospheric music. No less treasured by the many singers who take up the work’s smaller roles, this riveting tragedy is a true vehicle for an ensemble cast, and it remains one of only a handful of mid–20th century operas to have found a lasting place in the canon.

Anthony Dean Griffey creates a haunting portrait of the outcast fisherman who struggles under the burden of presumed guilt. This chilling production by Tony Award-winning director John Doyle also features the superb Patricia Racette as the sympathetic Ellen Orford and the Met chorus in a truly hair-raising performance as the oppressively judgmental fishing village.

Wednesday, September 2

John Adams’s Nixon in China ~ 2Hrs and 56Mins

Starring Kathleen Kim, Janis Kelly, Robert Brubaker, Russell Braun, James Maddalena, and Richard Paul Fink, conducted by John Adams. From February 12, 2011.

President Nixon’s controversial 1972 visit with Chairman Mao in Beijing might seem an unlikely candidate for an operatic retelling, but in the inspired hands of composer John Adams, the meeting of politics and music not only works, it feels essential. The Met’s landmark staging brought together a host of modern luminaries, including director Peter Sellars and choreographer Mark Morris, who vividly capture the tense mood of the historical moment. A must-see for those who like their opera thought provoking, sensational, and true to life.

John Adams’s groundbreaking work vividly brings to life President Nixon’s 1972 visit to communist China. Peter Sellars’s Met production, based on his 1987 world-premiere staging, features choreography by Mark Morris and stars James Maddalena as Nixon, Robert Brubaker as Chairman Mao, Janis Kelly as First Lady Pat Nixon, Russell Braun as Chinese Premier Chou En-lai, and Kathleen Kim as Chiang Ch’ing, Mao’s wife. From the pomp of the public displays to the intimacy of the protagonists most private moments, Adams, Sellars, and librettist Alice Goodman reveal the real characters behind the headlines in this landmark American opera.

Thursday, September 3

Berg’s Lulu  ~ 3Hrs and 22Mins

Starring Marlis Petersen, Susan Graham, Daniel Brenna, Paul Groves, Johan Reuter, and Franz Grundheber, conducted by Lothar Koenigs. From November 21, 2015.

Few existences are more perilous than those of opera heroines, who must contend with an inexhaustible supply of lethal hazards. But even by such standards, Berg’s Lulu tells a particularly harrowing tale. Based on two plays by Frank Wedekind, it is the story of the ultimate femme fatale, who seduces a series of men, kills or causes the death of four of them, is herself victimized along the way, and is ultimately slain by Jack the Ripper while working as a prostitute. Throughout, Berg provides depth, ambiguity, and psychological impact with his unsettling and unforgettable score, prodigious in complexity and power.

William Kentridge’s multi-layered production of Berg’s masterpiece stars charismatic soprano Marlis Petersen in the title role—the enigmatic and alluring woman who is equal parts femme fatale, innocent girl, and abused victim. The men around her, whose lives she forever alters, are Johan Reuter as newspaper publisher Dr. Schön; Daniel Brenna as his composer son, Alwa; Paul Groves as the Painter; and Franz Grundheber as Schigolch. Susan Graham sings Countess Geschwitz, and Lothar Koenigs conducts Berg’s landmark score.

Friday, September 4 and Saturday, September 5

The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess ~ 3Hrs and 10Mins

Starring Angel Blue, Golda Schultz, Latonia Moore, Denyce Graves, Frederick Ballentine, Eric Owens, Alfred Walker, and Donovan Singletary, conducted by David Robertson. From February 1, 2020.

A supremely American operatic masterpiece and one of the last and most ambitious works by one of the nation’s greatest musical talents, Porgy and Bess returned to the Met stage for the first time in 30 years to open the 2019–20 season. The opera’s score features a rich cache of individual arias—”Summertime,” “It ain’t necessarily so,” and “I got plenty of nothing,” just to name a few—many of which have become classics of the Great American Songbook. Much of the work’s dynamism comes from Gershwin’s explorations of the Gullah music of Tidewater Carolina, which he melds seamlessly with the then-contemporary language of jazz.

In the premiere of James Robinson’s vibrant new production of Porgy and Bess, bass-baritone Eric Owens and soprano Angel Blue star in the title roles, headlining a phenomenal ensemble cast. The performance also features soprano Golda Schultz and bass-baritone Donovan Singletary as Clara and Jake, soprano Latonia Moore as Serena, and tenor Frederick Ballentine and bass-baritone Alfred Walker as Sportin’ Life and Crown. And as the community matriarch Maria, veteran mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves delivers a scene-stealing performance. David Robertson conducts this beloved score, which includes a number of melodies that have become classic American standards.

Sunday, September 6

Thomas Adès’s The Tempest ~ 2Hrs and 22Mins

Starring Audrey Luna, Isabel Leonard, Iestyn Davies, Alek Shrader, Alan Oke, William Burden, Toby Spence, and Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Thomas Adès. From November 10, 2012.

More than a few composers have run aground trying to adapt Shakespeare’s mercurial tale of revenge and reconciliation, but a dazzling sense of playfulness and experimentation keeps Adès’s modernist score sailing. Crafting incisive portraits of the Bard’s inimitable characters—from the usurped Milanese duke Prospero to the enslaved “monster” Caliban to Ariel, Prospero’s Tinkerbell—Adès creates an ever-shifting musical language that is brilliantly matched by Robert Lepage’s kaleidoscopic production.

Composer Thomas Adès, himself, conducts the Met premiere of his powerful opera based on Shakespeare’s last play, in Robert Lepage’s brilliantly inventive production. Simon Keenlyside is the magician Prospero, who conjures the storm that shipwrecks his enemies and sets in motion the course of events. Rising Met stars Isabel Leonard and Alek Shrader are the young lovers, Miranda and Ferdinand, Alan Oke sings the sinister Caliban, and Audrey Luna gives a memorable performance as the sprite Ariel. 

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