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

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].

Dear Opera Fans,

It’s been 21 weeks (and 147 opera evenings) so far, and I must confess I’m feeling the need for a little break. This week looks like a good one to do just that. The upcoming streams include five operas that are being presented for the 3rd time (Manon Lescaut, Carmen, Rigoletto, Turandot and Tristan und Isolde); one (La Bohème) for the fifth time (!); and one (Luisa Miller) for the second time. So, what follows will be just a few thoughts on the particular casts and productions, but not the usual complete synopsis. For the more complete stories, you can search RenoArtsNews by opera title and look at previous summaries if you want them. Meanwhile, the Met is also offering pay-per-view ($20) concerts from some of its greatest stars in order to raise money during this hugely challenging time – especially for the Arts – and you can also find excellent operas streamed by Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian Opera-Munich) from their website or just enjoy individual arias any time you are so inclined, sung by many of the greatest stars in the world, on YouTube. Stay safe and well!

Monday, August 10

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut (#3)    ~ 2Hrs and 26Mins

Starring Karita Mattila, Marcello Giordani, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by James Levine. From February 16, 2008.

We have already had the chance to see one classic production of this beautiful opera with Scotto and Domingo, and one more recent production with Opolais and Alagna. This time around, we have one of this generation’s most compelling singing actresses, Karita Mattila taking on the role of the irresistible Manon Lescaut – the headstrong young woman torn between an exciting life of luxury as a “kept woman” and a far quieter one with her true love – the Chevalier des Grieux – this time played by Marcello Giordani. Puccini definitely lavished some of his most sensual music on this early hit. In his unique take on the alluring young country girl who becomes the toast of Paris before she suffers a precipitous fall and an ignominious end, Puccini came through with another masterpiece, at the very least equal to, and many would say better than Massenet’s version, supplanting the French composer’s urbane elegance with his own passionate emotionality. And certainly helping that emotionality along, this evening’s version is conducted by the Met’s beloved James Levine.

Of the three pairs of lovers we have heard in this opera so far, I much prefer Domingo and Scotto, although both Opolais and Mattila are excellent Manons. As I have noted before, the Met often seems to have a tenor issue. Alagna and Giordani are both stiff for my taste – although Giordani’s voice can be quite good at times. This particular production is more traditionally set – which I far prefer to Richard Eyre’s 1940’s update that ended in some kind of bizarre upside down bombed out ruin.

As I noted with respect to Alagna’s performance last month, Giordani is adequate in the role, but certainly not particularly moving or inspiring. Nevertheless, Puccini’s score is one of his most beautiful ever with wonderful melodies and moving arias throughout. It is definitely worth a listen if you missed the Scotto/Domingo version streamed in May.

Photo Credits

1. Karita Mattila in the title role and Marcello Giordani as Des Grieux in Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut.”

Photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.

2. Karita Mattila in the title role and Marcello Giordani as Des Grieux in Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut.”

Photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.

3. Karita Mattila in the title role and Marcello Giordani as Des Grieux in Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut.”

Photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

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.

                     Photo Credits

1. Clementine Margaine in the title role in Bizet’s “Carmen.” Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera.

2. Aleksandra Kurzak as Micaëla and Roberto Alagna as Don José in Bizet’s “Carmen” at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Marty Sohl/ Met Opera.

Wednesday, August 12

Verdi’s Rigoletto       ~ 2Hrs and 5Mins

Starring Christiane Eda-Pierre, Isola Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Louis Quilico, and Ara Berberian, conducted by James Levine. From December 15, 1981.

Finally – an evening with no tenor problem! Luciano Pavarotti at the height of his career is the elegant, reckless Duke of Mantua whose betrayal of the innocent Gilda (Christiane Eda-Pierre) leads to the well-known tragic ending. Louis Quilico plays Rigoletto, the court jester and Gilda’s father, who has dedicated his life to keeping his daughter safe – and especially away from the Duke—only to have her sacrifice her own life for that of the villainous nobleman. James Levine’s conducting, as always brings out the intense drama in Verdi’s unforgettable score.

Fortunately, this is the same opulent production (as opposed to the Met’s Rat Pack version) that we saw just a couple weeks ago with Domingo and Cotrubas. This cast is, of course, equally outstanding and so whether you saw the last one or not – this is well worth the time. Based on a moving Victor Hugo play, Le roi s’amuse, it remains haunting and scandalous in its treatment of a vengeful and sadly misguided court jester, out to rescue his ruined daughter from a duke’s licentious clutches. None of it ends well, but along the way, Verdi treats us to many of his most iconic arias and duets—as well as an 11th-hour quartet “Bella figlia dell ‘amore” (Fairest daughter of love) that counts among the finest moments in all of opera. I wouldn’t miss this one!

                       Photo Credits

1. Luciano Pavarotti as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Met, 1981. Photo Credit: Met Archives.

2. Christiane Eda-Pierre as Gilda and Luciano Pavarotti as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Met, 1981. Photo Credit: Met Archives.

3. Louis Quilico in the title role of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Met, 1981. Photo Credit: Met Archives.

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