By Lynne Gray, PhD
Monday, April 6
Verdi’s Aida ~ 3hrs 40mins
Starring Anna Netrebko, Anita Rachvelishvili, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Quinn Kelsey, Dmitry Belosselskiy, and Ryan Speedo Green, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. From October 6, 2018.
From the Met’s nearly inexhaustible supply of operas involving love-triangles, we start this week with another great Verdi masterpiece. Despite its monumental setting, Aida is actually an intimate opera filled with beautiful, deeply emotional duets – and an absolutely incredible ending duet/trio. It is set amidst the great pyramids and temples of Egypt in a time of war. Aida is a princess of Ethiopia, captured in battle and made the servant of Amneris, the princess of Egypt, who like everyone else, is completely unaware of Aida’s royalty.
At the very beginning of the opera, we hear the famous tenor aria, “Celeste Aida,” and learn that the Egyptian captain, Radamès, is desperately in love with the slave, Aida. He prays to be made Commander of the army and hopes to be able to ask for her hand as his reward for defeating the invading Ethiopian army. Aida secretly returns his love and this, of course, is where the complications begin to mount! The Ethiopians, led by their King, Amonasro (actually Aida’s father), are invading Egypt in order to free Aida. She is distraught over having to choose between her father and her lover. Her aria, “Ritorna vincitor” is another of the opera’s many famous highlights in which she can’t help but wish for Radamès’ safe return but is horrified that it would mean the defeat of her own father and country.
And then there is the third point in this triangle – Amneris – who also loves Radamès and suspects that she has a rival. She cruelly tricks Aida into revealing her love for Radamès and then assures the stricken Aida that it will be Amneris’ hand that Radamès is given for his victory. Radamès, in the end, is caught in a two-way trap with no way out. His securing pardons for Amonasro and Aida before he must marry Amneris, brings on tragic consequences, but produces one of opera’s most beautiful and moving finales.
Tuesday, April 7
Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West ~ 2Hrs and 13 Mins
Starring Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani, and Lucio Gallo, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. From January 8, 2011.
Happily, tonight’s love-triangle has a far less lethal ending. Like his Madama Butterfly, Puccini got the story for Fanciulla del West from a David Belasco play — so you might even think of it as the very first Italian/American “Spaghetti Western.” Its premiere in 1910 was at the Met, conducted by Arturo Toscanini and starring the legendary pair, Enrico Caruso and Emmy Destinn.
Fanciulla is the story of Minnie, a gun-toting rough and ready saloon owner in a California gold mining camp. Minnie has become the miners’ mother, teacher, friend and confidant, but longs for a quieter, “settled” life of her own. When a Wells Fargo agent comes into her bar, the Polka, to announce he is close to capturing the outlaw Ramerrez and his gang, the miners are concerned for the safety of both Minnie and their gold, which she keeps hidden for them in the Polka. The camp sheriff, Jack Rance, assures Minnie that he will always be there to protect her – and asks her yet again to marry him.
As she puts him off, a stranger enters, calling himself Dick Johnson from Sacramento whom Minnie had met not long before on a stagecoach. When Johnson asks her to dance, Rance becomes angrier and angrier, but suddenly the agent re-enters with a captured outlaw – Castro. After Castro spots Johnson, he suddenly agrees to lead the posse to Ramerrez’ hideout (actually on a wild goose chase, of course) and secretly tells Johnson that he should respond with a whistle when it’s safe for his men to rob the Polka.
Needless to say, his growing love for Minnie prevents him from giving the signal and as they part, he agrees to visit her in her cabin. The journey from Minnie’s cabin to Johnson’s narrow escape from the gallows is accompanied by some of Puccini’s most beautiful music and takes us through opera’s most famous poker game – between Minnie and Rance as they play for Johnson’s life – and the meltingly beautiful tenor aria, “Ch’ella mi creda.” It’s a melodic journey well worth the taking!
Wednesday, April 8
Verdi’s Falstaff ~ 2Hrs and 21Mins
Starring Lisette Oropesa, Angela Meade, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Paolo Fanale, Ambrogio Maestri, and Franco Vassallo, conducted by James Levine. From December 14, 2013.
In a mid-week break from the love-triangle theme, we are treated tonight to Verdi’s last opera – the delightful comedy, Falstaff, based on scenes taken from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. Verdi himself said of the project, “After having relentlessly massacred so many heroes and heroines, I have at last the right to laugh a little.” And, in fact, his ‘Fat Knight’ is a somewhat more comical fellow than Shakespeare’s original. The wonderfully amusing plot involves Falstaff’s constantly thwarted, often farcical attempts to seduce multiple married women in order to get his hands on their husbands’ fortunes.
The women are more than able to outwit him at every step and in addition we are treated to the charming love story of Nannetta and Fenton. This Met production has been moved from its traditional early 15th century English setting to the mid-20th century – an opportunity for many imaginative updates to its sets and costumes.
As the opera begins, we get a sense for Falstaff’s larcenous leanings and his plot to simultaneously woo Mistresses Ford and Page by sending each of them the very same love letter. They are best friends, however, and soon discover they have received duplicate letters. Along with Mistress Quickly and the young Nannetta they resolve to teach the fat knight a lesson. He is told that both Alice and Meg are madly in love with him and invited to a tryst. Things are greatly complicated, however, by the fact that the very jealous Ford has not been let in on the women’s plot and is seeking his own revenge – against his wife.
To delight in Falstaff’s unintended dunking in the Thames after hiding from the furious Ford in a laundry basket, in his agreeing to a new rendezvous with Alice at midnight in the “haunted” Windsor Great Park, in his painful encounter with the Queen of the Fairies and her followers, in Nannetta and Fenton’s cleverly disguised marriage and in the happy ending in which all discover that “Everything in the world is a jest … but he laughs well who laughs the final laugh” – tune in to the Met tonight!
1. Verdi’s “Aida” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit… Metropolitan Opera.
2. Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili as Aida and Amneris in Verdi’s “Aida” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.
3. Quinn Kelsey and Anna Netrebko as Amonasro and Aida in Verdi’s “Aida” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
4. Debra Voigt and Marcello Giordani as Minnie and Dick Johnson in Puccini’s “Fanciulla del West” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…. Metropolitan Opera.
5. Debra Voigt and Marcello Giordani as Minnie and Dick Johnson in Puccini’s “Fanciulla del West at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…. Metropolitan Opera.
6. Final Scene – Puccini’s “Fanciulla del West at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…. Metropolitan Opera.
7. Ambrogio Maestri in Verdi’s “Falstaff” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…. Metropolitan Opera.
8. Lisette Oropesa, Angela Meade, Stephanie Blythe and Jennifer Johnson Cano in Verdi’s “Falstaff” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…. Metropolitan Opera.
9. Ambrogio Maestri in Windsor Great Park in Verdi’s “Falstaff” at the Metropolitan Opera. Credit…. Metropolitan Opera.