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Roberto Alagna

Sunday, February 19, 2017


parterre box

February 15

Apathy greets announcement of Metropolitan Opera’s 2017-2018 season

parterre box An authentically reactionary revival of Franco Zeffirelli‘s sacred production of Puccini’s Tosca is the highlight of the Met’s 2017-2018 season. The tragically underrepresented Sir David McVicar, absent from the Met for nearly two weeks now, has consented to do traffic direction for the cast of Kristine Opolais, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel, all of whom will surely show up. More dreary news follows the jump. New Productions Norma – Vincenzo Bellini OPENING NIGHT Opening: September 25, 2017 Conductors: Carlo Rizzi / Joseph Colaneri Production: Sir David McVicar Set Designer: Robert Jones Costume Designer: Moritz Junge Lighting Designer: Paule Constable Movement Director: Leah Hausman Live in HD: October 7, 2017 The season opens with a new production of Bellini’s bel canto tragedy Norma, starring Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role, which she has sung to acclaim at the Met in 2013, as well as at the Canadian Opera Company, San Francisco Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Lyric Opera of Chicago—making her one of the world’s leading interpreters of the iconic title character. Joyce DiDonato co-stars as Norma’s colleague and rival, Adalgisa, opposite Joseph Calleja as Pollione and Matthew Rose as Oroveso. On October 16 and 20, Marina Rebeka will make her Met role debut as the Druid priestess, Norma. Beginning December 1, the production will star Angela Meade as Norma with Jamie Barton reprising the role of Adalgisa and led by Joseph Colaneri. Sir David McVicar directs the production, having staged seven Met productions including Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Handel’s Giulio Cesare, the double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux. The Exterminating Angel – Thomas Adès MET PREMIERE Opening: October 26, 2017 Conductor: Thomas Adès Libretto: Tom Cairns, in collaboration with the composer Production: Tom Cairns Set and Costume Designer: Hildegard Bechtler Lighting Designer: Jon Clark Projection Designer: Tal Yarden Choreographer: Amir Hosseinpour Live in HD: November 18, 2017 The Exterminating Angel has its Met premiere, conducted by the composer, Thomas Adès. The 2016 opera, co-commissioned by the Met and sung in English, is based on the screenplay by Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza for the acclaimed 1962 Buñuel film. Directed by the librettist Tom Cairns, the ensemble cast features Audrey Luna as Leticia Maynar; Amanda Echalaz as Lucia de Nobile; Sally Matthews as Silvia de Ávila and Sophie Bevan as Beatriz, both in Met debuts; Alice Coote as Leonora Palma; Christine Rice as Blanca Delgado; Iestyn Davies as Francisco de Ávila; Joseph Kaiser as Edundo de Nobile; Frédéric Antoun in his Met debut as Raúl Yebenes; David Portillo as Edmundo; David Adam Moore in his Met debut as Col. Álvaro Gómez; Rod Gilfry as Alberto Roc; Kevin Burdette as Señor Russell; Christian Van Horn as Julio; and John Tomlinson as Dr Carlos Conde. The Exterminating Angel is a co-commission and co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Royal Danish Theatre; and Salzburg Festival, where the production premiered in 2016. Tosca – Giacomo Puccini NEW YEAR’S EVE GALA Opening: December 31, 2017 Conductor: Andris Nelsons / Bertrand de Billy Production: Sir David McVicar Set and Costume Designer: John Macfarlane Lighting Designer: David Finn Movement Director: Leah Hausman Live in HD: January 27, 2018 Andris Nelsons conducts a new staging of Puccini’s dramatic tragedy, directed by Sir David McVicar. Kristine Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann star as the heroine Tosca and her lover Cavaradossi, with Bryn Terfel as the villainous Scarpia. In April, Anna Netrebko adds a new role to her Met repertory as the title diva, opposite Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi. Michael Volle and George Gagnidze share the role of Scarpia during April and May performances with Bertrand de Billy conducting. Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Opening: March 15, 2018 Conductor: David Robertson Production: Phelim McDermott Set Designer: Tom Pye Costume Designer: Laura Hopkins Lighting Designer: Paule Constable Live in HD: March 31, 2018 Phelim McDermott returns to the Met with a new staging of Mozart’s comedy Così fan tutte, led by David Robertson. The production, set in Coney Island during the 1950s, features Amanda Majeski and Serena Malfi as the conflicted sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella; Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara as their feisty maid, Despina; Ben Bliss and Adam Plachetka as the sisters’ fiancés, Ferrando and Guglielmo; and Christopher Maltman as the cynical Don Alfonso. Così fan tutte is a co-production with the English National Opera, where this staging premiered in 2014, in collaboration with Improbable. Cendrillon – Jules Massenet MET PREMIERE Opening: April 12, 2018 Conductor: Bertrand de Billy Production: Laurent Pelly Set Designer: Barbara de Limburg Costume Designer: Laurent Pelly Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler Choreographer: Laura Scozzi Live in HD: April 28, 2018 Massenet’s enchanting opera Cendrillon, based on the Cinderella story, premieres at the Met conducted by Bertrand de Billy in a staging by Laurent Pelly, whose Met credits include staging Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment and Massenet’s Manon. Joyce DiDonato stars as the title character, a role she has sung to acclaim at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, The Santa Fe Opera, and Royal Opera, Covent Garden. The cast also features Kathleen Kim as the Fairy Godmother, Alice Coote as Prince Charming, Stephanie Blythe as the evil stepmother Madame de la Haltière, and Laurent Naouri as Pandolfe. Cendrillon is produced in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona; Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie, Brussels; and Opéra de Lille. This production was first performed at The Santa Fe Opera in 2006. Requiem – Giuseppe Verdi CONCERT Opening: November 24, 2017 Conductor: James Levine Met Music Director Emeritus James Levine will conduct four concert performances of Verdi’s Requiem, a powerful meditation on death, featuring soloists Krassimira Stoyanova, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Aleksandrs Antonenko, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, along with the Met’s orchestra and chorus. Noteworthy Met Debuts Notable Met debuts this season include Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught as Nicklausse in Les Contes d’Hoffmann (September 26); South African soprano Golda Schultz as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (September 27); British conductor Alexander Soddy leading La Bohème (October 2); American soprano Angel Blue as Mimì in La Bohème (October 2); British soprano Sally Matthews as Silvia de Ávila in The Exterminating Angel (October 26): Italian conductor Jader Bignamini leading Madama Butterfly (November 2); German soprano Christiane Karg as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro (December 6); American conductor Ward Stare leading The Merry Widow (December 14); Venezuelan conductor Domingo Hindoyan leading L’Elisir d’Amore (January 16); Italian baritone Davide Luciano as Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore (January 16); German soprano Evelyn Herlitzius as Kundry in Parsifal (February 5); German mezzo-soprano Michaela Schuster as Klytämnestra in Elektra (March 1); and Russian bass Alexander Vinogradov as Walter in Luisa Miller (March 29). In addition, Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinyt?-Tyla makes her first Met appearance, leading the MET Orchestra in a Carnegie Hall concert on May 18. Repertory Highlights The 2017-18 season will feature 20 revivals of works by 14 composers starring many of the world’s leading opera singers and conductors. Met Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts Mozart’s opera, Die Zauberflöte, sung in full-length performances in its original German. The cast features Golda Schultz as Pamina, Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night, Charles Castronovo as Tamino, Markus Werba as Papageno, Christian Van Horn as Sprecher, and Tobias Kehrer as Sarastro. Il Trovatore, also conducted by Levine, stars Maria Agresta as Leonora, Anita Rachvelishvili as Azucena, Yonghoon Lee as Manrico, Quinn Kelsey and Luca Salsi as Count di Luna, and Štefan Kocán and Kwangchul Youn as Ferrando. Levine also conducts a rare revival of Luisa Miller, which has not been seen at the Met since 2006. Sonya Yoncheva sings the title role, opposite Piotr Beczala as Luisa’s lover Rodolfo, in the story of a young woman who sacrifices her own happiness in an attempt to save her father’s life. The cast also includes Plácido Domingo as Luisa’s father Miller with Olesya Petrova as Federica, and Alexander Vinogradov and Dmitry Belosselskiy as Walter and Wurm, the ruthless men determined to tear Luisa and Rodolfo apart. Met Music Director Designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts a revival of Parsifal, starring Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role, with Evelyn Herlitzius as Kundry, Peter Mattei as Amfortas, Evgeny Nikitin as Klingsor, and René Pape as Gurnemanz. In March, Nézet-Séguin returns to the Met to conduct Elektra starring Christine Goerke in the title role, with Elza van den Heever as Chrysothemis, Michaela Schuster as Klytämnestra, Jay Hunter Morris as Aegisth, and Mikhail Petrenko as Orest. Rossini’s rarity set in ancient Babylon, Semiramide, which has not been seen at the Met in 25 years, will be conducted by Maurizio Benini and feature Angela Meade in the title role, with Elizabeth DeShong as Arsace, Javier Camarena as Idreno, Ildar Abdrazakov as Assur, and Ryan Speedo Green as Oroe. Ailyn Pérez stars in her role debut as the title character in Thaïs opposite Gerald Finley as Athanaël, with Jean-François Borras as Nicias and David Pittsinger as Palémon. The performances will be conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. Les Contes d’Hoffmann, conducted by Johannes Debus, stars Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffmann with Erin Morley as Olympia, Anita Hartig as Antonia/Stella, Oksana Volkova as Giulietta, Tara Erraught as Nicklausse/The Muse, Laurent Naouri as the Four Villains, and Christophe Mortagne as the Four Servants. Three Puccini revivals will be presented in the 2017-18 season. La Bohème stars Angel Blue as Mimì, opposite Dmytro Popov as Rodolfo with Brigitta Kele as Musetta and Lucas Meachem as Marcello. Later performances star Anita Hartig and Sonya Yoncheva as Mimì; Jean-François Borras, Russell Thomas, and Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo; and Michael Todd Simpson as Marcello. The opera will be conducted by Alexander Soddy and Marco Armiliato. Madama Butterfly stars Hui He and Ermonela Jaho as Cio-Cio-San with Maria Zifchak as Suzuki, Roberto Aronica and Luis Chapa as Pinkerton, and David Bizic, Dwayne Croft, and Roberto Frontali as Sharpless. Jader Bignamini and Marco Armiliato conduct all performances. Turandot features Oksana Dyka and Martina Serafin sharing the title role of the icy princess, with Maria Agresta, Hei-Kyung Hong, and Guanqun Yu as Liù. Marcelo Álvarez reprises the role of Calàf, and James Morris and Alexander Tsymbalyuk share the role of Timur. Le Nozze di Figaro stars Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Sonya Yoncheva as the Countess, Christiane Karg and Nadine Sierra as Susanna, Serena Malfi and Isabel Leonard as Cherubino, Luca Pisaroni and Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count, and Adam Plachetka and Ildar Abdrazakov as the title character. Harry Bicket conducts all performances. Susan Graham reprises Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow conducted by Ward Stare. The cast also includes Andriana Chuchman as Valencienne, Paul Groves as Danilo, David Portillo as Camille de Rosillon, and Thomas Allen as Baron Mirko Zeta. The double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci is conducted by Nicola Luisotti, which features Roberto Alagna in the leading tenor roles of Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Pagliacci. Cavalleria Rusticana also features Ekaterina Semenchuk and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza, and Željko Lu?i? as Alfio. Pagliacci stars Aleksandra Kurzak as Nedda, George Gagnidze as Tonio, and Alessio Arduini as Silvio. Pretty Yende and Matthew Polenzani star as the spirited Adina and Nemorino, the simple peasant who falls in love with her, in L’Elisir d’Amore, which also stars Davide Luciano as Belcore and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Dulcamara. All performances are conducted by Domingo Hindoyan. Lucia di Lammermoor returns to the Met starring Olga Peretyatko, Jessica Pratt, and Pretty Yende in the title role. Vittorio Grigolo and Michael Fabiano share the role of Edgardo with Massimo Cavalletti, Luca Salsi, and Quinn Kelsey as Enrico and Vitalij Kowaljow and Alexander Vinogradov as Raimondo. Roberto Abbado conducts all performances. Ailyn Pérez and Bryan Hymel star as the doomed lovers in Roméo et Juliette with Joshua Hopkins as Mercutio and Kwangchul Youn as Frère Laurent. Plácido Domingo conducts all performances. Holiday Presentations The Met will stage two holiday presentations during the 2017-18 season: Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s staging of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Continuing a tradition that began in 2006, the English-language, abridged performances, designed to make the opera more accessible, will be sold at reduced ticket prices for both operas. The cast of The Magic Flute includes Hanna-Elisabeth Müller as Pamina, Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night, Charles Castronovo as Tamino, Nathan Gunn as Papageno, Alfred Walker as the Speaker, and Tobias Kehrer as Sarastro. Edo de Waart will conduct the performances beginning November 25. The cast of Hansel and Gretel features Lisette Oropesa as Gretel, Tara Erraught as Hansel, Dolora Zajick as Gertrude, Gerhard Siegel as the Witch, and Quinn Kelsey as Peter. Donald Runnicles will conduct the performances opening on December 18. Photo by Met Technical Department

An Unamplified Voice

February 15

The 2017-18 Met season announcement, annotated

Productions are in order; bold indicates a debut; I may have omitted some one-off cast combos. On the whole: as exciting as this season is weak. Norma (new David McVicar production) Radvanovsky, DiDonato, Calleja, Rose / Rizzi (September-October) Rebeka, DiDonato, Calleja, Rose / Rizzi (October) Meade, Barton, Calleja, Rose / Colaneri (December) Having middling '90s throwback Carlo Rizzi in the pit instead of the 2013 revival's Riccardo Frizza is about the only less-than-thrilling element of this opener. Three premiere principals who've proved not only star-quality sound but bel canto mastery, interesting alternate ladies afterwards... And David McVicar is not only an brilliant director but one who has done great things with Sondra Radvanovsky particularly, from 2009's Trovatore to 2016's Donizetti queens. Les Contes d’Hoffmann Grigolo, Morley, Hartig, Volkova, Erraught, Naouri, Mortagne / Debus (September-October) I rather liked Grigolo in this season's Romeo, but this Bart Sher show requires him to sustain a character for longer stretches than the Gounod opera, making his choppy sense of phrase more of a liability. Still, there are enough elements that could go well (including new-to-the-house Irish mezzo Tara Erraught as Niklausse) on top of an excellent production. Die Zauberflöte Schultz, Lewek, Castronovo, Werba, Van Horn, Kehrer / Levine (September-October) Müller, Lewek, Castronovo, Gunn, Walker, Kehrer / de Waart (November-December, family version in English) The conductors should make both the regular and "family" versions work. Besides returning names (including Kathryn Lewek, the best Queen of the Night I've ever heard), South African (by way of Juilliard) soprano Golda Shultz's debut as Pamina should be interesting. Incidentally, Rene Pape is scheduled for one performance of Sarastro on October 14. La Boheme Blue, Kele, Popov/Borras/Thomas, Meachem/Simpson, Rock, Soar/Rose, Plishka / Soddy (October) Hartig, Kele, Thomas, Meachem, Rock, Rose, Pliskha / Soddy (November) Yoncheva, Phillips, Fabiano, Lavrov, Rose, Plishka / Armiliato (February-March) Some new faces debuting in this eternal Zeffirelli production, most notably Oxonian conductor Alexander Soddy and American soprano Angel Blue. But the surest bet is the last cast, with young Americans Susanna Phillips and Michael Fabiano in roles they've made their own. Turandot Dyka, Agresta, Alvarez, Morris / Rizzi (October-November) Serafin, Yu, Alvarez, Tsymbalyuk / Armiliato (March-April) Some unexpected casting choices here. Oksana Dyka, decent but somewhat faceless in this season's Jenufa, at least has done Tosca and Aida here before. The alternate Turandot, Martina Serafin, was last seen here as an enchantingly responsive Marschallin! Since then she's taken on the really big parts, though not at the Met: Abigaille, Brünnhilde, Lady Macbeth, and Turandot. Could go well... or not. Hei-Kyung Hong reprises one of her signature roles once with each cast. The Exterminating Angel (new Tom Cairns production) Luna, Echalaz, Matthews, Bevan, Coote, Rice, Davies, Kaiser, Antoun, Portillo, Moore, Gilfry, Burdette, Van Horn, Tomlinson / Adès (October-November) The two prior operas of Thomas Adès have not lacked good music nor good libretti: it's the combination of these into an interesting, human opera that hasn't quite come off. Perhaps a show based on a Luis Buñuel movie (and directed by the librettist) will do the trick. There is, in any case, an impressive lineup of British and American vocal talent involved. Madama Butterfly He, Zifchak, Aronica, Bizic / Bignamini (November) Jaho, Zifchak, Aronica/Chapa, Frontali / Armiliato (February-March) So after doing one emergency sub performance (for Ruth Ann Swenson in Traviata) at the Met in 2008, Ermonela Jaho never appears here again... until a decade later, when she headlines a revival of Butterfly. The fall run brings new Italian conductor Jader Bignamini. Thaïs Pérez, Borras, Finley / Villaume (November-December) Ailyn Pérez, an outstanding Mimi this season, takes a full-on star vehicle opposite Gerald Finley. They don't quite have the name recognition of Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson, for whom this show was made, but this could be one of the stealth successes of the season. Requiem Stoyanova, Semenchuk, Antonenko, Furlanetto / Levine (November-December) I don't recall recurring concert performances scheduled as part of the season before, but if any plotless piece could work this way, it's Verdi's famously dramatic-operatic Requiem. These shows will be almost a generation after the April 29, 2001 performance at Carnegie that everyone who attended will still wax on about (shouldn't the Met or Carnegie release a recording of this at some point?). Levine then had Renee Fleming, Olga Borodina, Marcelo Giordani, and Rene Pape at or near the height of their powers (though Giordani was a bit of a weak link, and I'd like to have heard how Ramon Vargas did in a similar performance on the Met's Japanese tour). Here it looks like Aleksandrs Antonenko will be an upgrade at tenor, but mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk - another singer not seen at the house for a while - is an odd choice, not having impressed in her appearances so far. Le Nozze di Figaro Plachetka, Karg, Willis-Sørensen, Pisaroni, Malfi / Bicket (December) Abdrazakov, Sierra, Yoncheva, Kwiecien, Leonard / Bicket (December-January) The names in the latter cast may be more recognizable, but I suspect the former (with debuting German soprano Christiane Karg as Susanna) may provide more of Mozart's ensemble glory. The Merry Widow Graham, Groves, Chuchman, Portillo, Allen / Stare (December) Graham, Groves, Chuchman, Stayton, Allen / Stare (December-January) Not a bad cast for the most cast-proof show the Met has debuted in decades. Who knew that comic timing drives comedies? Young American conductor Ward Stare debuts in the pit. Hansel and Gretel (family version in English) Oropesa, Erraught, Zajick, Siegel, Kelsey / Runnicles (December-January) McKay, Gillebo, Zajick, Siegel, Croft / Runnicles (December 28) Good casting for a kids' piece. Tosca (new David McVicar production) Opolais, Kaufmann, Terfel / Nelsons (NYE-January) Netrebko, Alvarez, Volle / de Billy (April-May) Netrebko, Alvarez, Gagnidze / de Billy (May) I believe Sondra Radvanovsky was originally supposed to headline this new production, which attempts to wash away the much-hated Luc Bondy version of 2009. Instead we get Kristine Opolais, the least interesting part of both Richard Eyre's wretchedly bad Manon Lescaut and Mary Zimmerman's otherwise-brilliant Rusalka. (She has succeeded in more direct Puccini, though.) But perhaps it doesn't matter - except as a what-if - when Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel have shown themselves of carrying this piece on their own. And though she has less male star power, I think Tosca might be a very good part for Anna Netrebko. Cav/Pag Semenchuk, Alagna, Lučić; Kurzak, Alagna, Gagnidze, Arduini / Luisotti (January) Westbroek, Alagna, Lučić; Kurzak, Alagna, Gagnidze, Arduini / Luisotti (January-February) I'm not sure whether the Alagna who shows up will be the no-voice one of the Manon Lescaut premiere or the respectable-sounding and insightful one of the end of that run and Butterfly, but his inconsistency has been characteristic since the beginning of his international career. McVicar's rendering of the double-bill is outstanding, and San Francisco's Nicola Luisotti has done magical things in his too-rare Met appearances. L’Elisir d’Amore Yende, Polenzani, Luciano, D'Arcangelo / Hindoyan (January-February) Both Yende and Polenzani have an emotional transparency that should work excellently in this piece. Il Trovatore Lee, Agresta, Rachvelishvili, Kelsey, Kocán / Levine (January-February) Lee, Agresta, Rachvelishvili, Salsi, Youn / Levine (February) Anita Rachvelishvili moves up a vocal weight class with her first Met Azucenas (she did her first performances of the part recently in London), opposite two baritones moving up from Marcello to Di Luna. But with outstanding Korean spinto Yonghoon Lee in the title role and Levine in the pit, this is yet another promising staple. Parsifal Vogt, Herlitzius, Mattei, Nikitin, Pape / Nézet-Séguin (February) The most significant revival of the season. Yannick Nézet-Séguin will go from "Music Director Designate" to the actual thing in 2020, but he's debuting German repertory cornerstones until then. This spring it's Flying Dutchman, but next year he'll lead the first revival of the most significant and successful Met Wagner production in a long, long time: Francois Girard's 2013 Parsifal. (Not least in that success was Daniele Gatti's intensely concentrated conducting, so there's a lot to live up to there.) He has the low-voiced end of the original cast, with Peter Mattei's Amfortas, Evgeny Nikitin's Klingsor, and René Pape's Gurnemanz all returning. The new parts of the cast are significant as well: dramatic soprano Evelyn Herlitzius finally makes her Met debut as Kundry, and Klaus Florian Vogt returns to Wagner a dozen years after making the most stunning - and most stunningly ignored - Met debut of our era as Lohengrin. (Vogt does return to the Met before this, in next month's Fidelio.) Semiramide Meade, DeShong, Camarena, Abdrazakov, Green / Benini (February-March) Good cast for a Rossini rarity. After her scheduled performances of Italiana this season went to debuting Italian mezzo Marianna Pizzolato, I do wonder whether Elizabeth DeShong will in fact sing these performances as Arsace. Elektra Goerke, van den Heever, Schuster, Morris, Petrenko / Nézet-Séguin (March) Christine Goerke's titanic concert performance of this early Strauss opera with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony (October 2016 at Carnegie) dwarfed the dull, homogenized new Met version last season. The change from Salonen's civilizing version to Yannick Nézet-Séguin's characteristic visceral style should do much, and Goerke's ability to sing through the cacophonic title part lyrically can't be missed, but full success may require a revival stage director unafraid to depart from Chereau's drab vision. Così fan tutte (new Phelim McDermott production) Majeski, Malfi, O'Hara, Bliss, Plachetka, Maltman / Robertson (March- Though the cast looks good and the visuals interesting, David Robertson was responsible for the worst-conducted night of Mozart I've ever heard at the Met, so I'll wait and see. The production is new to the Met but already debuted at ENO. Lucia di Lammermoor Peretyatko, Grigolo, Cavalletti, Kowaljow / Abbado (March-April) Pratt, Grigolo, Cavalletti/Salsi, Kowaljow / Abbado (April) Yende, Fabiano, Kelsey, Vinogradov / Abbado (April-May) I was listening to Pretty Yende last night in Puritani, thinking that the Met should hire her for Lucia... and here we go. She gets the better Edgardo in Michael Fabiano as well: the role depends far too much on line and phrase to expect much on the whole from Vittorio Grigolo (though the Italian will surely deliver exciting high notes). Luisa Miller Yoncheva, Beczala, Domingo, Petrova, Vinogradov, Belosselskiy / Levine (March-April) Sonya Yoncheva's manner is a bit on the chilly side to get all the pathos of the title part's great duets, but the men involved should make much of this early Verdi. Cendrillon (new Laurent Pelly production) DiDonato, Kim, Coote, Blythe, Naouri / de Billy (April-May) So, we're officially in the part of Joyce DiDonato's career when she makes big houses put on silly shows. Good cast, seems charming enough, and though Laurent Pelly (Fille, Manon) hasn't done a really good production here, he hasn't made any terrible ones either. Roméo et Juliette Hymel, Pérez, Deshayes, Hopkins, Youn / Domingo (April-May) Interesting cast, very good production, but Domingo in the pit is a deal-breaker. If you have the itch, just see Yende and Costello next month (which has many fewer good alternative options than spring 2018).






parterre box

November 22

Once, Moore, with feeling

When Sonja Frisell‘s Met production of Aïda was new and starred Oklahoma native Leona Mitchell, the similarly-intialled Latonia Moore was nine years old, singing in the choir of her pastor grandfather’s church. Tonight, 28 years later, the Texas-born Moore will sing the title role in that production for the first time since her March 2012 Met debut, a one-night triumph of substitution. That performance was conducted by Marco Armiliato, who also returns Tuesday, leading Ekaterina Gubanova, Marco Berti, Mark Delavan, Dmitry Belosselskiy and Soloman Howard. Tuesday’s date brings to mind a story involving a third Aïda from a “red state,” a singer who blazed a trail for African-Americans such as Mitchell and Moore. On November 22, 1963, the nation and the wider world were plunged into shock and grief when President John F. Kennedy, 46, was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas. The Met canceled the night’s performance of, poignantly, Götterdämmerung. It was evening in Vienna when news of the assassination reached three Met stars, Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli and Robert Merrill, as well as Mirella Freni, two autumns shy of her Met debut. They were recording a deluxe Carmen in the Sofiensaal under the direction of Herbert von Karajan and producer John Culshaw. In the account of Karajan biographer Richard Osborne, “The crew’s first thought that evening– and, to his eternal credit, that of the Don José, Franco Corelli–was for the one member of the cast who was American, black, and deeply committed to the Kennedy cause: Leontyne Price. Culshaw offered to postpone the sessions for a day or two, but Price insisted on going on. Just about the next thing they recorded was the Card Scene.” That set of Bizet’s opera can b e an argument starter to this day (as can many opera recordings), but it is little wonder that its Card Scene is as mournful a rendition as ever has been set down for microphones. In the Mississippian soprano’s smoky tones, the French words throb with tears subdued and a tinge of bitterness, appropriate for a day when a decade’s trajectory was altered: “Mais si tu dois mourir, si le mot redoubtable est écrit par le sort, recommence vingt fois, la carte impitoyable répétera : la mort!” Although this date even now has grim resonance for Americans, it was not always a sad one for the country or for the opera house. Here is a look back at just some of what you could have seen, and perhaps did see, on November 22nd through the years at the Met. 1884: As twilight advanced on the Arthurian age (Chester Alan Arthur, that is), Leopold Damrosch led the company’s second Tannhäuser. Tenor Anton Schott vacillated between the purity of Auguste Seidl-Kraus and the carnality of Anna Slach. The Times‘s 29-year-old W. J. Henderson, who would review Met performances until shortly before his death in 1937, had expressed reservations about the first performance, while lauding the young company’s effort and the audience’s focus: “[T]he continuous attention bestowed upon the entertainment indicated that the occasion was viewed as of far more importance than the opportunity for a brilliant social gathering offered by the inception of the habitual series of opera nights.” 1919: “There are only two beautiful voices in the Metropolitan company,” wrote James Gibbons Huneker in the World, referring to Rosa Ponselle and Enrico Caruso. We might look back at the roster and disagree. Fortunately, Mr. Huneker was reviewing a new La Juive built around both of them. Artur Bodanzky “outdid himself, conducting with a nervous intensity that might better have been expended on a masterpiece instead of the unmusical fustian of La Juive. But then, he is not only a great conductor, but also a conscientious one and, with the cooperation of Caruso and Ponselle, made vital the faded music of Halévy.” The matinee audience was said to be “appreciative to fever heat,” and there was little time to cool down, with Claudia Muzio and Pasquale Amato lined up for an evening Trovatore. 1922: Two house favorites, tenor Giovanni Martinelli and bass José Mardones , were joined in Aïda by debuting leading ladies, Elisabeth Rethberg and Sigrid Onégin. The Times’s Richard Aldrich wrote of Onégin, “The new Amneris is a woman of majestic grace, broad gesture, brooding calm, while her voice was one of great power controlled with smoothness and beauty[.]” As for her onstage rival, amusingly, the Herald’s unidentified reviewer claimed that “Miss Rethberg was suffering so much from nervousness that she had almost no breath control,” while the World’s critic asseverated that “Miss Rethberg, not in least nervous, produced an abundance of fresh, brilliant tones.” On one point, all seemed in agreement: the German soprano was an important new voice. 1943: As the RAF began its air bombing of Berlin 4,000 miles away, the season opened with Mussorgsky’s bleak Boris Godunov. George Szell’s cast was headed by the tsar of Ezio Pinza. Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune lamented the decision to perform the opera in Italian, but appreciated “Mr. Szell’s fine understanding of this music and his ability to give shape to it (a quality it just possibly lacks a little bit in itself),” as well as “a certain good will on the part of the cast. It was amazing how carefully they all worked and how beautifully they all sang. If the opera sounded throughout like almost anything but a Russian opera, that was nobody’s fault that I could name.” 1947: Richard Tucker appeared in his first Met La bohème. Herbert Kupferberg of the Herald Tribune was equivocal: “He was in good voice, but he maintained a seemingly disdainful appearance, and most of his posturing was as absurd as the kiss he blew to the audience when it applauded his vocal accomplishments after the third act.” Rodolfo would be a frequent assignment for Tucker over the next quarter century. Kupferberg praised the “beautiful singing and unassuming demeanor” of Licia Albanese as Mimì. 1950: Margaret Harshaw, a mezzo for eight prior years with the company, made what Musical America‘s James Hinton Jr. described as a successful second debut as soprano, essaying Senta in Der fliegende Holländer. Fritz Reiner’s cast included Set Svanholm, Paul Schöffler and Sven Nilsson. Harshaw would carry on at the Met for another 14 years, alternating mezzo roles with the likes of Donna Anna, Isolde and Brünnhilde. 1951: Per Harold C. Schonberg in the Times, Alabama native Nell Rankin had a rough debut as Amneris in Aïda. “Her middle range sounded tentative, nor was there enough vocal authority for her to compete on even ensemble terms with Mr. [Mario] Del Monaco or Miss [Zinka] Milanov, both of whom virtually drowned her out in the first and second act trios.” Rankin would have other chances to impress, in this part and many others, through 1976. 1952: From a good seat, it may have seemed that Victoria de los Angeles was especially convincing in playing Cio-Cio San’s pain in Madama Butterfly. In fact, she was playing through pain, having injured her foot at some point in the second act. Her inadvertent “method” performance as Pinkerton’s faithful bride received a rave from the Times’s Noel Straus (“Never before at the opera house has this reviewer found the gifted soprano’s vocalism or acting so expressive or compelling”). 1957: “If you happen to have a friend with an aversion to opera houses, just take him or her to the Met for a performance of Der Rosenkavalier. If you don’t have a convert on your hands, we’ll attempt to eat a libretto right off a lobby stand,” wrote the Mirror’s Robert Coleman. The source of his folksy enthusiasm was a performance starring Lisa Della Casa, Hilde Gueden, Risë Stevens and Otto Edelmann. Karl Böhm conducted; the Herbert Graf/Rolf Gérard production framed. For New Yorkers feeling “kind of blue,” just a 20-minute walk away, the Miles Davis Quintet began a Carnegie Hall series. 1968: The release of the Beatles’ White Album was the day’s headline for the nation’s youth, but a new Rheingold also debuted, the second completed entry in a planned Ring from conductor/director Karajan and designer Günther Schneider-Siemssen. Debuting singers Josephine Veasey (Fricka), Zoltán Kelemen (Alberich), Gerhard Stolze (Loge) and Edda Moser (Wellgunde) joined Thomas Stewart (Wotan), Lili Chookasian (Erda), Martti Talvela and Karl Ridderbusch (Fasolt and Fafner). Baritone divo Sherrill Milnes took a holiday from Italian and French fare for a luxury Donner. Working with an orchestra a long way in 1968 from the ensemble it would become, Karajan drew a Rheingold praised for refinement, suggestiveness and buoyancy. “[Maria] Callas and Herbert von Karajan were the complete artists of my time at the Metropolitan, and I can criticize myself most effectively by complaining how few performances we got from either,” GM Rudolf Bing would write in his retirement memoir. 1976: “Without Love, there’s nothing you can do,” warned Aretha Franklin in a song of this era. Well, the Met had to do something: Shirley Love was unable to continue as Meistersinger‘s Magdalena after the first act. She was replaced by Cynthia Munzer, and the glorious quintet of Act Three remained a quintet, possibly a glorious one. Its other voices were Stewart, tenors Gerd Brenneis and Kenneth Riegel, and (in her first Met role) Eva Marton. 1983: The audience got its first exposure to Gösta Winbergh, Ottavio in a Don Giovanni with Carol Neblett, Kathleen Battle and James Morris. The Swedish tenor, whose “sweet tone[,] aristocratic style and technique” earned him an appreciative notice from the Times’s John Rockwell, would return periodically over the next 15 years for Mozart and Bizet. 1985: James Levine led the first of his 77 Met performances of Le nozze di Figaro, the occasion being Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s new production with Battle, Carol Vaness, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Allen and Ruggero Raimondi. This autumnal reconsideration of the Mozart/Da Ponte masterpiece was controversial for its imposing classical sets, stark costuming (“[T]hose who watch [a telecast] on black-and-white television sets will not miss very much,” quipped Tim Page in the Times) and liberties of character conduct taken by the director. Martin Mayer of Opera found it “generally nasty and ill-considered” but extolled the cast, especially the three female principals, and felt that “for the orchestra and Levine, no praise could be too high.” 1997: “Hungarian hardball” was how GM Joseph Volpe, in his retirement memoir, described Marton’s self-imposed exile following the 1988-89 season, when, “despite what [Marton had] been led to believe,” a rival was cast as Brünnhilde in the Met’s studio Ring recording. Marton finally returned for three dates in Franco Zeffirelli‘s overstuffed Turandot, in which she had been memorably filmed a decade earlier. Nello Santi‘s cast for Puccini’s valediction featured Ruth Ann Swenson and Kristián Jóhannsson as slave and prince, respectively. Marton would be back two Novembers later as Tosca, but the performance of the 22nd was her final Met Turandot. 1998: To mark his 30th Met anniversary, Luciano Pavarotti performed an act apiece from L’elisir d’amore, La bohème and Aïda, assisted by Levine and an array of this era’s vocal talent: Swenson, Ainhoa Arteta, Daniela Dessì, Maria Guleghina, Dolora Zajick, Leo Nucci, Dwayne Croft, Paul Plishka. At the evening’s close, Volpe presented Pavarotti with a Puccini autograph with music from Turandot. The beloved tenor, beset by recent health and personal concerns and not in best voice, was philosophical about criticism: “When a young man falls down in the street, they say he stumbled because he was looking at the sky. When a 60-year-old man falls down, if he is well known, they say it is because he is old.” 1999: After nearly 16 years on the shelf, Tristan und Isolde returned in a new production by Dieter Dorn, Maestro Levine at last having what he considered a worthy cast (Jane Eaglen, Katarina Dalayman, Ben Heppner, René Pape). The Observer’s Charles Michener awarded top honors to König Marke: “Mr. Pape’s riveting intensity of gesture, his nuanced articulation of the text and the force of his huge, burnished tone jolted the opera out of a dreamscape and into the painful here-and-now.” 2010: The 1979 production of Verdi’s Don Carlo gave way to a new one. The Observer‘s Zachary Woolfe felt that director Nicholas Hytner’s work suffered from lapses in tone (“Sombre splendor there is frequently not”), but he praised the royal couple of “rich-voiced and eloquent” bass Ferruccio Furlanetto and young soprano Marina Poplavskaya (“[A] single motion of her hand […] was a model of operatic gesture: stylized yet true, tiny yet able to register across an auditorium. She gets it”). The brotherly love of Carlo and Rodrigo was enacted by Roberto Alagna and Simon Keenlyside. In his second Met opera, future music director designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin drew acclaim from the Times’s Anthony Tommasini as “a born communicator who brought youthful passion and precocious insight to his work.” Photo: Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera

Royal Opera House

November 14

Les Contes d’Hoffmann musical highlight: The Doll Aria

Sofia Fomina, Christophe Mortagne and Vittorio Grigòlo in Schlesinger’s Les Contes d'Hoffmann, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Catherine Ashmore ‘Les oiseaux dans la charmille’, also known as the Doll Aria from Les Contes d’Hoffmann , is infamously difficult to sing. It is sung in Act I by Olympia, a mechanical doll who the hapless Hoffmann believes to be human. For much of the act, Olympia simply says ‘oui’ (yes) to anything asked of her, but Offenbach more than makes up for this in her aria. Written for the French soprano Adèle Isaac – a star of Paris’s Opéra-Comique known for her interpretations of challenging roles such as Marie (La Fille du régiment ), Isabelle (Robert le diable ) and Juliette (Roméo et Juliette ) – it is a virtuoso tour-de-force, packed with stratospheric coloratura. Where does it take place in the opera? The Doll Aria takes place in Act I, when the inventor Spalanzani hosts a party at his Paris home. In the previous scene, the gullible Hoffmann – deaf to the warnings of his friend Nicklausse – is duped by Spalanzani into believing that Olympia is the inventor’s daughter. Spalanzani is helped in his ruse by the fiendish scientist Coppélius, who sells Hoffmann a pair of magical glasses that make Olympia appear fully human. When Olympia performs her song for Spalanzani’s party guests, Hoffmann is so impressed that he determines to marry the doll. What do the lyrics mean? The words of Olympia’s two-verse aria are self-consciously sentimental and repetitive, as befits her mechanical state. In the first verse she sings of how the songs of birds awaken thoughts of love in her young soul; in the second of how her loving heart is moved by songs and sighs. Both verses end with the coy refrain ‘this is the lovely song of Olympia’. Read Jonathan Burton’s translation below, created for The Royal Opera: Les oiseaux dans la charmille, Dans les cieux l’astre du jour Tout parle à la jeune fille d’amour! Voilà la chanson gentille, la chanson d’Olympia!Les oiseaux dans la charmille, Dans les cieux l’astre du jour Tout parle à la jeune fille d’amour! Voilà la chanson gentille, la chanson d’Olympia! The birds in the bower, The sun in the sky To a maiden everything speaks of love! This is Olympia’s pretty song. Everything that sings and echoes and sighs in turn Stirs a maiden’s heart that trembles with love. This is Olympia’s sweet little song. What makes the music so memorable? Offenbach’s music perfectly characterizes a mechanical doll, with a pretty melody sung to a waltz rhythm, and delicate harp and flute accompaniment reminiscent of the sound of musical boxes (possibly mimicking the real musical clockwork dolls popular in late 19th-century France). However, Olympia isno ordinary automaton; her melody line becomes progressively more ornate during the aria’s first verse (particularly in the flamboyant vocalise that ends its refrain) and by the second verse she’s in full exhibitionist mode, decorating her melody with as many trills, flourishes, roulades and stratospherically high notes as any coloratura soprano could wish for. She pays the price for this display though – during both refrains her mechanics run down, causing her to collapse until Spalanzani winds her up again. The second time, he clearly does his job rather too well, as Olympia soars to new heights in the hyperactive closing cadenza. Hoffmann’s other musical highlights Les Contes d’Hoffmann contains a glut of wonderful arias, duets and ensembles. The protagonist’s solo numbers include the Prologue’s ‘Chanson de Kleinzach’ in which the poet moves from wit to romantic reverie and back, and the hedonistic Act II aria ‘Amis, l’amour tendre et reveur, erreur!’. The devilish villains naturally get plenty of good tunes, including Lindorf’s cynical and boastful ‘Dans les rôles d’amoureux langoureux’. Among the duets, the best known is perhaps the sensual Barcarolle ‘Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour’ that opens the Giulietta act; a lesser-known treat is Hoffmann and Antonia’s poignant ‘C’est une chanson d’amour’, one of the opera’s few genuinely romantic episodes. Other highlights include the Prologue’s ebullient drinking chorus, Act II’s dramatic septet (sung as Hoffmann realizes that Giulietta has stolen his reflection) and Antonia’s nostalgic aria ‘Elle a fui, la tourterelle’ that opens Act III. Classic recordings Les Contes d’Hoffmann doesn’t lack good recordings. EMI’s bargain box-set conducted by André Cluytens features Nicolai Gedda as Hoffmann, one of his greatest roles; his duet with Victoria de los Ángeles ’s Antonia is unforgettable. Domingo fans can enjoy the 1972 Decca recording with the inimitable Joan Sutherland as the three heroines; another Domingo option is the 1981 live Salzburg recording , with José van Dam in devilishly good form as the four villains, conducted by James Levine . Kent Nagano ’s 2011 recording (Erato) features Roberto Alagna as Hoffmann and Natalie Dessay on sparkling form as Olympia, among other delights. There’s a good choice of DVD recordings too, including The Royal Opera’s production with Domingo as Hoffmann . More to discover Offenbach’s only other opera (Die Rheinnixen ) hasn’t ever entered the repertory, but several of his operettas are easily available on CD and DVD. Orphée aux Enfers (with its famous can-can ) and La Belle Hélène offer a hilarious take on Greek myths, or you can luxuriate in the hedonistic Paris party scene with La Vie parisienne . La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein is worth a listen too, particularly for the heroine’s rousing arias. On a more serious note, Massenet ’s opera Werther offers another take on the romantic artist searching for the ideal woman, as does Gounod ’s Faust , where the hero is prepared to sell his soul to the devil for love and youth. And if you’re after operas about artists and their love affairs, there’s always Puccini ’s much-loved La bohème . Les Contes d’Hoffmann runs until 3 December 2016. Tickets are still available. The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 15 November 2016. Find your nearest cinema . The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet and Mr and Mrs Christopher W.T. Johnston.

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