Grand spectacle of legendary tale of pride, revenge, and love returns to the Met Opera in March 2018
The timeless story of a cold and proud Chinese princess claiming her superiority over every contender for her heart is richly staged in this historic Franco Zefferelli production from 1987 of the last masterpiece by Giacomo Puccini. The cast at the Met Operaincludes Oksana Dyka and Martina Serafin in the title role, Marcelo Alvarez as Prince Calaf with Carlo Rizzi and Marco Armiliato conducting. Opulent orchestration, inclusion of the uncommon musical instruments in the score, innovative use of chorus and ballet are all part of this grand spectacle of pride, revenge, and love.
Love, idealism, and ruse in a thrilling drama by Giacomo Puccini
Opening on a New Year Eve
A new production of Puccini’s Tosca by Sir David McVicar at the Met Opera offers a grand theatrical experience for the opera fans. The performances are opening on the New Year Eve and will continue in January and April, May of 2018. This production will be played by two extraordinary casts each making a forceful presence on stage. Two opera divas, Sonya Yoncheva and Anna Netrebko are sharing the title role with Vittorio Grigolo and Marcelo Alvarez alternating as Cavaradossi, with two magnificent Scarpias, Michael Volle, and Željko Lučić, and Emmanuel Villaume conducting after James Levine was suspended following sexual harassment allegations. Sir Bryn Terfel, who was originally scheduled to sing Scarpia, had to withdraw because of “enforced rest due to vocal fatigue” according to BBC. The set and costume design for this production is done by John Macfarlane, who as a painter is adding to the depth of the characters through the rich design of the decorations and the period costumes. McVicar’s production which a review by AP describes as “similar to Zeffirelli’s” is replacing a spare modern staging of Tosca by Luc Bondy which was not warmly received by the Met opera buffs.
The now world-famous story of the passionate lovers and a heartless police chief is based on an 1887 French play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou, a renown French playwright in his time. Sardou had written this play for Sarah Bernhardt. That production was wildly successful touring around Europe with more than 3000 performances. Puccini, attending two of the performances, saw it promising to set as an opera. Following a lengthy negotiation with Sardou, he eventually got the rights and started his work on the score in 1895. The libretto was commissioned to Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa who had not only significantly cut back on the text of the rather lengthy play with multiple characters and dialogs, but also to transform the characters motives into a scenario suitable for an Italian opera.
The setting for the opera is Rome in 1800 at the time of Napoleon Wars that led to French domination over Italy. The historical church of Sant’Andrea della Vallein Act 1,Palazzo Farnesein Act 2, and Castel Sant’Angelo in Act 3 can still be visited today. With all these real places in mind, Puccini wanted to reconstruct the divine sounds that could be heard there. For that reason, the score includes a part for the church bells which are close in pitch to the bell of the St. Peter’s Basilica. While this adds to the time and efforts in the production of the opera, it doesn’t produce much effect on the audience.
The premiere was given in 1900 in Teatro Costanzi in Rome. That year Italy had experienced some unrest, so the premiere was even delayed by a day to avoid unwanted disturbances. It was performed to full houses for 30 performances in the first year and is now a beloved entry in the repertoire of every opera house around the world.
The role of Tosca is considered to be a career defying opportunity. One of the most famous interpreters of a temperamental lover was Maria Callas who was singing it as her last onstage operatic role in 1965. For Luciano Pavarotti, the role of Cavaradossi which he had performed since 1970, was also his last onstage performance at the Met in 2004.
The first recording of Tosca was done in 1918. Among the highly prized recent recordings is Royal Opera House version with Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Ruggero Raymond and Antonio Pappano conducting which was released in 2000.
Stunning design, masterful “verismo” style of music and passionate acting will undoubtedly create a memorable operatic experience for the spectators!
Vibrant production by Sir David McVicar of the beloved Verdi’s opera on January 22 – February 15, 2018
This year repertoire at the Met Operais clearly dominated by Sir David McVicar’s productions. Il Trovatore, which first had opened here in 2009, is returning to the Met stage with a formidable cast under the baton of Marco Armiliato. The title role in this production is forcefully performed by Yonghoon Lee, the role of his lover Leonora is sung by Jennifer Rowley and the role of Count Di Luna is performed by the baritones Quinn Kelsey and Luca Salsi. After the opening on Monday, January 22, the praising reviews were given to the magnificent Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili performing the most complicated part of the opera, a gypsy Azucena. Book your tickets here.
Il Trovatore’s catchy, disturbing and at the same time melodic music score is overplayed on a macabre plot of medieval rivalries, superstitions and love stories. It is based on a successful play El Trovador (1836) by Antonio García Gutierrez. Verdi had started the work on this opera sometime in 1850 first with the librettist Salvadore Cammarano and later after Cammarano’s death in 1852 with young poet Leone Emanuele Barware. In his correspondence with Cammarano Verdi kept asking him for packing more actions in the libretto to make the most effect on the public. The librettists seem to succeed in that regard. Notwithstanding opera’s great acclaim by the audiences around Europe, the plot was mocked in numerous satires in Italy and elsewhere, which in itself was a sign that its a hit. The twists and turns of the original tale are transformed in this production from the very distant beginning of 15th century Aragon, Spain to the time of the Spanish War of Independence (1807-1814) fought against Napoleonic France. The bitterness and horrors of that period are memorialized in Goya’s “Desastres de la Guerre.”
The creators of this production felt that the time of Peninsular War “fits with Verdi’s tinta, the dark palette he creates for Spain” as McVicar pointed out in an interview with the New York Times. However, some critical elements of the plot in Il Trovatore particularly those surrounding Azucena and her fate seem to be mooted for early 1800. While in the gypsy folk tradition the fire is believed to be the means of communication with the dead, it makes sense for gypsy Azucena’s story and its horrific prominence in the original play set in the 15th century as burnings of sorceresses at the stake were widely practiced. At the time of Napoleon, the use of that practice is highly questionable.
Despite the pitfalls of historic transposition, Anita Rachvelishvili as Azucena is taking a center stage with her dramatic performance. It’s one thing for Azucena to sing “It makes my blood run cold”, and its very different when the delivery of the lines makes the listeners’ blood cold. “Well, it fairly freezes in your veins while watching and listening to Anita Rachvelishvili” observes Z. Wolf in his New York Times review. Rachvelishvili powerful stage presence masterfully switching from the chilling scenes of tormenting madness to the touching desperation is particularly important here. Verdi himself was thinking about Azucena as a main female character in this opera and even wanted her name to be in the title. The Met orchestra under Armiliato conducting provides superb and inspiring music. With the rest of the main cast being well-placed, the production delivers a deep and spirited theatrical impression.
Starting from 1853 when it was first performed at the Teatro Apollo in Rome, Il Trovatore entered the repertoire of every major opera house in the world. There is a rich and diverse discography with multiple variations of the best singers and conductors. Its catchy melodies had even entered the popular culture and were used in the movie and TV productions.
Discounted Tickets to the Christmas-themed concerts on December 13 and December 14, 2017
Andrea Bocelli, an Italian classical and pop music singer returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City to celebrate the holidays with his fans and followers. Bocelli will be sharing a stage with the conductor Eugene Kohn, soprano Larisa Martinez, and guest artist Heather Headley.
Bocelli grew up in the village La Sterza in Tuscany, Italy just south of Pisa where his family had a farm. Andrea started playing music from age 6. He took piano lessons and later learned to play a flute, saxophone, drums among other instruments. At about the same age after listening to a record of Franco Corelli, he showed an interest in opera music. Starting from age 14 he began participating in the singing competitions which came to establish his fame and followers. A connection to Corelli continued with Andrea attending Corelli’s master class in Turin in 1986 and later taking private voice lessons with him.
While studying and graduating with Law degree from the University of Pisa, he continued to sing performing at the bars and making tape recordings. One such tape got the attention of Italian rock star Zucchero who in 1992 was holding a tape competition among tenors for the recording of his song Miserere. Bocelli’s tape recoding of Miserere was shared with the best known Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who got very impressed with Bocelli’s singing. Bocelli was invited to perform in duets at Zucchero’s European tours. The duets from that tour including Misererewere released in 1994. That year the young singer became a sensation after winning a newcomer prize at Sanremo Music Festival.Pavarotti took a deep interest in Bocelli’s career and since then they sang in duets at multiple charity concerts around the world. Bocelli is recording prolifically. His discography already includes 16 operas, numerous collections of arias and songs and music videos. His latest opera recording, Aida, was released in 2016 after Turandot in 2015. It is interesting that the role of prince Calaf from Turandot was among Bocelli’s initial solo selections back in the early 1990s.
The concert at Madison Square Garden will raise everyone’s holiday spirit and will surely include many Christmas classics and popular arias sang with utmost elegance and grace. With the NewYorkPass your can enjoy a free tour of the legendary MSG arena and more!
Dates and Discounted Tickets with the code TICKETS3:
An eternal tale of seduction and religious devotion
MetOperarevival of Thaïs production from 2008 is a passionate story about love and faith aptly delivered by Ailyn Perez in the title role and Gerald Finley as Athanaël, the holy monk. It is centered on a timeless struggle between the allure of the flesh and the piety of the spirit. The narrative and the score are charged with high emotions and endless desperation in search of harmony and salvation accentuated by Massenet’s highly recognized Meditation, the entr’acte for violin and orchestra.
Jules Massenet (1842-1912) wrote his wildly popular opera Thaïs, a comédie lyrique when his career as the most prolific French operatic composer was already well established. Thaïs has premiered at Opera Garnierin Paris in 1894 and gained widespread recognition shortly after at its first revival four years later. A libretto by Louis Gallet was based on the novel of the same title by Anatole France (1844-1924), a French poet, journalist and novelist. While Massenet’s other operas, Manon and Werther, are among the most performed, Thaïs holds its place for its exotic musical renditions, curious historical elements and the depth of emotions.
Anatole France’s story of the rich courtesan living in Alexandria, Egypt in around 4th century AD followed a legend known in Christian literature as the life of Saint Thaïs of Egypt. A servant of goddess Venus, she used her sensuality to seduce an ascetic Cenobite monk who was persuading Thaïs in his own efforts to convert her to Christianity. The plot is revolving around a power play between the earthy pleasures and a blind faith. And while in France’s story the Christian devotion takes a firm hold on the volatile spirit of a former sinner ultimately leading to her repentance and a vision of heaven, it could be interpreted as a dead-end in itself. On the other hand, the very earthy feelings awaken in the heart of a former monk, are showing a passage to real experiences and with that a possibility of reawakening. Some of the former productions of the opera led to a controversy around religious eroticism and irreversible tenets of belief. The role of Thaïs, which is notoriously difficult to sing, was written by Massenet for an American soprano Sibyl Sanderson.
This year Bard SummerScape is dedicated to the Romanticism in music and is celebrating Chopin. Adding Antonin Dvorak’s rarely staged operatic jewel Dimitrij to the program makes a lot of sense as Dvorak is rightly considered to carry on Chopin’s Romantic tradition, and this complicated drama is well placed in the lineup celebrating Slavic roots and historic influences.
The opera brings back a murky history of Russian Tsars at the “time of troubles” at the beginning of 17th century. The story starts at exactly where Mussorgsky’s“Boris Godunov” leaves off with the death of Tsar Boris and the dark times of uncertainty approaching. The plot of Dimitrij is centered around a young pretender to the throne who appears in Moscow surrounded by Polish nobles and claims to be Dimitrij. His quest to rule is validated when the widow of Ivan, The Terrible recognizes him as her long lost son attempting to avenge her own grievances with the rulers. But the secret is bound to be revealed with all the ambitions at play. The intrigues of the power struggle, society division in pledging loyalty to competing clans, conspiracy theories and treacherous deceptions are only amplified by gorgeous music and powerful choral renditions. Sounds too familiar? It might be because a drive for power is as universal as love and death. The director of this Dimitrij production Anne Bogart thinks that the subject is particularly relevant today.
In the words of the Boston Globe “Shakespeare could hardly have bettered” this tragic story. In fact the story was developed by a librettist Marie Cervikova-Riegrovawho based it on an unfinished plot by F. Schiller’s Demetrius. It is also worth noting that apparently Dvorak, working on the opera in 1881-1882, was not familiar with Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” which was completed between 1868-1873 to A. Pushkin’s drama with the same title.
Bard SummerScape opera performance takes place at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Art which is located on the campus of a picturesque Bard Collegein Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Bard College is well known for its rigorous and diverse art education program and the best in class roster of summer performances in upstate NY. Only two hours away from hustle and bustle of New York City, the campus is sufficiently insulated for full concentration and study, yet affords a convenience of being accessible via train connection to the city.
This year Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center brings back to New York a fascinating production of opera Don Giovanni. The performance will take place at the Rose Theater at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Frederick P. Rose Hall.
Mozart wrote this opera to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte which was based on the legend about Don Juan, a philanderer and seducer. Premiered at the National Theater of Bohemia in Prague in 1787, it was billed by Mozart himself as opera buffa. However, this particular rendition of the story is much more a tragedy and a learning lesson than a comedy or a melodrama.
Ivan Fischer, co-founder and conductor of Budapest Festival Orchestra, was also directing the production. In an interview by NPR in anticipation of the opening in 2011, Fischer points out that this dual role as conductor and director lets him offer “much more unified experience” for the actors. The resulting accents in the story are on bringing the villain to justice. The costume, stage design and casting of the students of Bucharest Acting Academy in the supporting ensemble are both innovative and highly appropriate. Instead of a singing statue, the actors costumes are designed to resemble the stones serving as both the silent elements of the design and the embodiment of the fate and consequence that gets a final say. The New York Times review of the performance back in 2011 highlights the “climactic moment staged to such haunting effect” under Fischer’s direction.
Rigoletto in Las-Vegas? This vibrant and colorful production of Giuseppe Verdi’s beloved opera is sure to entertain and engage everyone. For the original opening of the opera in 1851, Verdi and his librettist Francesco Maria Piave shifted the setting in Victor Hugo play which the opera is based on from early-16th century french court to Renaissance time Mantua, Italy.
It seems the story is destined for such transformations in time and place as the current production is set in Las Vegas in the 60s with all the bells and whistles of that turbulent era. Even if you are not a big fun of modern adaptation for traditional art forms, you will enjoy the time-tested tunes and passionate performance. Think about finding repeating patterns of history and savor the music in all its glory. The New York Times review for 2013 opening of this production called it “the Rat Pack “Rigoletto'”.
Disclosure: I am always looking for things I believe my readers will value. In order to support this site, I am participating in the affiliates programs which contribute a small revenue from the sale of the products.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.