Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera's 80th Boradcast Season

  Yesterday was the inception of the Metropolitan Opera's eightieth consecutive season of live radio broadcasts, and they began their season with Verdi's Don Carlo starring Marina Poplavskaya, Ferrucio Furlanetto, Anna Smirnova, Yonghoon Lee, Simon Keenlyside, and Eric Halfvarson, and it was conducted by the admirable Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the young Canadian who conducted last season's electrifying Carmen broadcast. I, unfortunately, missed this promising offering, but I cannot lament such an happening since I was at a dear friend's wedding while this broadcast was heard by many opera aficionados. I was anxious to hear Nezet-Seguin conduct this opera to see what passion and emotion he would imbue into his orchestra, but this wedding was much more enjoyable for me to attend.

  Christmas Day brings us the historic broadcast of this season, which is the rarely performed work of Smetana entitled The Bartered Bride. It being the fortieth anniversary of James Levine's career with the Metropolitan Opera as their Music Director, this broadcast is from December 2, 1978, and he leads the forces of his orchestra and Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, and Jon Vickers in this offering. I am sure that it will be something to remember with admiration, for I have generally found Gedda to be a tenor of excellent voice. Some of his readings are not to my individual liking, but his voice was in marvelous condition, and I have never heard it said that he took too many liberties or risks with it. I hope that this broadcast is in the original Czech instead of English.

  On New Year's Day, we are treated to Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande starring Magdalena Kozena, who I enjoy with greater pleasure each time I hear her, Felicity Palmer, Stephane Degout, Willard White, and Gerald Finley. I heard this opera the last time the Met broadcast it, and I recall that I was engrossed more by the drama than the music ans singing, for the plot was my main attraction to opera in that time, and I remember feeling so much sympathy for Melisande and the tragic circumstances in which she found herself. I do expect that I shall pay better attention to the other aspects of the performance this time, for Debussy's music is most interesting to me. I am ecstatic to hear Sir Simon Rattle in his debut conducting at the Met, for you can download his maiden foray at the Met here. I hope to listen to it prior to the broadcast in the interest of knowing if anything changed in his reading or command of the orchestra during the interim between the two performances.

  If I may digress for a moment, I should very much like to alight upon my appreciation for Kozena and her voice. Looking at her appreciable discography, one is immediately made aware of her versatility with her voice. I happen to prefer her performances of Baroque music best, for I think the long, languid lines of the music that Handel, Vivaldi, and other composers of the era devoted to sorrow yield themselves well to her voice's unique timbre. Though it shall be known at once that she is not a native of the English language when she sings Handel or Purcell, for the idiosyncratic pronunciations of some syllables do present themselves from time to time as they shall from those who are used to the Slavic tongues, her diction is good, and her voice captures and exhibits sad emotion marvelously well. I adore her voice, and I wish that she had a greater career here in the United States. I won her recent recording of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn under Pierre Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra, which is reviewed in the January issue of Opera News, from Deutsche Grammophon on Twitter, and I was quite impressed with her interpretation of Mahler. Her and Christian Gerhaher's performances make me want to explore more of Mahler's work, which I have an opportunity to do with another recording I won from Twitter, which was Rattle's Grammy-winning recording of Mahler's Tenth Symphony with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

  To return to the subject at hand, however, please allow me to mention some of my greatest expectations from the remainder of the broadcast season. After Debussy's opera I shall look forward to hearing Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, for I recently discovered that it is one of my friend's favorite operas, so I want to hear it and know why they like it best. I should like to know if there is an archive recording of the world premiere of this opera with Caruso and Destinn available anywhere. It would be marvelous to hear it. Aside from that fact, my other reason to hear it is to hear Deborah Voigt opposite Marcello Giordani, who sings so many diverse Italian pieces. I think his voice is as near to the opulent tenor as we shall see for a long time hence. Jonas Kaufmann is another such artist, and I think that he shall be the next Placido Domingo, for he yet sings dramatic German repertoire and Italian and French operas for the lighter voices almost without us knowing the difference.

  La Traviata, which I have often heard and, therefore, know well, looks promising from the perspective of the cast, and I think the production even has its merits, for Marina Poplavskaya is quite the soprano to watch according to Opera News, but Matthew Polenzani's Alfredo from 2007 opposite Renee Fleming was not as refined as I had hoped he would be, so I am praying that he is in better voice these years later in this broadcast. His opening of the second act was a little weak, and his support was wavering by the end of his aria, but I think that he shall have remedied that by now. Gianandrea Noseda, who we heard quite often with the BBC Proms this summer, conducts this opera, and I expect it shall be an admirable interpretation.

  January 22, 2011, brings us the acclaimed Rigoletto production of Otto Schenk with Joseph Calleja's acclaimed Duke in the cast. Nino Machaidze is Gilda. I have heard her in this role before, and she does a fine performance. Fred Plotkin names this the ideal stater opera, so anyone who is unfamiliar with this art form should definitely visit this offering by Verdi.

  Puccini's Tosca is presented on January 29th, and I am greatly anticipating Sondra Radvanovsky's portrayal of the heroine. She is presently the foremost Verdi heroine our decade knows, so it will be interesting to see how this transfers to Puccini's masterpiece. Marcelo Alvarez and Paul Plishka round the cast, and Marco Armiliato, who is a vibrant, exuberant conductor, leads the orchestra.

  The broadcast of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra has what could be considered a perfect cast in Barbara Fritolli, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ramon Vargas, and Ferrucio Furlanetto. These artists are solid in every exhibition of their trade, and it will be a joy to hear them collaborate. It almost has the nostalgia of an historic broadcast to it! James Levine provides us with his interpretation of the score in his fortieth season with the Met.

  Don Pasquale will be a pleasant respite from the dramatic offerings of the previous two weeks, and I hope to hear the comedy [and the slap] in this performance from Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, John Del Carlo, and Mariusz Kwiecien.

  It is a rare thing to be able to compare a performance of a work with the exact principles two years apart from each other, but on February 26th, that is exactly what we may do with Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride, which stars Placido Domingo, Susan Graham, and Paul Groves. Patrick Summers, who is the principal conductor at the Houston Grand Opera, leads this performance.

  I shall not be anxious to hear Rossini's Armida, for I shall have yet seen it in person, but, if I may insert a careful amount of mystery into my ramblings, you shall have to read my next post to learn the details of that statement. Renee Fleming and Lawrence Brownlee have excellent chemistry.

  I do not usually place as much emphasis on Russian repertoire, which is probably due to the fact that I do not understand a word of the lexicon, but Valery Gergiev heads a performance of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov that boasts a fine cast with Ekaterina Semenchuk, Aleksandrs Antonenko, and Rene Pape among others. This promises to be a strong performance.

  I must confess that I greatly relish Natalie Dessay's portrayal of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and I am pleased to say that we shall be hearing it with Joseph Calleja as her fiance under the baton of Summers.

  We are gifted to hear the controversial new production of Wagner's Ring on April 2nd, and I must say that this looks like a rather weak Wagner cast. Nevertheless, thinking about the great use of technology in the production, one finds great respect for the work and its performers.

  In what may be the most welcomed production and performance of the season, Rossini's Le Comte Ory makes it debut at the Met with a stellar cast of Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, and Juan Diego Florez, and the production is designed by Bartlett Sher. This appears to be a gem of the season which will be remembered with great fondness hereafter. These singers are all electrifying in every performance they give, so I am excited to hear this one.

  I could speak volumes about Renee Fleming in Strauss's Capriccio. Her portrayal of the Countess in Robert Carsen's production, which is immortalized in the 2004 DVD release from the Paris National Opera and TDK, was simply exquisite. The final scene is divinely gorgeous, and it is little wonder that she chose it to close her performance in the Metropolitan Opera's Opening Night Gala in 2008. I shall not be available on April twenty-third, for I shall be satisfying my craving for Renee Fleming's sublime voice. Her cast members include Sarah Connolly, Joseph Kaiser, and Russell Braun, and Andrew Davis conducts her performance.

  April 30, 2011, sees the return of Sondra Radvanovsky to her usual Verdi territory in Verdi's Il Trovatore, which she does sing with some regularity. Marcelo Alvarez, who sang opposite her in the Tosca broadcast, sings the role of Manrico, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who is moving into Verdi with great force, and Dolora Zajick, who is a versatile mezzo-soprano to say the least, are also in the cast.

  I have heard Ariadne auf Naxos more than a few times, and it is not one of my particularly favorite operas, but he cast of this performance does excite me, for we are scheduled to hear Violetta Urmana, Joyce DiDonato, the mesmerizing Kathleen Kim, Robert Dean Smith, and Thomas Allen. Fabio Luisi conducts, which makes me a little nervous, for I do not really consider him an interpreter of Strauss, but this cast shall shape a fine performance.

  The final broadcast of the season is Wagner's Die Walkure with Deborah Voigt, who assays her first Brunnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Stephanie Blythe, Jonas Kaufmann, and Bryn Terfel. This assembly of Wagnerians, who are supported by James Levine, promises to be rather better than that in the first of Wagner's epic cycle earlier this season, and I have great anticipations for it.

  That concludes the season of broadcasts, and I hope that my humble additions of description to them made them come alive to your minds and ears. Thank you for perusing my posts, and I have greatly enjoyed these two years that I have been blogging. If I do not say so prior to the event, I wish all of my readers a merry Christmas, and I hope that they are splendidly blessed with their families over the holiday.


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