Monday, October 31, 2011

My Favorite Productions of the 2011-2012 Metropolitan Opera Season

It has been a couple of weeks since that I was rewarded with receiving the Metropolitan Opera's 2011-2012 Radio Broadcast and Live in HD guide for the upcoming season, and I was elated to find it among the items in my mailbox. Naturally, I immediately began to scan the pages that were contained between the covers, and the front of the brochure was clearly designed and utilized to cater to the widest possible audience, for it featured soprano Anna Netrebko in a production photograph for the season's new production of Jules Massenet's Manon. I could spend some appreciable time on why I think it is an odd move for Netrebko to add the role of Manon to her repertory at this precise moment, but I shall abstain for the nonce.

My favorite production for which I possess the most excitement in the current season has to be Handel's Rodelinda, which stars Renee Fleming and Andreas Scholl, the latter of whom recently gave a critically lauded recital at Carnegie Hall. This was the opera that was my maiden voyage into this beautiful art form, and Renee Fleming had portrayed the heroine in that Metropolitan Opera broadcast responsible for my new passion. This sort of brings my journey in the world of opera to the point of its origin. In that light one could make the case that I am embarking on a new stage of my journey in opera, which is certainly veritable as I begin to make this my career. The production is by director Stephen Wadsworth, and it is a safe, traditional one, which keeps me glad. I cannot wait to at least hear this glorious performance.

My second-- That is to say, my other production for which I am elated is the new baroque pastiche with music from Vivaldi, Handel, and Rameau among others and featuring a new libretto by Jeremy Sams that is entitled The Enchanted Island. The plot of this new work is centered around the characters from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but this episode has them shipwrecked on the island from another of Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest. The cast is exciting, for it includes a star-studded roster of excellent vocalists, some of whom you would expect in baroque repertoire, and there are others whom you would not. The cast comprises the talents of Placido Domingo, whom I should not expect to find singing baroque music, Lisette Oropesa, whom I shall be glad to have the pleasure of hearing again, Joyce DiDonato, who has become the premier mezzo-soprano in the Rossini and baroque repertoire outside of the renowned Cecilia Bartoli, David Daniels, Luca Pisaroni, and Danielle de Niese, who is one of my favorite sopranos to hear.

I am certain that my readers will notice the emphasis I took to say that The Enchanted Island is my other favorite production of the season, and there is due cause for this. Twitter is responsible for this wording, and there is a rather humorous anecdote involved with the fact. When I am not writing blog posts or studying, I can often be found scanning the tweets of my hallowed list of people that I follow on Twitter to obtain more news of the happenings in the operatic and theatrical worlds, and I also am given the liberty of mentioning things that I am anxious to do or see. It is in this part of the story that it would be nice to say that Danielle (yes, this Danielle) and I "go way back" as the expression is, but, unfortunately, we do not. However, we mutually and reciprocally follow each other on Twitter, and she responds to things I post considerably often when one thinks of who she is and what she does. Well, as it happened, I casually mentioned that my favorite production in anticipation of the Met's current season was Rodelinda as I have mentioned here, and, having more than one, I followed that remark with,

My second choice of a production to witness at  would have to be 'The Enchanted Island' with  and .
 Much to my surprise, I received this reply from Ms. de Niese in good humor:

   second? ..... <louder and with longer vowels> SEEECOOOND? :-)

Thus, my later choice of wording for all of eternity became "other" at her direction, for she replied when I said that I could have used a different word,

    yes.... "Other" or...... "first" :-)))))))))

Well, it did not go quite so high as first, though it could well tie for that title, but I have employed greater discretion thereafter using the alternate wording, and divas the world over are the happier for it, I am pleased to announce.

Returning to my other productions for which I am excited, one of them has revealed itself to me on short notice, and it is to be streamed live this Halloween evening. Mozart's Don Giovanni, which is a perennial favorite at the Met as a showcase for both established stars and the new talent that presents itself to the world of opera. I am most anxious to hear soprano Mojca Erdmann , who had a feature in Opera News' October issue, and Mariusz Kwiecien after his surgery on his back. Barbara Fritolli and Ramon Vargas complement these artists in the production, and I am certain that they shall be in excellent vocal form this evening. This may well be my activity for the evening, so it would be nice if some kind patron would leave a container of chocolates upon my doorstep since I shall be unable to go begging for it from other houses in my neighborhood.

We also have exciting new heirs to the La Fille du Regiment star vehicle this year in tenor Lawrence Brownlee and Nino Machaidze. Kiri Te Kanawa returns as the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Having witnessed Brownlee perform in person, his ability is solid, but his acting leaves a void with the audience. He is more of the "stand in one place and sing" type of singer presently, but I expect that will change with time. Of course, with his voice, who would complain about that fact?

Another Donizetti opera receives a stellar cast pairing this season, and it is quite unexpected for me. Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez are the two lovers in L'Elisir d'Amore, and they join forces with Kwiecien and Alessandro Corbelli. This promises to be a memorable run of performances, and, from the standpoint of the singers alone, it may well raise the performance standard for this opera to an exponential degree. I am excited for this!

A new thing that I want to hear is Leos Janacek's The Makropulos Case starring skilled Janacek interpreter Karita Mattila. Janacek's music has intrigued me ever since I heard Renee Fleming's recording of selections from Jenufa, and I was impressed by the melodies in From the House of the Dead when it made its premiere at the Met a few years since. Janacek is composer that I would feel ready to hear in a new, untried context, so I look forward to this outing to have the chance.

Natalie Dessay brings the Met her interpretation of Verdi's doomed heroine in  La Traviata after her touring  of the role in Europe over the summer festival season. The best story of one of these runs came from the Aix en Provence festival with Dessay in the role of Violetta under the baton of Louis Langree with the assistance of the London Symphony Orchestra. Maxine Kwok-Adams, who is one of the principle violinists with that revered ensemble, and who is another person I follow on Twitter, tweeted that she screamed in the orchestra pit as a fox ran amongst the musicians during a performance! The festival is an outdoor one, so I suppose occurrences such as that one will happen occasionally. Nevertheless, the New York Times did not give it a very nice review, and they did mention that Langree could not seem to keep absolute hold of the orchestra. One now wonders why... As for her Alfredo, I am most dissatisfied, for they have chosen Matthew Polenzani. His Alfredo from 2007 opposite Renee Fleming was a weak one in my opinion, but I shall listen again to see if he has improved since then.

Patricia Racette returns to us in Puccini's Tosca, and Roberto Alagna and Aleksandrs Antonenko share the role of Cavaradossi while James Morris and George Gagnidze alternate as Scarpia this season.

Of course, there are also the two new installments of Wagner's Ring cycle for us to herald with Deborah Voigt and Bryn Terfel. James Hunter Morris debuted as Seigfried recently replacing the indisposed tenor who preceded him, and he was phenomenal by all accounts. I cannot wait to hear him continue in the role.

That list completes my greatest anxieties for expectation for the Metropolitan Opera's 2011-2012 season, and it promises to be an exquisite one. The broadcast season will soon be upon us, and my Saturdays shall be claimed by being employed in the practice of listening to the world's best opera house delivering us the grandest performances in the present world.

I pray that my readers are all exceptionally blessed in their lives currently, and I intimate my utmost ingratiation to all of you for allowing me this pleasure of including myself in your lives. I pray that God continues to bless all of you immensely!

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