Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 2014/2015 Metropolitan Opera Season (part 1)

Hiya everyone! Doing that 50 random facts about me post was a lot of fun, thank you all for the responses!

I don’t know why but awesome things always happen when I’m about to embark a plane or am already in it. Like January of last year there was a radio stream of Susan Graham’s and Renée Fleming’s recital at Carnegie Hall and I was flying. Or when I was flying back to Brazil last October and there was a fabulous Norma broadcast with Sondra. And just as I was embarking the plane to go to NYC last month the 2014/2015 season of the Met was announced. I was indeed a sight to see that day, making my way from the terminal to the plane clutching my phone and reading cast lists as I almost knocked several people with my carryon bag. Plus the fact that I was squealing like an idiot every time I saw they were doing an opera I liked or that someone I like was gonna be in this or that opera. Main point, there was a lot of squealing and rejoicing.

Most of these operas I know and love and others I’m dying to see so it’s gonna be a pretty fun season. My plan was to talk about all the 24 operas of the season in one post but it turns out I get overly excited writing about stuff I really like so I’ll do the following: A four post series with my thoughts on each of the operas from the new season of the Metropolitan Opera and also a little helpful synopsis of each. So here come the first 6:

Opening the Season with Figaro! New Production

YAY! YES, YES, YES! Mozart God, yes! First of all it’s high time they opened a season with the incomparable Mozart (one of my favorite composers) and second who doesn’t love a comedy? Not to mention that this is going to be a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro after quite a while with the old one. How old is it? I’ve seen pictures of that production with Bryn Terfel as Figaro that dated back to 1994, so 20 years at least. High time they did something new, hun? And I most certainly cannot wait to see what they will come up with.

Now Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart back in 1786 and it may come as a shock to us but it didn’t have a very warm welcome back then. It’s because Mozart was one of the first composers to start to write operas about the everyday people as opposed to writing about the Gods and myths. He wanted opera to be something that everyone could enjoy, not only the aristocracy. The opera is based on a play by Beaumarchais that is actually the second part of a trilogy, the first part is called Le Barbier de Séville. Does that name remind you of anything? Yes, Mozart’s opera was the continuation of the story of The Barber of Seville that years later would also be transformed into a “hit” opera by Gioachino Rossini.

So the opera is set in the Count’s (Peter Mattei) estate during the day of Figaro’s (Ildar Abdrazakov) wedding to Susanna (Marlis Petersen). The thing is, the Count is kind of a jerk and cheats on his wife constantly and has set his eyes on Susanna of all people. But Figaro is an ingenious and smart guy and will do all he can to marry Susanna regardless of the Count’s advances and schemes. In the middle of this hurricane of a day we also have Cherubino (Isabel Leonard), a young man who is ready to help Figaro but who also can’t control his hormones and falls for every lady he sees, but is helplessly in love with the Countess (Marina Poplavskya). The Countess was once a witty and happy gal but today being with a man who cheats on her and don’t give her the time of day has become melancholic and miserable.

Now on to the cast, I’m so thrilled that our star of the night is going to be Ildar Abdrazakov because he’s such an incredible singer. I had the absolute pleasure of not only seeing him in Prince Igor live but also of talking to him and as a person and as a performer he is SUPER! I have never heard of his co-star Marlis Petersen who is playing Susanna but I’m more than glad with the great picks with Peter Mattei as the Count and Isabel Leonard as Cherubino. I’m not a big fan of Marina Poplavskaya so I’m not particularly excited about her playing the Countess (my favorite character) for me her and Elina Garanca are battling to the death for the crown of Ice Queen of Opera. (did I just say that out loud?)

Ildar Abdrazakov (left) as King Henry in Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Marlis Petersen (right) as Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro

Peter Mattei (left) as Figaro in Rossini's Il Barbieri di Siviglia, Isabel Leonard (center) as Sesto in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito and Marina Poplavskaya (right) as Elisabeth in Verdi's Don Carlo 
This is one of my favorite Mozart operas and an absolute MUST for anybody interested in learning a little bit more about opera and also a blast of a lot of fun! And if you can’t go to NYC to see this beauty, don’t worry because it’s included in the Live in HD program for the 2014/2015 season, YAY!

Down to the Latin Quarter

La Boheme totally never gets old, I particularly never tire of it. I think the Met made this season thinking of me because they are doing so many things I love, ah well, thank you guys! Puccini is one of my favorite composers, probably my favorite for Italian opera, I don’t know, Verdi is also quite dear to me, depends on what I’m singing at the moment actually. Anyways this is one of the most traditional and beloved productions of the Metropolitan Opera by Franco Zeffirelli and it’s getting 15 performances this season. It’s really like a dream of a production, very traditional and faithful to what you might have seen back in Puccini’s day.

second act of the Met's production of La Boheme
La Boheme tells the love story of a poor poet, Rodolfo, and an even poorer flower maker, Mimi, who live in the Latin Quarter, a location in Paris that back in the beginning last century was where impoverish people lived, especially artists. Their love is poisoned not only by Mimi’s disease but also by Rodolfo’s incontrollable jealousy. Marcello, a painter who lives with Rodolfo, is also living his own love dilemma, he’s in love with the singer Musetta but she left him to be with a rich old man. The couple goes back and forth during the whole opera and could be considered the ‘comic relief’. But La Boheme is not just the story, it’s also the exquisite music and unforgettable melodies of Puccini that take us on a journey and accompany us on our way home after we cried our eyes out at the end.

The cast is superb! First of all this opera will mark Angela Gheorghiu’s return to the Met after 3 seasons of absence (I think, I'm not sure, but I’m sure about 3 seasons of her not doing anything at the Met). And people can say whatever they want about her, that she’s crazy, an over the top diva, maybe she is, I don’t know her, but what I know is that she is SUCH a great singer. Especially when she sings Puccini and Mimi is one of her signature roles. It’s one of the things that she does perfectly that many try to imitate (believe me I’ve seen people try first hand) and can never accomplish. So that’s pretty exciting. Also playing the role of Mimi we have Kristine Opolais who I heard sing a beautiful Magda in La Rondine at the Met back in January of last year so I'm sure she's going to do a wonderful job with Mimi and Ekaterina Scherbachenko who I've never heard of. As Rodolfo the fabulous and so cool tenor Bryan Hymel will be sharing the job with Mexican tenor Ramon Vargas. I do have a preference towards Bryan because he’s so young and so fresh and he has the look and the voice of a youthful Rodolfo and I imagine he’s up to the job to shake things up a bit when it comes to playing this part.

Kristine Opolais (left) as Magda in Puccini's La Rondine and Angela Gheorghiu (center) and Ekaterina Scherbachenko (right) as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme
Ramon Vargas (left) as Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni and Bryan Hymel (right) as Aeneas in Berlioz's Les Troyans

Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth!

I must admit I have never seen this opera but I’m more than familiar with the Shakespeare play. I love it that there are so many operas in the repertoire that tell stories written by Shakespeare. This for me is one of the most dark and heavy of his works that I’ve read, filled with death, greed, hunger for power and madness. The perfect ingredients for an opera, especially Verdi opera!

I don’t know what line the opera follows but the original story goes something like this: Macbeth (Zeljko Lucic) just won a very important battle for his king, king Duncan, with his buddy Banquo (René Pape). They are visited by 3 witches that tell them of a prophecy that basically says that Macbeth is going to be king and that Banquo will father a king but will never be one himself. So when Macbeth tells his half crazed, power lust wife Lady Macbeth (Anna Netrebko) about this prophecy she makes him kill king Duncan so he’ll be king by basically telling him he’s a chicken he if doesn’t. And then all hell breaks loose and it’s a super bloody story but it’s Shakespeare, meaning that it’s amazing regardless of the amount of blood that is spilled!

Now for the cast we have the newbie for the role Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth. She has finally given up on the roles that made her famous (Adina, Juliette…) and moved on to a heavier repertoire (Tatiana, Leonora…) and Lady Macbeth sure is heavy from who I’ve heard. But Anna is a very incredible artist, I’m sure she’ll do great. Zeljko Lucic plays Macbeth and he is a performer who is more than used to the heavy Verdian repertoire, his Rigoletto is fantastic and I’m sure his Macbeth will be just as great. In this cast we also have Joseph Calleja as Malduff and René Pape as Banquo two performers I really like and look forward to seeing singing this opera.

Zeljko Lucic
Anna Netrebko (left), Joseph Calleja (center) and Rene Pape (right)
This is the opera that’s gonna open the Live in HD series on October 11th, the peeps from the Met just had to open SOMETHING with Anna Netrebko, right? If not the season, be it the HD series.

Tale as old as time

Although I really like this repertoire I can’t help but feel that they just put this together by choosing the top 20 of most famous operas of all time. And Bizet’s Carmen is definitely in the top 10 and it’s getting 16 performances this season. I have a very difficult history with this opera because you see I had to endure a group of people rehearse this piece for months on and to be totally honest they weren’t very good. So every time I heard the songs I would remember that incessant screeching I had to listen to almost every afternoon for 4 months and that just does something to your brain. It took a great deal of different kinds of productions and casts (good ones) to erase that memory, but now I’m pleased to announce I have been cured for a while.

So Carmen is this feisty and hot headed gypsy that every guy wants to have because she’s so sensual or something (sorry guys, I’m a soprano, sopranos usually have this perception of Carmen, but that’s just because we can never play her). But of course Carmen is the kind of girl who can have all guys drooling over her but she wants the ONLY ONE who doesn’t seem impressed by her seduction skills. That’s Don José who is a very goodie pants kind of guy and he is also engaged to be married to his childhood sweetheart Micaela. But Carmen won’t rest until he gives into her, which he eventually does but what she wasn’t counting on was just how possessive he could become and ultimately dangerous.

As Carmen two very different mezzos have been cast and neither of them is a stranger to this production. Elina Garanca was the first Carmen to do this new production by Richard Eyre, she actually substituted Angela Gheorghiu who, rumor has it, had this production made for herself and her husband but latter felt this wasn’t right for her and quit. We also have the AMAZING Anita Rachvelishvili to portray the gypsy and let me tell you, this woman is SO good! I saw her in Prince Igor and she was absolute perfection and I’ve also seen her do Carmen in a La Scala production on DVD and she just has all that warmth and lush colors in her voice and her body language and performance that the later does not possess. As Don José we have Aleksandrs Antonenko he played the Foreign Prince to Renée Fleming's Rusalka a couple of years ago at the Met. We have Roberto Alagna who has played this role about a billion times and was the tenor that opened this production together with Garanca in 2009. And the ever so charming and perfect Jonas Kaufmann (but he’s only doing two performances). From what I could find out Ildar Abdrazacov is playing Escamilo in two performances and Ailyn Peréz is playing Micaela in 2015, both of them are very exciting performers.

Elina Garanca (left) and Anita Rachvelishvili (right) both as Carmen in Richard Eyre's production of Bizet's Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera
Jonas Kaufmann (left) and Roberto Alagna (center) both as Don José in Richard Eyre's production of Carmen at the Met and Aleksandrs Antonenko (right) doing Puccini's Il Trittico
This opera will also be featured in the Live in HD program being transmitted on the 1st of November with Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen, Aleksandrs Antonenko as Don José, Ildar Abdrazacov as Escamilo.

Keep the magic coming on that flute!

Yet another opera blockbuster, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s enchanting Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). This production reminds me of a children’s storybook, it’s very colorful and filled with crazy shaped costumes and exotic animals. But it does work great with this particular opera and thank the Lord they are doing the whole thing in the original language this time. Because if I’m not mistaken this was last season’s Holiday Presentation in which they cut a lot of stuff and translate it to English. I don’t have any problems with the translation if it helps reach out to a broader audience, especially when it’s comedy but taking stuff off is heresy to me and completely unnecessary.

In this opera we have our dashing tenor hero Prince Tamino (Toby Spence) who sets off to rescue the Princess Pamina (Pretty Yende) from the claws of the ‘evil’ Zarastro (René Pape) with the help of his comic relief side kick Papagueno (Markus Werba). But nothing is what it seems and is Pamina really being held against her will? Is Zaratro really the bad guy? Is Papagueno just desperate to get laid? Is this one of the most sexist operas ever and still we love it? Yeah, well, you can soon find out.

There’s only one cast for this opera, we have Toby Spence as Prince Tamino and I’m pretty sure he’ll do a great job, he has the Prince look and a beautiful voice. Pretty Yende, who made her Met debut suddenly January of last year stepping in after the soprano playing the Countess in Le Comte Ory cancelled, plays Princess Pamina. I don’t know Markus Werba, who is playing Papagueno, at all but as I’ve said in the Macbeth bit René Pape is awesome and Zarastro is up his sleeve.

Toby Spence (top left) as Antonio in Ades' The Tempest, Pretty Yende (top right) as the Countess in Rossini's Le Comte Ory, Rene Pape (bottom left) as Zarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Markus Werba (bottom right) as Figaro in Rossini's Il Barbieri di Siviglia
The Death of Klinghoffer Met Premiere

Oddly enough this is the opera that got me most excited amongst this group of 6. I guess I just love to see new things. So compared to the other works this opera is very new although it was written 23 years ago by still living composer John Adams. Even though the work has a bit more than two decades it is still a controversial opera that in some people’s minds ‘should never be performed’. I myself have only seen Doctor Atomic by Adams and it is just absolutely fantastic and the music is mind blowing! This will be the first time The Death of Klinghoffer is performed at the Met which means we have another new production.

Like some of other works by Adams (the creation of the atomic bomb in Doctor Atomic and Nixon in China being about politics) this opera deals with a very delicate and recent subject: terrorism. It tells the true story of how a cruise ship was kidnapped in the Mediterranean by terrorists and all the passengers made hostages and the death of Klinghoffer who was killed during this high jacking. Something quite nice I’ve heard the composer say is that he doesn’t want to end the problems of the world with his works, but he wants to show the human side of both the victims and the villains.

Staring in the leading role is the amazing Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot and I couldn’t be happier to always write about his wonderful performances and his victories at the Met. He’s such a fantastic singer, brilliant performer and also a great person.

Paulo Szot the night he won his Tony Award back in 2008
Sorry I don’t know much about this opera but now I’m very curious to see how this will play out. And be happy because this opera is also in the Live in HD program, it will be streamed live on the 15th of November

Well, I guess that’s it! I hope you guys liked the post and next one shall be about my 7th day in NYC so stay tuned! Cheers and peace everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Tough task you chose - to write about all productions!))). I've narrowed down them to just HD broadcasts. And I agree that Met picked operas that I love and wanna see!