Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 2014/2015 Metropolitan Opera Season (part 2)

Hey guys! I really hoped that I had finished this sooner but this week has been crazy! Going to job interviews, doing a billion things for my mum, seeing about Summer Programs (I got into the Opera Live in NYC Program), ending the bedroom makeover, successfully selling unwanted stuff online and also seeing about maybe going to Vancouver to study has totally taken up my whole week! But it’s been a blast really, it was a great week without a dull moment in it.

I’ve also sort of created some living rules for me now because since I’m a lot at home and working from the computer I tend to get very distracted. First rule was cutting all bread, sweets, sodas and fried stuff from my diet. I thought that it would be so awful but it actually wasn’t and I’m feeling a lot better. Then not stuffing myself with food, because what usually happened to me was I would put a lot of stuff in my plate because I was afraid to not have enough food to satiate myself. And then I would push the extra food in because I feel bad about leaving food on the plate. So now I eat in small portions and if I’m still hungry I grab a tad more.  And another thing was not eating under any circumstance carbs at night. I’ve been doing this for the last 3 weeks and have lost about 6 kgs, which is a lot.

Plus I can only read fanfiction at night. That rule helps a lot with my productivity during the days I stay home. Since I’ve decided to sell some stuff I don’t want any more I’ve been at home and in front of the computer a lot. It’s this great deal and I’ve already sold three things in the last couple of days, a belt, a bag and a pair of shoes.

But let's go back to the subject in question here, opera! Here are 6 more operas coming next season at the Met!

That Egyptian love story that never gets old

I don’t even need to say more, right? Aida has got to be one of my favorite operas and this production is probably the best I’ve ever seen. It features the Met’s entire chorus plus a couple hundred extras and dancers and horses and the whole shebang! Apart from the fact that we are talking Verdi here and most importantly we are talking about one of the most beautiful music ever written. It’s amazing how the tunes from Aida just stay with you, I remember when I first saw it that I simply could not stop hearing those tunes in my head!

Even though this is without a trace of a doubt an Italian opera it actually opened in Cairo back in 1871. I believe that the Khedivial Opera House commissioned this from Verdi, don’t remember though. Well the story is as old as time, the typical Verdian love triangle. Aida is an Ethiopian slave serving in Egypt, more specifically serving the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris. Both ladies are head over heels in love with the captain Radames, who technically is hot stuff but normally what you see is over weight on stage (frustrating, much? Yes!). Anywho, Radames has a secret affair with Aida and they are both SO in love. But the thing is, like every good Slytherin (yes, I have HP house sorted opera characters, Radames goes to Gryffindor, Aida Hufflepuff and Amneris Slytherin, the hat never lies!) Amneris senses there’s something going on between Radames and Aida and will do everything she can to humiliate Aida and to get Radames to herself. Amneris is the BEST character in this opera.

So, to take on the difficult role of Aida the Met got 3 amazing and very different sopranos. First up is Liudmyla Monastyrska who you guys might remember as the Aida from the last HD broadcast of this opera. She is young but oh so incredible, her Aida is full of feeling and her voice is a jewel. I also saw her playing Lady Macbeth a couple of years ago for the ROH, fantastic! Next up is Latonia Moore who has played this role many, many times and does a terrific job. Last but certainly not least the Ukrainian Oksana Dyka and let me tell you, this woman’s voice is an absolute DREAM! I was fortunate enough to see her in Prince Igor live in February and she blew that Metropolitan roof up! I would LOVE to see her as Aida!

But the dream casting does not stop there, for Amneris we have two absolute opera jewels! First up my personal favorite Amneris of all time, Olga Borodina who plays this role like no one else. She is absolute poison, absolutely passionate and her voice is like melting dark, dark chocolate. And I was particularly pleased because I had heard statements of hers saying that now that she’d turned 50 she wanted to slow down her career to be with her family. I’m just happy she didn’t drop the Met completely, a trip to Saint Petersburg is quite impossible for me right now. And also the double threat soprano/mezzo soprano Violeta Urmana who plays both the role of Aida AND Amneris, who cool is that, hun?

Sharing our ‘hero’s’ shoes will be Marcello Giordani and Marco Berti who both have a vast experience with Verdi and his difficult and taxing tenor roles. At the pit we have two of my favorite conductor’s, Marco Armiliato and Placido Domingo (the coolest person ever).

Out of so many cast possibilities the one I’d like to see would be Dyka/Borodina/Berti/Domingo but no can do. I can have almost that cast with Urmana instead of Borodina in April of next year.

A Lady Macbeth from Russia

I know what you might think, but Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s a Russian opera written by Shostakovich that premiered in the 1930’s based on the novel Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov. Before this season’s announcement I had never heard of this opera, I have only seen one Shostakovich opera in my live, the Nose (which fortunately was live), which I really liked.

As I read the plot of this opera I couldn’t help but think that it was one of the most dynamic and passionate and cool plots of opera I’d ever read. This is what happens, Katerina is unhappily married to this guy Zinovy and his dad is pretty much a pain in the ass because he blames her for not having any heirs (but apparently it’s not really her fault, her husband isn’t really into her so, I have a slight feeling he might be gay). Katerina’s maid tells her about this guy Sergei who is a womanizer. When Katerina goes on to confront him and tell him women are just as good as men they end up getting into an actual physical fight which results in Sergei throwing himself on top of her. He does that only in time for her annoying father in law to see the scene and become suspicious about her loyalty to his son. At night Sergei goes to her room to ‘ask for a book’ but then proceeds to seduce her and they end up having hot sex. Her father in law (thinking that he’s all so smart) locks her in her room not knowing that Sergei is in there and they resume to basically having sex all night long.

And this is just the first act! There are like 4 acts in which the story TRULY unfolds and loads and loads of things happen! As Katerina we have the amazing Eva Maria Westbroek. She is so incredible, she has played cool Wagnerian roles like Sieglinde and majestic roles like Didon in Berlioz’s Les Troyes and also the operatic role of the infamous Anna Nicole Smith. She has this smooth and gorgeous voice I wish I could hear live someday. As her lover Sergei we have a tenor called Brandon Jovanovich of whom I had never heard of but just seeing pictures of him I totally get it why it was easy for Sergei to seduce Katerina. Hot stuff!

I really wish I could see this! Not gonna be on HD though! Bummer, it's probably because it's very dark and heavy stuff.

The barber who sings more than works

This is such a blast of an opera! It’s probably my second favorite Rossini opera (Le Comte Ory is my utmost favorite) and I know that Il Barbieri di Siviglia has touched the hearts of many people I know. It’s a wonderful comedy filled with catchy tunes and smart jokes. The story was taken from the Beaumarchais trilogy, it’s how it all started, part 1!

The story is pretty simple, Rosina (Isabel Leonard) is a beautiful young lady who is kept locked away at home most of the time by her guardian. He is an old, greasy man who plans to marry her only to get his hands on her money. Enters the Count (Lawrence Brownlee) who fell in love with her at first sight when spotting her at her window. So he procures the help of Figaro (Christopher Maltman) so they can fool Rosina’s guardian and get hitched.

The Met’s current production is by Barlet Sheer and it’s all right. No super amazing and grand sets but very efficient and fun in telling the story. One thing I really like in this production is Rosina’s second act dress which is to die for. But I’m a sucker for fashion so…

As the feisty Rosina we have the amazing American mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard who as I’ve said in some other posts is so amazing and such a nice person. For the Count we have another American singer, Lawrence Brownlee who together with Juan Diego Florez is taking the Rossini tenor roles by storm! He’s very, very talented and has a very good comedic timing. For our Figaro we have Christopher Maltman who is another amazing American singer. I had the privilege of seeing him in the very last performance of Die Fledermaus in February and he was so incredible. Amazingly funny and the music just seemed so natural and effortless it was really an amazing performance.

The craziest song contest ever

If have to be honest I have to confess I don’t have much patience when it comes to Wagner. It might be because his operas tend to last 4 hours or it might be because I don’t understand a word they say. Either way I found myself feeling very lazy to read the plot of Die Meitersinger von Nürnberg, but I did anyway. This is the longest Wagner opera which is performed nowadays, it lasts approximately four hours and a half and we are not counting intermission time. This opera I just like Capriccio and L’Orfeo because it revolves around the creation and composing of music.

So the story is pretty crazy. There’s this knight named Walther who has no musical education whatsoever and he falls head over heels in love with Eva. But Eva’s dad is kind of delusional and says that she will marry the Meistersinger who wins the town’s song competition. So Walther tries to pretend that he’s a worthy candidate to be a Meistersinger so he can enter and win the competition and his beloved’s hand in marriage. But since he doesn’t have any musical education he fails miserably and the Meistersingers people don’t even let him finish his flaw filled song. From then on he’s gonna try and enter that competition anyway he can plus having to worry about a pain in the ass actual Meistersinger called Beckmesser who wants to win the competition. But he’s gonna have the help of the ultimate Meistersinger Hans Sachs so hope isn’t all lost.

As the savior of the day playing Hans Sachs we have Johan Reuter, as the hopeless knight (although he can resemble many things but a knight) is Johan Botha. As Eva we have Annette Dash who I had only heard singing Mozart and am quite curious to see how she will do with Wagner.

It’ not just any Verdi tragedy

I think this is the most popular of Verdi’s operas, hence it’s included every other season at the Met. If I’m going to be totally honest this is not my favorite production of La Traviata. Yes, the red dress is fabulous but there’s not much else to it. I think this kind of production is great to have at festivals or in one season of a big repertoire house but not as a reoccurring production. So every time you wanna watch La Traviata at the Met it’s this nude and empty production. This is my opinion, I don’t think the production is bad it’s just that for a house like the Met they should put up something beyond gorgeous for Verdi’s most beloved opera. My first experience with La Traviata was through this production and to be completely honest I didn’t understand half of it because they leave far too much to your imagination. I guess I’m just traditional.

Anyways, La Traviata tells the story of a courtesan named Violetta who was leading her life loveless but filled with luxury and wealth only too well before Alfredo came along. They fall in love and she decides to go and live with him in the countryside like the happy loving couple that they are and gives up her job. But everything is not sunshine and flowers, you see Alfredo does not have much money to afford the life they lead and Violetta is secretly selling her things to make ends meet. To make things worst Violetta receives the visit of Alfredo’s father who asks her to end their relationship because his association with a person like her is tarnishing the whole family name. And if they stay together nobody will want to marry Alfredo’s sister. It’s pretty sad from then on.

To play the dream role of 90% of sopranos the Met has brought two Marinas. The first is Marina Poplavskaya who actually opened this production at the Met some seasons ago. Again, I’m not a fan and her performance in this was actually filmed so you guys can judge for yourselves. Plus, isn’t she a bit old to have waist long hair? That hair is nothing special, don’t know why people make such a fuss about it. (Oh my, is that venom on my lips or what?). Our other Violetta is Marina Rebeka, now she was my first Donna Anna and she is just so good. She played this Donna Anna in the Met’s live in HD broadcast of Don Giovanni back in 2011.

For our love sick tenor we have the amazing Stephen Costello who is all sorts of awesome. I can’t help but feel sad because his wife Ailyn Pérez isn’t playing Violetta, she has played the part a billion times and oh so well plus they have insane chemistry on stage. Sharing the Alfredo duties with Stephen is Francesco Demuro. And last but not least papa Germont will be played by Ludovic Tézier aka the Severus Snape of opera (for that amongst other reasons I have sort of a crush on him). But he’s such a great singer, the very last thing I saw with him in was that Lucia I saw in a live stream back in July, he was playing Arturo, Lucia’s evil brother and he rocked it! (that’s when he got his HP nickname by the way).

Holiday Candy Crush!

For the holiday presentation the Met is getting its huge chefs heads out of storage for an all English production of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel. So the holiday presentations work something like this; they normally take a comedy or a happy ending opera, translate the whole thing to accessible English and do a rather unnecessary cutting session to the piece. I really like the idea of making something more accessible to a broader public but I find it thoroughly unnecessary to make cuts, if the piece is good it will grab people’s attention. But that’s just my opinion.

The Met has a great, fun and somewhat family friendly (the witch does have a freezer full of children hanging by hooks that you can actually see that’s a bit disturbing) production of Hansel and Gretel’s tale. It always makes me hungry because they get to eat all sorts of sweets at the second act but then again most things make me hungry.

The story pretty much follows the original tale. Hansel and Gretel are brother and sister and their family is extremely poor. They have to do many chores around the house to help out their parents but all they want to do is play. During a bed jumping session they break the only milk jar in the house, their parents are furious and send them to the woods to pick up berries so they’ll have something to eat. They end up losing their way in the woods and as it gets dark start seeing what truly happens when the sun goes down. All sorts of odd and magical creatures appear in their dreams and when they wake up they happen upon a house made entirely of candy, chocolate and cake. The rest we all know, don’t we?

As Gretel the Met has called back Christine Schafer the soprano who actually originated this role in this production a few seasons ago. As she is a very petite woman with a very pretty voice and incredible acting skills she suits Gretel quite perfectly. As Hansel we have the mezzo soprano Christine Rice.    

Wow, that was time consuming but extremely satisfying! And I guess that's it for today guys. Today is Once Upon a Time day and I'm excited! I actually got a way to watch it live so it's pretty cool :) Peace everyone!

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