Coming Up on World of Opera

W. A. MOZART: Cosí fan tutte

La Scala, Milan

Week of 10/4/14

La Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

CAST: Maria Bengtsson (Fiordiligi); Katija Dragojevic (Dorabella); Dadam Plachetka (Guglielmo); Rolando Villazón (Ferrando); Serena Malfi (Despina); Michele Pertusi (Don Alfonso)

Deceptively complex, this comic farce leaves many listeners a little bit queasy, pondering the future of their most treasured relationships. Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto may spring plenty of jokes, but Mozart's music tells you to hold on to your heart.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Il Trovatore

2014 Salzburg Festival

Week of 10/11/14

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Vienna State Opera Chorus
Daniele Gatti, conductor

CAST: Anna Netrebko (Leonora); Placido Domingo (Count di Luna); Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Azucena); Francesco Meli (Manrico); Riccardo Zanellato (Ferrando); Diana Haller (Ines)

Verdi's complex tragedy has a story that verges on the outlandish, but its music has made it one of the most popular of all the composer's great operas, and it serves up an astonishing number of his most familiar melodies. This Salzburg production is one of the operatic year's outstanding events, with soprano Anna Netrebko as Leonora and Placido Domingo, continuing his remarkable exploration of Verdi's great baritone roles, as Count di Luna. 

GIACOMO PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

Festival Hall, Baden-Baden

Week of 10/18/14

Berlin Phiharmonic Orchestra
Vienna Philharmonic Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

CAST: Eva-Maria Westbroek (ManonLescaut); Massimo Giordano (des Grieux); Lester Lynch (Lescaut); Lian Li (Geronte); Bogdan Mihai (Edmondo);Kresimir Spicer (Dancing Master); Arthur Espiritu (Lamplighter)

Massenet's version of the Manon story may win out when it comes to pure tunefulness, but if you're looking for outright passion, it's hard to beat Puccini. This production from the Baden-Baden Easter Festival comes to us belatedly, but it's worth the wait, with Eva-Maria Westbroek in the title role, plus Simon Rattle leading the Berlin Philharmonic.

GIOACHINO ROSSINI: The Barber of Seville

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro

Week of 10/25/14

Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale, Bologna
San Carlo Chorus, Pesaro
Giacomo Sagripanti, conductor

CAST: Chiara Amaru (Rosina); Juan Francisco Gatell (Count Almaviva); Paolo Bordogna (Don Bartolo); Florian Sempey (Figaro); Alex Esposito (Don Basilio); Felicia Bongiovanni (Berta); Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore (Fiorello); Alberto Pancrazi (Ambrogio)

There may be no such thing as artistic perfection, but with his Barber... Rossini surely came as close as anyone to creating a flawless operatic comedy. The production comes to us from the 2014 edition of the annual Rossini Opera Festival, in the composer's hometown.

GAETANO DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

Royal Opera House, London

Week of 11/1/14

Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus Betrand de Billy, conductor

CAST: Joyce DiDonato (Maria Stuarda); Carmen Giannattasio (Elisabetta); Ismail Jordi (Roberto); Jeremy Carpenter (Lord Cecil); Matthew Rose (Giorgio Talbot); Kathleen Wilkinson (Anna Kennedy)

In operas from Elizabeth at Kenilworth to Anna Bolena, Donizetti seemed fascinated by the intrigues and rivalries of British royalty. This example deals with the complex relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart -- also known as Mary, Queen of Scots.

P. I. TCHAIKOVSKY: The Enchantress

Theater an der Wien, Vienna

Week of 11/8/14

Arnold Schoenberg Chorus ORF Radio Symphony Mikhail Tatarnikov, conductor

CAST: Vladislav Sulimsky (Prince Nikita Kurlyatev); Agnes Zwierko (Princess Yevpraksiya); Asmik Grigorian (Nastasya); Maxim Aksenov (Prince Yuriy); Vladimir Ognovenko (Mamirov); Hanna Schwarz (Nenila); Martin Winkler (Kudma); Martin Snell (Foka); Natalia Kawalek-Plewniak (Polya)

In this fascinating drama, the title character is a brazen seductress who finds redemption in true love, but in the process brings tragedy to an entire family. Tchaikovsky struggled with the complexities of the plot, yet brought the story to life with some of his most brilliant music.

GIOACHINO ROSSINI: Armida

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro

Week of 11/15/14

Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale, Bologna Roberto Abbado, conductor

CAST: Carmen Romeu (Armida); Antonino Siragusa (Rinaldo); Dmitry Korchak (Gernando and Carlo); Carlo Lepore (Idraote and Astarotte); Randall Bills (Gofredo and Ubaldo); Vassilis Kavayas (Eustazio)

The story of the sorceress Armida, from Torquato Tasso's epic poem Jerusalem Liberated, has been set by several great composers -- including Dvorak, Handel and Haydn -- as well as any number of lesser lights. But of all those versions, Rossini's lively opera just may be the best.

MODEST MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov

Finnish National Opera, Helsinki

Week of 11/22/14

Finnish National Opera Orchestra and Chorus Michael Güttler, conductor

CAST: Matti Salminen (Boris Godunov); Jyrki Anttila (Shuysky); Koit Soasepp (Pimen); Mika Pohjonen (Grigoriy, the Pretender); Ann-Marie Heino (Fyodor); Anna Kristina Kaappola (Kseniya); Niina Keitel (Marina); Hannu Niemela (Rangoni); Hannu Forsberg (Varlaam); Aki Alamikkotervo (Misail); Evgeny Akimov (The Holy Fool)

Deeply rooted in the country's colorful history, Mussorgsky's epic may be the most famous of all Russian operas. Bass Matti Salminen does a star turn as the tormented title character, in a first-rate production from Finland.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: I Due Foscari

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Week of 11/29/14

Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus Antonio Pappano, conductor

CAST: Placido Domingo (Francesco Foscari); Francesco Meli (Jacopo Foscari); Maria Agresta (Lucrezia); Maurizio Muraro (Jacopo Loredano); Samuel Sakker (Barbarigo); Rachel Kelly (Pisana)

One of Verdi's darkest dramas, I due Foscari is also one of his most striking -- a compelling story of deadly intrigue and political treachery set against the historical backdrop of 15th-century Venice. This production features Placido Domingo continuing his extraordinary career, and his remarkable exploration of Verdi's many great baritone roles.

P. I. TCHAIKOVSKY: The Queen of Spades

Philharmonie, Munich

Week of 12/6/14

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Mariss Jansons, conductor

CAST: Misha Didyk (Herman); Larissa Diadkova (Countess); Tatiana Serjan (Lisa); Alexey Shishlayev (Count Tomsky); Alexey Markov (Prince Yeletsky); Vadim Zapletchny (Chekalinsky); Tomasz Slawinski (Surin); Makhail Makarov (Chaplitsky); Oksana Volkova (Pauline)

Gambling has gotten lots of folks in trouble, but few more dramatically than the unfortunate character Herman in Tchaikovsky's opera. Based on a chilling story by Pushkin, the operatic version is no less disturbing than the original.

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