Coming Up on World of Opera

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Macbeth

Champs-Elysées Theater, Paris

Week of 6/27/15

Radio France Chorus

National Orchestra of France

Daniele Gatti, conductor

CAST: Susanna Branchini (Lady Macbeth); Roberto Frontali (Macbeth); Roberto Tagliavini (Banquo); Jean-François Borras (Macduff); Sophie POndjiclis (Lady-in-Waiting); Jérémy Duffau (Malcolm)

Astonishingly, there may be only a half-dozen or so successful operas inspired by Shakespeare. Even more remarkable is that Verdi alone accounted for three of them. His Macbeth may not be heard quite so often as Otello and Falstaff, but it's still among his finest and most intense dramas.

GIOACHINO ROSSINI: Il Turco in Italia

Royal Theater, Turin

Week of 7/4/15

Teatro Regio Orchestra and Chorus

Daniele Rustioni, conductor

CAST: Nino Machaidze (Fiorilla); Edgardo Rocha (Narciso); Carlo Lepore (Selim); Polo Borgodna (Don Geronio); Simone Del Savio (Prosdocimo); Samantha Korbey (Zaida); Enrico Iviglia (Albazar)

With A Turk in Italy, Rossini turns the narrative tables on his own, more popular comedy, The Italian Girl in Algiers. This opera may be less familiar but it's every bit as funny, and comes to us from one of Italy's finest regional theaters.

RICHARD STRAUSS: Elektra

Vienna State Opera

Week of 7/11/15

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Mikko Franck, conductor

CAST: Nina Stemme (Elektra); Anna Larsson (Clytemnestra); Ricarda Merbeth (Chrysothemis); Norbert Ernst (Aegisthus); Falk Struckmann (Orestes); Wolfgand Bankl (Tutor); Aura Twarowska (Trainbearer)

Surely, Clytaemnestra, Agamemnon and their kids Elektra and Orestes qualify as one of the most dysfunctional families in all of literature, not to mention opera. Elektra takes the lead in this chapter of their appalling yet absorbing history.

CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK: Alceste

La Fenice, Venice

Week of 7/18/15

La Fenice Orchestra and Chorus

Guillaume Tourniaire, conductor

CAST: Carmela Remigio (Alceste); Marlin Miller (Admeto); Giorgio Misseri (Evandro); Zuzana Markova (Ismene); Vincenzo Nizzardo (High Priest/Apollo); Armando Gabba (Oracle/Herald); Ludovico Furlani (Eumelo); Tanja Plaisant (Aspasia)

Gluck's take on the passionate story of Alceste was among his influential, Italian "reform" operas, in which he abandoned the strictly regimented world of opera seria to create a naturalistic style more deftly in touch with the emotional potential of his stories.

KAROL SZYMANOWSKI: King Roger

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Week of 7/25/15

Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Antonio Pappano, conductor

CAST: Mariusz Kwiecien (King Roger II); Georgia Jarman (Roxana); Kim Begley (Edrisi); Saimir Pirgu (Shepherd); Alan Ewing (Archbishop); Agnes Zwierko (Deaconess)

Szymanowski is widely regarded as the most important Polish composer after Chopin. King Roger -- portraying the inherent conflict between spiritual ideals and Dionysian pleasure -- is often cited as a true, musical rarity: a genuine masterpiece unaccountably neglected.

CHARLES GOUNOD: Faust

Royal Theater, Turin

Week of August 1, 2015

Teatro Regio Orchestra and Chorus

Gianandrea Noseda, conductor

CAST: Charles Castronovo (Faust); Irina Lunga (Marguerite); Ildar Abdrazakov (Méphistophélès); Vasilij Ladjuk (Valentin); Paolo Maria Orecchia (Wagner); Ketevan Kemodlidze (Siébel); Samantha Korbey (Marthe)

Goethe's immortal drama, with it's legendary deal with the devil, has been adapted in countless ways, from symphonic poems to rock musicals, but few if any can match the power and romance of Gounod's opera.

GIACOMO PUCCINI: La Boheme

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Week of August 8, 2015

Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Dan Ettinger, conductor

CAST:  Anna Netrebko (Mimi); Joseph Calleja (Rodolfo); Lucas Meachem (Marcello); Jennifer Rowley (Musetta); Simone Del Savio (Schaunard); Marco Vinco (Colline); Jeremy White (Benoit); Ryland Davies (Alcindoro)

Puccini's love-stoked tearjerker may end tragically, but the opera's multiple levels of passion and sentiment still make for a great "date night."  And, as the perfect remedy for any tottering romance, La Boheme is also among the most popular operas ever composed.

W. A. MOZART: La Clemenza di Tito

Champs-Elysées Theatre, Paris

Week of August 15, 2015

Aedes Chorus

Le Cercle de l'Harmonie Orchestra

Jérémie Rhorer, conductor

CAST:  Kurt Streit (Tito); Karina Gauvin (Vitellia); Kate Lindsey (Sesto); Julie Boulianne (Annio); Julie Fuchs (Servilia); Robert Gleadow (Publio)

The characters in Mozart's final opera discover that even when it seems things could hardly go more horribly, disastrously wrong, everything can still turn out just fine -- thanks to this drama's generous, and almost surreally tolerant title character.   

ERNEST CHAUSSON: King Arthur

Bastille Opera, Paris

Week of August 22, 2015

Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Philippe Jordan, Conductor

CAST:  Thomas Hampson (Arthur); Roberto Alagna (Lancelot); Sophie Koch (Guinevere); Stanislas de Barbeyrac (Lionel); Pether Sidhom (Merlin); Alexandre Duhamel (Mordred); Francois Lis (Allan)

In early 20th-century Brussels, opera lovers were asked to name their favorite works.  At the top of the list were Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande -- and Chausson's King Arthur.  It's easy to see -- and hear -- why.  Chausson's only completed opera has a love story worthy of Tristan, and a score that represents the best of late 19th-century France. 

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Luisa Miller

Hamburg State Opera

Week of August 29, 2015

Hamburg State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Simone Young, conductor

CAST:  Nino Michaidze (Luisa); Ivan Magrì (Rodolfo); George Petean (Miller); Tigran Martirossian (Count Walter); Christina Damian (Federica); Oliver Zwarg (Wurm); Ida Aldrian (Laura)

Always drawn to the greatest and most challenging literature, Verdi based this compelling drama on a play by Friederich Schiller.  Often neglected today, the opera was a success at its Naples premiere and features some top-notch music, even by Verdi's standards, including a series of evocative choruses and one of his finest overtures.

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