Coming Up on World of Opera
GIUSEPPE VERDI: Ernani
Royal Opera of Wallonie, Liége
Week of February 2, 2016
Royal Opera of Wallonie Orchestra and Chorus with Paolo Arrivabeni, conductor
CAST: Elaine Alvarez (Elvira); Gustavo Porta (Ernani); Orlin Anastassov (Don Ruy Gomez de Silva); Lionel Lhote (Don Carlo); Carmelo De Giosa (Don Riccardo); Alexei Gorbatchev (Jago)
After his first few operas Verdi was marked as a composer with a political message, speaking out for Italian unity and freedom. When it came time for opera number five he tried something different, dipping into Romantic literature for Ernani, after a play by Victor Hugo. It touches on politics, but at its heart the story is pure passion, with a title character choosing love over life itself.
MAURICE RAVEL: L'Heure espagnole and L'Enfant et les sortilèges
Victoria Hall, Geneva
Week of February 13, 2016
Suisse Romande Orchestra and Geneva Grand Theater Chorus with Charles Dutoit, conductor
CAST (L'Heure espagnol): Daniela Mack (Concepcíon); Julen Behr (Gonzalve); François Piolino (Torquemada); Elliot Madore (Ramiro); David Wilson-Johnson (Don Inigio)
CAST (L'Enfant et les sortilèges): Khatouna Gadeila (Child); Hanna Hipp (Mother/Teacup/Dragonfly/Shepherd); Daniela Mack (Cat/Squirrel); Kathleen Kim (Fire/Nightingale/Princess); Julie Pasturaud (Shepherdess/Bat/Owl); David Wilson-Johnson (Armchair/Cat); Elliot Madore (Grandfather Clock/Tree); François Piolino (Teapot/Old Man/Tree Frog)
Ravel composed only two operas, and both are too short for a full evening's entertainment. Fortunately, they combine to make an outstanding operatic double-bill, as we hear in this production from Geneva, featuring the renowned Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, with conductor Charles Dutoit.
GAETANO DONIZETTI: The Elixir of Love
Opéra de Bastille, Paris Opera
Week of February 20, 2016
Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus with Donato Renzetti, conductor
CAST: Aleksandra Kurzak (Adina); Roberto Alagna (Nemorino); Mario Cassi (Belcore); Ambrogio Maestri (Dr. Dulcamara); Mélissa Petit (Gianetta)
On its face, the story of L'elisir d'amore features little to be taken seriously. Yet Donizetti's music transports the opera beyond the world of farce to a place where simple confidence leads to life-changing revelations. This Paris production features renowned tenor Roberto Alagna as Nemorino, a role that including the widely-popular aria, "Una furtive lagrima."
CHRISTOPH WILLBALD GLUCK: Orphée et Eurydice
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, LondonRoyal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Week of February 27, 2015
Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists with John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
CAST: Juan Diego Flórez (Orphée); Lucy Crowe (Eurydice); Amanda Forsythe (Amour)
Gluck's Orfeo, his original, Italian opera based on the Orpheus legend, was a landmark event in operatic history. He then followed it with this French version of the story, which may be even more striking, including a new, bravura tenor aria. That aria is performed here by tenor Juan Diego Flórez, in his first-ever appearance in the opera.
CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI: L'Orfeo
Torroella de Montgri Music Festival, Spain
Week of March 3, 2016
La Fenice Ensemble and Jean Tubéry, conductor
CAST: Jan Van Eslacker (Orfeo); Caroline Tarrit (Euridice); Saskia Salembier (La Musica); Luciana Mancini (La Speranza); Roxane Chalard (Proserpina); Jean-Claude Saragosse (Plutone)
If Gluck's Orphée changed operatic history, Monteverdi's version of the same story may have started it. It's hard to say who wrote the very first opera, but there's little debate about the first truly great one. It was Monteverdi's Orfeo, surely the first score to fully explore the unique world of artistic expression that belongs to opera alone.
GIUSEPPE VERDI: La Traviata
Teatro San Carlo, Naples
Week of March 12, 2016
Teatro San Carlo Orchestra and Chorus with Nello Santi, conductor
CAST: Maria Grazia Schiavo (Violetta Valéry); Ismael Jordi (Alfredo Germont); Giovanni Meoni (Giorgio Germont); Giuseppina Bridelli (Flora); Marta Calcaterra (Annina); Fernando Piqueras (Barone Douphol); Italo Proferisce (d'Obigny); Francesco Musinu (Dr. Grenville); Massimiliano Chiarolla (Gastone)
When the diva dies just as the final curtain falls, it may seem like an operatic cliché -- but not in the hands of Giuseppe Verdi. He made the final scene of La Traviata one of the most profound of them all. In this production, Maria GraziaSchiavo, famous for her interpretations of Baroque opera, brings a fresh and vivid approach to one of opera's greatest romantic characters.
W. A. MOZART: Idomeneo
Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Week of March 19, 2015
La Fenice Orchestra and Chorus with Jeffrey Tate, conductor
CAST: Ekaterina Sadnovnikova (Ilia); Bernden Gunnell (Idomeneo); Monica Bacelli (Idamante); Michaela Kaune (Elettra); Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani (Arbace); Krystian Adam (High Priest); Michail Leibundgut (Voice of Neptune)
Idomeneo is a masterpiece that’s only beginning to gain its rightful place in Mozart’s canon. The opera may have an outlandish plot -- complete with conniving gods and a marauding sea monster -- but it’s also blessed with some of Mozart’s most beautiful music and a troupe of opera’s most touchingly human characters.
BENJAMIN BRITTEN: Peter Grimes
Theater an der Wien, Vienna
Week of March 16, 2016
Arnold Schoenberg Chorus and ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra with Cornelius Meister, conductor
CAST: Kurt Streit (Peter Grimes); Agneta Eichenholz (Ellen Orford); Hanna Schwartz (Auntie); Andrew Foster-Williams (Balstrode); Rosalind Plowright (Mrs. Sedley); Stefan Cerny (Swallow); Andreas Conrad (Bob Boles); Tobias Greenhaigh (Ned Keene); Erik Arman (Rev. Horace Adams)
The seeds for this powerfully emotional drama were sewn while Britten was in California, where an encounter with George Crabbe's poem The Borough left the composer nostalgic for Aldeburgh, his coastal hometown in Suffolk.