Coming Up on World of Opera

GEORGE BIZET: The Pearl Fishers

Theater an der Wien, Vienna

Week of 2/21/15

Arnold Schoenberg Chorus

Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

Jean-Christophe Spinosi, conductor

CAST: Diana Damrau (Leïla); Dmitry Korchak (Nadir); Nathan Gunn (Zurga); Nicolas Testé (High Priest)

Yes, Bizet did write something besides Carmen! No less a critic than Hector Berlioz described The Pearl Fishers, Bizet's "other" opera, as "beautiful and expressive ... filled with fire and rich coloring."

MODEST MUSSORGSKY: Kovanshchina

Vienna State Opera

Week of 2/28/15

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Semyon Bychkov, conductor

CAST: Ferruccio Furlanetto (Prince Ivan Khovansky); Christopher Ventris (Prince Andrey Khovansky); Herbert Lippert (Vasily Golitsin); Ain Anger (Dosifey); Andrzej Dobber (Shaklovity); Elena Maximova (Marfa); Lydia Rathkolb (Susanna); Norbert Ernst (Scrivener); Caroline Wenborne (Emma); Benedikt Kobel (Der Vertraute)

Mussorgsky followed up on his popular epic Boris Godunov with this colorful drama, which delves deeply into a complex and fascinating era of Russian history. Along with a number of striking characters, Khovanshchina also delivers some of the composer's most familiar orchestral numbers, including "Dawn Over the Moscow River."

CHARLES GOUNOD: Romeo and Juliet

Teatro Real, Madrid

Week of 3/7/15

Intermezzo Chorus

Madrid Symphony Orchestra

Michel Plasson, conductor

CAST: Sonya Yoncheva (Juliet); Roberto Alagna (Romeo); Roberto Tagliavini (Friar Lawrence); Joan Martín-Royo (Mercutio); Michéle Losier (Stéphano); Laurent Alvaro (Capulet); Mikeldi Atxalandabaso (Tybalt); Diana Montague (Gertrude); Fernando Radó (The Duke); Toni Marsol (Gregory); Antonio Lozano (Benvolio)

Gounod's popular Faust is far better-known than this, later opera. Still, of the scores, if not hundreds, of musical takes on the iconic Shakespeare tragedy, Gounod's version of Romeo and Juliet is one of a bare handful that still hold the stage today -- making it a remarkable opera in its own right.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Un Ballo in Maschera

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Week of 3/14/15

Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus

Daniel Oren, conductor

CAST: Joseph Calleja (Riccardo); Liudmyla Monastyrska (Amelia); Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Renato); Marianne Cornetti (Ulrica); Rosemary Joshua (Oscar); Samuel Johnson (Silvano); Anatoli Sivko (Samuel); James Platt (Tom)

The original version of Verdi's A Masked Ball -- an opera about illicit love and backstabbing traitors at a European, royal court -- so offended Italian censors that Verdi eventually picked up the whole story and moved it all the way to Boston! No matter where it takes place, the story is bolstered by one of Verdi's most heartfelt scores, and a love affair that ranks among the most passionate in any of his operas.

VINCENZO BELLINI: La Straniera (The Stranger)

Theater an der Wien, Vienna

Week of 3/21/15

Arnold Schoenberg Chorus

Vienna Radio Symphony

Paolo Arrivabeni, conductor

CAST: Marlis Petersen (Alaide); Norman Reinhardt (Arturo); Franco Vassalo (Valdeburgo); Theresa Krollthaler (Isoletta); Martin Snell (Montolino); Stefan Cerny (Il Priore)

Bellini has a well-deserved reputation as a master of bel canto opera. Yet, this fascinating drama, set in medieval Brittany, is in a different vein. Its highly expressive music explores Romantic territory then considered so radical and hard to pin down that one critic couldn't decide whether it was "sung declamation ... or declamatory song." 

 

UMBERTO GIORDANO: Andrea Chénier

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Week of 3/28/15

Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus

CAST: Jonas Kaufmann (Andrea Chénier); Eva-Maria Westbroek (Maddalena de Coigny); Rosalind Plowright (Comtesse di Coigny); Zeljko Lucic (Carlo Gérard); Denyce Graves (Bersi); Peter Coleman-Wright (Pietro Fléville); Adrian Clarke (Mathieu)

In Giordano's revolutionary potboiler love and politics vie for the hero's soul, vividly demonstrating how both of those passions can be dangerous to one's health. This Covent Garden production features two of today's most highly-regarded stars, tenor Jonas Kaufmann and soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek.