Coming Up on World of Opera
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
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.
GIOACHINO ROSSINI: The Voyage to Reims
Belcanto Opera Festival, Bad Wildbad
Week of 12/13/14
Virtuosi Brunensis Poznan Bach Chorus Antonio Fogliani, conductor
CAST: Alessandra Marianelli (Madame Cortese); Sofia Mchedlisvili (Countess di Folleville); Laura Giordano (Corinna); Marianna Pizzolato (Marchesa Melibea); Maxim Mironov (Count di Libenskof); Bogdan Mihai (Chevalier Belfiore); Mirko Palazzi (Lord Sidney); Mysketa Gezim (Don Alvaro); Bruno Pratico (Barone di Trombonok); Bruno De Simone (Don Profondo)
This score by Rossini is alternately called a dramma giocoso and a "scenic cantata." Either way, it's right at home in the theater, and contains some of the composer's most brilliant vocal writing.
JOHN ADAMS: El Niño
2014 Spoleto Festival USA
Week of 12/20/14
Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra Westminster Choir Joe Miller, conductor
CAST: Erica Brookhyser (Mezzo-Soprano); Daniel Bubeck (Countertenor 1); Brian Cummings (Countertenor 2); Caitlin Lynch (Soprano); Steven Rickards (Countertenor 3); Mark Walters (Baritone)
John Adams, Pulitzer Prize-winner and arguably America's best-known living composer, describes El Niño as, “my way of trying to understand what is meant by a miracle." This sweeping setting of the Christmas story is both compellingly contemporary and filled with ancient traditions, including medieval carolers, Latin American poets, and an ethereal children's chorus. As the New York Times put it, "El Niño bears so many gifts that the senses stagger under the load."
GAETANO DONIZETTI: The Elixir of Love
Royal Opera House, London
Week of 12/27/14
Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus Daniele Rustioni, conductor
CAST: Vittorio Grigolo (Nemorino); Lucy Crowe (Adina); Bryn Terfel (Dr. Dulcamara); Levente Molnár (Belcore); Kiandra Howarth (Giannetta)
There's not a lot to be taken seriously in this comic romp by Donizetti -- unless, of course, you count the music! It's some of Donizetti's finest, and takes the opera beyond the world of farce to a place where simple confidence leads to life-changing revelations.