Coming Up on World of Opera

OTTO NICOLAI: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Liège Opera

Week of 4/25/15

Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus

Christian Zacharias, conductor

CAST: Anneke Luyten (Alice Ford); Sabina Willeit (Meg Page); Franz Hawlata (Sir John Falstaff); Davide Giuste (Fenton); Werner Van Mechelen (Ford); Sophie Junker (Ann Page); Laurent Kubla (Page); Stefan Cifolelli (Slender); Patrick Delcour (Dr. Caius)

Successful Shakespeare-based operas are few and far between, and this gem is often overlooked. Using the same story that later inspired Verdi's Falstaff, Nicolai's colorful score combines the sparkle of Italian opera with the budding style of German romanticism.

ENRIQUE GRANADOS: Goyescas, GIACOMO PUCCINI: Suor Angelica

Royal Theater, Turin

Week of 5/2/15

Teatro Regio Orchestra and Chorus

Denato Renzetti, conductor

CAST, GOYESCAS: Giuseppina Piunti (Rosario); Andeka Gorrotxategui (Fernando); Anna Maria Chiuri (Pepa); Fabián Veloz (Paquiro) CAST, SUOR ANGELICA: Amarilli Nizza (Sister Angelica); Anna Maria Chiuri (Princess); Maria Di Mauro (Abbess); Silvia Beltrami (Monitress); Claudia Marchi (Mistress of the Novices); Damiana Mizzi (Sister Genovieffa); Nicoletta Baù (Sister Osmina); Maria de Lourdes Martins (Sister Dolcina)

This unusual double bill features a mystical one-act drama from Puccini's Il Trittico, plus an opera that began life, literally, at the keyboard. Goyescas, by Granados, is based on music from a popular set of piano pieces inspired by the romantic paintings of Francisco Goya.

VINCENZO BELLINI: The Capulets and the Montagues

La Fenice, Venice

Week of 5/9/15

La Fenice Orchestra

Omer Meir Welber, conductor

CAST: Sonia Ganassi (Romeo); Jessica Pratt (Juliet); Shalva Mukeria (Tebaldo); Rubén Amoretti (Capellio); Luca Dall'Amico (Lorenzo)

Bellini's take on the Romeo and Juliet story is unusual in that it's not primarily based on Shakespeare's tragedy, instead deriving from an Italian novella. It was a runaway hit at its premiere, causing Bellini to dub the drama "Zaira's revenge," as much of its music was recycled from his opera Zaira, which had failed less than a year earlier.

RICHARD WAGNER: The Flying Dutchman

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; London

WEEK of 5/16/15

Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Andris Nelsons, conductor

CAST: Egils Silins (Dutchman); Adrianne Peiczonka (Senta); Peter Rose (Daland); Michael König (Erik); Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Mary); Ed Lyon (Steersman)

While weighing in at about two-and-a-half hours -- without an intermission! -- Dutchman may still be Wagner's most straightforward and approachable opera. It's a stormy drama of legendary determination, undeniable love and ultimate redemption.

FROMENTAL HALÉVY: La Juive

Vienna State Opera

Week of 5/23/15

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Frédéric Chaslin, conductor

CAST: Olga Bezsmertna (Rachel); Neil Shicoff (Eléazar); Jason Bridges (Prince Léopold); Aida Garifullina (Princess Eudoxie); Dan Paul Dumitrescu (Gian Francesco); Gabriel Bermúdez (Ruggiero); Marcus Pelz (Albert)

The first of this quarter's three shows from Vienna, Halévy's drama premiered at the Paris Opéra in 1835 in what may then have been the most extravagant opera production in history, complete with lavish, period costuming and a phalanx of onstage equestrians.

VINCENZO BELLINI: I Puritani

Vienna State Opera

Week of 5/30/15

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Marco Armiliato, conductor

CAST: Olga Peretyatko (Elvira); John Tessier (Lord Arturo Talbo); Carlos Alvarez (Sir Riccardo Forth); Jongmin Park (Sir Giorgi Valton); Sorin Coliban (Lord Gualtiero Valton); Carlos Osuna (Sir Bruno Robertson); Ilseyar Khayrullova (Enrichetta di Francia)

When Bellini moved to Paris in the 1830s, he declared that French composers and audiences had "little understanding of real song." He apparently decided to remedy that. I Puritani -- Bellini's first opera for Paris, and the last opera he composed before his death at age 33 -- is blessed by a raft of his finest melodies.

JULES MASSENET: Le Cid

Paris National Opera

Week of 6/6/15

Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Michel Plasson, conductor

CAST: Anna Caterina Antonacci (Chimène); Roberto Alagna (Rodrigue); Paul Gray (Don Diègue); Nicolas Cavallier (The King); Franck Ferrari (Count of Gormas); Annick Massis (L'Infante); Farncis Dudziak (Saint Jacques)

In Paris, an operatic hotbed for centuries, few composers were ever as successful Massenet, and Le Cid is the piece that got his career rolling. The plot is a tangle of politics and romance, in which a young patriot, acting out of family loyalty, kills his fiancée's father. It comes to us from the modern incarnation of the historic Paris Opéra, where it premiered in 1885.

GAETANO DONIZETTI: Don Pasquale

Vienna State Opera

Week of 6/13/15

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Jesús Lopez Cobos, conductor

CAST: Juan Diego Florez (Ernesto); Valentina Nafornita (Norina); Michele Pertusi (Don Pasquale); Alessio Arduini (Dr. Malatesta)

Donizetti wrote any number of irresistible comedies, including The Elixir of Love and The Daughter of the Regiment, and this sparkling score may be the best of them all. From Vienna, acclaimed veteran Juan Diego Florez does a star turn alongside the captivating young Romanian soprano, Valentina Nafornita.

W. A. MOZART: La Finta Semplice

Prinzregenten Theater, Munich

Week of 6/20/15

Munich Radio Orchestra

Rinaldo Alessandrini, conductor

CAST: Nuria Rial (Rosina); Andrew Staples (Fracasso); Kay Stiefermann (Cassandro); Oliver Ringelhahn (Polidoro); Elena Belfiore (Giacinta); David Steffens (Simone); Anna Lucia Richter (Ninetta)

The term "children's music" is generally used to describe music written for children -- but in this opera, it takes on a different meaning. La Finta Semplice is kids' music written by a kid -- the eleven-year-old Mozart, who used it to showcase an innovative ensemble style that later came to full bloom in masterpieces including The Marriage

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.