Coming Up on World of Opera

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Stiffelio

Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Week of April 30, 2016

La Fenice Orchestra and Chorus

Daniele Rustioni, conductor

CAST: Stefano Secco (Stiffelio); Julianna Di Giacomo (Lina); Dimitri Platanias (Count Stankar); Francelso Marsiglia (Raffaele); Simon Lim (Jorg); Sofia Koberidze (Dorotea); Cristiano Olivieri (Federico)

A stirring drama depicting adultery among the pious, this 1850 opera got off to a rough start -- in large part because 19th-century censors found the story intolerable. Still, there are many who feel that Stiffelio belongs in the same league as the three Verdi operas that followed it -- Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata.

RICHARD WAGNER: Das Liebesverbot

Royal Theater, Madrid

Week of May 17, 2016

Teatro Real Orchestra and Chorus with conductor Ivor Bolton

CAST:  Manuela Uhl (Isabella); Christopher Maltmann (Friederic); María Miró (Mariana); Peter Lodahl (Luzio); Ilker Arcayürek (Claudio); María Hinojosa (Dorella); David Alegret (Antonio); David Jerusalem (Angelo); Ante Jerkunica (Brighella); Isaac Galán (Danieli)

Wagner’s early and rarely-heard comedy has so many "non-Wagnerian" elements that the composer himself, in his later years, looked back on it with a slightly bemused eye. Based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, it comes to as one of many commemorations of the playwright's anniversary year.

CHARLES GOUNOD: Romeo and Juliet

Vienna State Opera

Week of May 14th 2016

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus with conductor Marco Armiliato

CAST: Marina Rebeka (Juliet); Juan Diego Flórez (Romeo); Gabriel Bermúdez (Mercutio); Alexandru Moisiuc (Father Laurent); Rachel Frenkel (Stéphano); Marian Talaba (Tybalt); Mihail Dogotari (Paris); Il Hong (Capulet); Markus Pelz (Gregorio); Martin Müller (Benvolio); Victor Shevchenko (Duke of Verona)

Gounod's popular Faust is far better-known than this, later opera. Still, of the 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

Bavarian State Opera, Munich

Week of May 21, 2016

Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Zubin Mehta, conductor

CAST: Anja Harteros (Amelia); Piotr Beczala (Riccardo); George Petean (Renato); Okka von der Damerau (Ulrica); Sofia Fomina (Oscar); Andrea Borghini (Silvano); Anatoly Sivko (Samuel); Scott Conner (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.

FRANCESCO CAVALLI: Veremonda, L'Amazzone di Aragona

Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston

Week of May 28, 2016

New York Baroque Incorporated

Aaron Carpene, conductor

CAST: Vivica Genaux (Veremonda); Raffaele Pe (Delio); Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli (Zelemina); Andrey Nemzer (Alfonso); Matthew Maniaci (Zaida); Céline Ricci (Vespina); Joseph Barron (Roldano); Jason Budd (Giacutte); Steven Cole (Don Buscone)

Cavalli was among the finest and most influential composers from the early days of opera, in the 17th century, yet his two-dozen-plus dramas are seldom heard today. Veremonda tells a varied and colorful story of entangled love, international diplomacy, mistaken identity, and gender equality.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: I Due Foscari

Grand Liceu Theater, Barcelona

Week of June 4, 2016

Grand Liceu Theater Orchestra and Chorus

Massimo Zanetti, conductor

CAST: Placido Domingo (Francesco Foscari); Liudmyla Monastyrska (Lucrezia Contarini); Aquiles Machado (Jacopo Foscari); Raymond Aceto (Jacopo Laredano); Josep Fadó (Babarigo); Maria Miró (Pisana)

Verdi's operas are so popular that few of his great dramas could truly be described as "unjustly neglected" -- but this one may fit the bill. One of Verdi's darkest scores, I due Foscari is also among his most striking scores. It tells a compelling story of deadly intrigue and political treachery set against the historical backdrop of 15th-century Venice.

BENJAMIN GODARD: Dante

Prinzregenten Theater, Munich

Week of June 11, 2016

Munich Radio Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Chorus

Ulf Schirmer, conductor

CAST: Véroniqe Gens (Béatrice); Edgaras Montvidas (Dante); Rachel Frenkel (Gemma); Diana Axentil (Ecolier); Jean-Francois Lapointe (Bardi)

Benjamin Godard is hardly a "household word" in musical circles today, but in his time he stood alongside Saint-Saens among the most versatile composers in 19th-century France. In this opera, the great Italian writer Dante Alighieri not only inspires the music, but also plays a starring role.

G. F. HANDEL: Alcina

Opéra des Nations, Geneva

Week of June 18, 2016

Suisse Romande Orchestra, Cappella Mediterranea

Leonardo García Alarcón, conductor

CAST: Nicole Cabell (Alcina); Monica Bacelli (Ruggiero); Siobhan Stagg (Morgana); Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani (Oronte); Kristina Hammarström (Bradamente); Michael Adams (Melisso); Mary Feminear (Oberto)

The sorceress Alcina, a vivid character born in Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso, has a nasty habit of turning her enemies into wild animals. She's foiled when she seduces the wrong guy, a knight who courageously defeats her spells and frees her victims.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Macbeth

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Week of June 25,2016

Vienna State Opera

Alain Altinoglu, conductor

CAST: George Petean (Macbeth); Tatiana Serjan (Lady Macbeth); Ferruccio Furlanetto (Banquo); Jorge de León (Macduff); Jinxu Xiahou (Malcolm); Donna Ellen (Lady-in-Waiting)

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.