Coming Up on World of Opera

JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU: Castor and Pollux

Montpellier Festival

Week of 9/20/2014

Pygmalion Ensemble
Raphaël Pichon, conductor

CAST: Colin Ainsworth (Castor); Florian Sempey (Pollux); Emmanuelle de Negri (Télaïre); Clémentine Margaine (Phébé); Sabine Devieilhe (Cléone); Christian Immler (Jupiter); Virgile Ancely (High Priest)

When Rameau died, a French periodical praised the composer as "the God of Harmony," and in retrospect that's easy to understand. In the era between the seminal dramas of Monteverdi and the revolutionary works of Mozart, few composers wrote more brilliant operas than Rameau. Castor and Pollux is among his finest.

RICHARD STRAUSS: Salome

Proms Concerts, Royal Albert Hall London

Week of 9/27/2014

Orchestra of the German Opera, Berlin
Donald Runnicles, conductor

CAST: Nina Stemme (Salome); Samuel Youn (Jochanaan); Burkhard Ulrich (Herod); Ildiko Komlosi (Herodias); Thomas Blondelle (Narraboth)

The soprano who created the role of Salome declared herself "respectable" -- and thus refused to perform the famously scandalous "Dance of the Seven Veils. (A dancer served as stand-in.) Yet that very sensationalism, along with the raw power of its drama, has made Salome one of Strauss's most familiar and popular operas.

W. A. MOZART: Cosí fan tutte

La Scala, Milan

Week of 10/4/14

La Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

CAST: Maria Bengtsson (Fiordiligi); Katija Dragojevic (Dorabella); Dadam Plachetka (Guglielmo); Rolando Villazón (Ferrando); Serena Malfi (Despina); Michele Pertusi (Don Alfonso)

Deceptively complex, this comic farce leaves many listeners a little bit queasy, pondering the future of their most treasured relationships. Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto may spring plenty of jokes, but Mozart's music tells you to hold on to your heart.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Il Trovatore

2014 Salzburg Festival

Week of 10/11/14

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Vienna State Opera Chorus
Daniele Gatti, conductor

CAST: Anna Netrebko (Leonora); Placido Domingo (Count di Luna); Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Azucena); Francesco Meli (Manrico); Riccardo Zanellato (Ferrando); Diana Haller (Ines)

Verdi's complex tragedy has a story that verges on the outlandish, but its music has made it one of the most popular of all the composer's great operas, and it serves up an astonishing number of his most familiar melodies. This Salzburg production is one of the operatic year's outstanding events, with soprano Anna Netrebko as Leonora and Placido Domingo, continuing his remarkable exploration of Verdi's great baritone roles, as Count di Luna. 

GIACOMO PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

Festival Hall, Baden-Baden

Week of 10/18/14

Berlin Phiharmonic Orchestra
Vienna Philharmonic Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

CAST: Eva-Maria Westbroek (ManonLescaut); Massimo Giordano (des Grieux); Lester Lynch (Lescaut); Lian Li (Geronte); Bogdan Mihai (Edmondo);Kresimir Spicer (Dancing Master); Arthur Espiritu (Lamplighter)

Massenet's version of the Manon story may win out when it comes to pure tunefulness, but if you're looking for outright passion, it's hard to beat Puccini. This production from the Baden-Baden Easter Festival comes to us belatedly, but it's worth the wait, with Eva-Maria Westbroek in the title role, plus Simon Rattle leading the Berlin Philharmonic.

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.