Coming Up on World of Opera

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.

GIACOMO PUCCINI: Turandot

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Week of July 2, 2016

Vienna State Opera
Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

CAST: Lise Lindstrom (Turandot); Yusif Eyvazov (Calaf); Anita Hartig (Liù); Dan Paul Dumitrescu (Timur); Heinz Zednik (Emperor Altoum); Gabriel Bermúdez (Ping); Carlos Osuna (Pang); Norbert Ernst (Pong)

As he also proved with Madame Butterfly and La Fanciulla del West, Puccini never hesitated to apply his proudly Italian sensibilities to far flung, “exotic” locales. With Turandot, he evokes the splendors of ancient China -- in an opera featuring “Nessun dorma,” the aria the Three Tenors famously put on the charts.

GIOACHINO ROSSINI: Otello

Grand Liceu Theater, Barcelona

Week of July 9, 2016

Grand Liceu Theater, Barcelona
Grand Liceu Theater Orchestra and Chorus

Christopher Franklin, conductor

CAST: Gregory Kunde (Otello); Jessica Pratt (Desdemona); Dmitry Korchak (Rodrigo); Yije Shi (Iago); Lidia Vinyes-Curtis (Emilia); Mirco Palazzi (Elmiro); Josep Fadó (Doge of Venice); Josep Lluís Moreno (Lucio); Beñat Egiarte (Gondolier)

Lovers of Shakespeare's Othello may find that Rossini's version strays a bit at the beginning. But when all is said and done, Rossini and the bard seem joined at the hip, in a hair-raising finale that rivals even Verdi's masterful setting of the drama. The production is the first half of an Otello double-header from Barcelona.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Otello

Grand Liceu Theater, Barcelona

Week of July 16, 2016

Grand Liceu Theater Orchestra and Chorus

Philippe Augin, conductor

CAST: Marc Heller (Otello); Ermonela Jaho (Desdemona); Marco Vratogna (Iago); Alexei Dolgov (Cassio); Vicenç Esteve (Roderigo); Roman Ialcic (Lodovico); Olesya Petrova (Emilia); Damián del Castillo (Montano)

Leave it to Verdi to take a classic tragedy by Shakespeare and, if anything, make it even more powerful and heartrending. The libretto is by Arrigo Boito, who also collaborated on another of Verdi's great Shakespeare operas, Falstaff.

LEOS JANÁCEK: Jenufa

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Week of July 23, 2016

Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Ingo Metzmacher, conductor

CAST: Dorotea Röschmann (Jenufa); Angela Denoke (Kostelnička); Christian Franz (Laca); Marian Talaba (Steva); Aura Twarowska (Grandmother Buryjovka); Il Hong (Stárek); Alexandru Moisiuc (Mayor); Donna Ellen (Mayor's Wife); Hyuna Ko (Karolka)

Janácek was in his sixties, at an age when many are enjoying retirement, when the surprise success of Jenufa first brought him widespread fame. The opera is an undoubted masterpiece, telling a disturbing, yet strangely inspiring story of multiple betrayals, gruesome murder and ultimate, if unlikely, forgiveness.

GIUSEPPE VERDI: La Forza del Destino

Grand Theatre of Geneva (from Victoria Hall)

Week of July 30, 2016

Grand Theater Chorus
Suisse Romande Orchestra

Paolo Arrivabeni, conductor

CAST: Csilla Boross (Leonora); Aquiles Machado (Don Alvaro); Franco Vassallo (Don Carlo di Vargas); Slobodan Stankovic (Marquis of Calatrava); Ahlima Mhamdi (Preziosilla); Pietro Spagnoli (Fra Melitone); Vitaly Kovalyov (Padre Guardino)

Verdi's relentless drama of politics, passion and revenge demands a top-notch ensemble cast. This production from Geneva delivers, and the Suisse Romande Orchestra shines in what may be Verdi's most famous overture.

W. A. MOZART: Così fan tutte

Aix-en-Provence Festival

Week of August 6, 2016

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Cape Town Opera Chorus

Louis Langrée, conductor

CAST: Lenneke Ruiten (Fiordiligi); Kate Lindsey (Dorabella); Joel Pietro (Ferrando); Nahuel di Pierro (Guglielmo); Sandrine Piau (Despina); Rod Gilfry (Don Alfonso)

Deceptively complex, this comic farce leaves many listeners a little bit queasy. Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto revolves around lightweight jokes and an elaborate prank, but in tandem with Mozart's music that trickery also reminds us that even our most cherished relationships can quickly turn fragile, and tenuous.

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