Coming Up on World of Opera

GIOACHINO ROSSINI: Tancredi

Champs-Elysées Theatre, Paris

Week of 7/26/2014

Champs-Elysées Theatre Chorus Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra
Enrique Mazzola, conductor

CAST: Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Tancredi); Patrizia Ciofi (Amenaide); Antonino Siragusa (Argiro); Christian Helmer (Orbazzano); José Maria Lo Monaco (Isaura); Sarah Tynan (Roggiero)

The first of Rossini’s great serious operas, Tancredi demonstrates that in the hands of a true master, even the aging opera seria format -- more associated with Baroque opera -- could still produce both moving romance, and riveting spectacle.

AGOSTINO STEFFANI: Niobe

Broadcasting Hall, Bremen

Week of 8/2/2014

Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra
Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs, directors

CAST: Karina Gauvin (Niobe); Philippe Jaroussky (Anfione); Amanda Forsythe (Manto); Christian Immler (Tiresia); Aaron Sheehan (Clearte); Terry Way (Creonte); Jesse Blumberg (Poliferno); José Lemos (Nerea)

This rarely-heard gem is both a splendid jumble of comedy, tragedy, mythology and politics, and one of the most accomplished operas of its time, employing a musical style that seems to bridge the artistic worlds of Monteverdi and Handel.

CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI: The Coronation of Poppea

Palais Garnier, Paris

Week of 8/9/2014

Concerto Italiano
Rinaldo Alessandrini, conductor

CAST: karine Deshayes (Poppea); Jeremy Ovenden (Nerone); Andrea Concetti (Seneca); Varduhi Abrahamyan (Ottone); Monica Bacelli (Ottavia); Gaëlle Arquez (La Fortuna/Drusilla); Jael Azzaretti (La Virtù/Damigella); Amel Brahim-Djelloul (Amore); Manuel Nunes Camelino (Arnalta); Giuseppe de Vittorio (Nutrice)

Monteverdi's Poppea proves that passion was plentiful in the opera house long before Verdi and Puccini hit the scene --  and that virtue doesn't always win out in the end. The opera portrays an illicit love so strong that it threatens to bring down an empire -- accompanied by one of the steamiest love-duets ever composed. 

RICHARD STRAUSS: Die Frau ohne Schatten

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

CAST: Johan Botha (The Emperor); Emily Magee (The Empress); Michaela Schuster (Nurse); Johan Reuter (Barak, the Dyer); Elena Pankratova (Dyer's Wife); Jeremy White (One-Armed Man); Hubert Francis (The Hunchback); Ashley Holland (Messenger of Keikobad)

The opera's librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, called it a "magic fairy tale." The highly-symbolic story inhabits both the real world, and a realm of pure spirituality, and while it has often been overshadowed by the composer's more famous dramas, many Stauss aficionados consider The Woman without a Shadow to be his finest opera.

GAETANO DONIZETTI: Caterina Cornaro

Montpellier Festival

Week of 8/23/2014

Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon National Orchestra
Latvian Radio Chorus
Paolo Carignani, conductor

CAST: Elena Mosuc (Caterina Cornaro); Ivan Magri (Gerardo); Franco Vassallo (Lusignano); Francois Lis (Mocenigo); Julie Knecht (Mathilde); Franck Bard (Knight of the King)

Though it's not one of Donizetti's better known scores, the concise drama and pure, emotional energy of this opera make it one of his most compelling. 

RICHARD WAGNER: Das Rheingold

Bayreuth Festival

Week of 8/30/2014

Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Kirill Petrenko, conductor

CAST: Wolfgang Roch (Wotan); Martin Winkler (Alberich); Claudia Mahnke (Fricka); Elisabet Strid (Freia); Nadine Weissmann (Erda); Norbert Ernst (Loge); Burkhard Ulrich (Mime); Wilhelm Schwinghammer (Fasolt); Sorin Coliban (Fafner); Markus Eiche (Donner); Lothar Odinius (Froh); Mirella Hagen (Woglinde); Julia Rutigliano (Wellgunde); Okka von der Damerau (Flosshilde)

Das Rheingold gets Wagner's monumental Ring cycle off to a rousing start, in a quickly-paced drama introducing a fanciful world of vivid characters and world-shaping passions. 

ALFREDO CATALANI: La Wally

Grand Theatre of Geneva

Week of 9/6/2014

Suisse Romande Orchestra
Grand Theatre Chorus
Evelino Pidò, conductor

CAST: Babara Frittoli (Wally); Gregory Kunde (Giuseppe Hagengach); Balint Szabo (Stromminger); Andrzej Dobber (Vincenzo Gellner); Ivanna Lesyk-Sadivska (Walter); Ahlima Mhamdi (Afra)

As Verdi's career was winding down, and Puccini's was achieving full flight, Catalani tried to take Italian opera in a different direction, combining Italian passion and lyricism with a German Romantic style of drama. La Wally was by far his greatest success.

 

GIUSEPPE VERDI: Otello

Théâtre Antique, Orange, France

Week of 9/13/2014

Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra
Myung Whun Chun, conductor

CAST: Inva Mula (Desdemona); Roberto Alagna (Otello); Seng-Hyoun Ko (Iago); Sophie Pondjiclis (Emilia); Florian Laconi (Cassio); Enrico Lori (Lodovico); Julian Dran (Roderigo); Jean-Marie Delpas (Montano)

Otello, Iago and Desdemona, three of literature's most complex and compelling characters, come to life in what many consider Verdi's most moving opera. Written when the composer was in his early 70s, Otello takes one of Shakespeare's finest tragedies and, if anything, makes it even more powerful and heartbreaking.

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.