Metropolitan 2014/2015 Season Opener Just a Couple of Hours Away!

Met Auditorium

 

In a couple of hours, the Metropolitan Opera will open its doors to the 2014/2015 season.  Tonight, the incomparable Maestro James Levine conducts Mozart’s masterpiece, “Le Nozze di Figaro.” You can listen live on Met Opera Radio or on the Met Opera Website by clicking here.

 

LISTEN LIVE!!!

Click here to Listen Live!!!

Cast for Nozze Di Figaro:

Countess Almaviva: Amanda Majeski
Susanna: Marlis Petersen
Cherubino: Isabel Leonard
Count Almaviva: Peter Mattei
Figaro: Ildar Abdrazakov

Ildar Abrazakov

Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro

Production Team
Production: Richard Eyre
Set & Costume Designer: Rob Howell
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Choreographer: Sara Erde

Isabel Leonard

Isabel Leonard as Cherubino

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Reviews and Commentary from Last Night’s Met Opener: Anna Bolena

Here is Anthony Tommassini’s article in today’s New York Times

A Queen’s Delusion and Defiance Opens the Met

By 
Published: September 27, 2011

Since arriving at the Metropolitan Opera as general manager in 2006, Peter Gelb has been angling to make the soprano Anna Netrebko a house prima donna in the old-world sense: a first among equals. On Monday night Mr. Gelb must have felt that the plan was working.

Ms. Netrebko sang the punishing title role of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” to open the Met’s season, the company’s first production of this breakthrough Donizetti work from 1830. The extended last scene was the high point of Ms. Netrebko’s performance as the distraught British queen (based on the historic Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII). Having been falsely condemned for betraying her husband, Anna drifts in and out of sanity.

Ms. Netrebko sang an elegantly sad aria with lustrous warmth, aching vulnerability and floating high notes. When the audience broke into prolonged applause and bravos, Ms. Netrebko seemed to break character and smiled a couple of times, though her look could have been taken as appropriate to the dramatic moment, since the delusional Anna is lost in reverie about happy days with her former lover.

Then at the end of this “Mad Scene,” when Anna, restored to horrific reality, curses the king and his new queen, Giovanna (Jane Seymour), and stalks off to her execution, Ms. Netrebko dispatched Donizetti’s cabaletta, all brilliant coloratura runs and vehement phrases, with a defiance that brought down the house.

Yet Ms. Netrebko’s Anna and the overall performance of “Anna Bolena” were not what they could have been. The production, by the director David McVicar, is uninventive and safe. The sets, by Robert Jones (in his Met debut), are handsome and efficient but tamely traditional, using a matrix of rotating white brick walls and sliding wood panels to evoke the interiors and environs of Henry’s palaces. In Act I, when the king’s hunting party gathers, complete with two impressively large dogs, a bit of abstraction is introduced into the look of the production through some sculptural gray trees. Jenny Tiramani’s costumes are colorful, detailed and true to the period. Too true. This Henry could have come from the set of almost any of the innumerable films and television shows that have been made about the Tudors.

But the bigger problem was Marco Armiliato’s routine conducting. Mr. Armiliato has been valuable to the Met’s Italian repertory wing since his 1998 house debut. In “Anna Bolena” he conveyed an understanding of bel canto style, in which arching lines must be given room to spin and cast their spell and accompaniment patterns have to be flexible.

The singers seemed to feel supported by Mr. Armiliato, who was always there when they took expressive liberties. That was the problem. This performance needed a conductor to instill some intensity into the music, to keep the cast more on edge, especially in the early scenes. Much of the action occurs in highly charged bursts of dramatic recitative. But too often here the orchestra chords that buttress the vocal lines were listless. And the orchestra’s playing lacked character.

Previously, Ms. Netrebko had sung the role of Anna only at the Vienna State Opera this spring. She started tentatively on Monday, perhaps settling in for the long, hard night of singing that awaited her. She looked regal and splendid. And in a nice directorial touch, Anna first appeared with a little red-haired girl, clearly her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth.

At 40, Ms. Netrebko may be in her vocal prime. Her sound is meltingly rich yet focused. Sustained tones have body and depth. Her contained vibrato exposed every slight slip from the center of a pitch, especially in midrange, but I’m not complaining. This remains a major voice, with resplendent colorings and built-in expressivity.

Bel canto purists have long debated whether Ms. Netrebko is a natural to the style, especially in her execution of coloratura passagework. She may not have the nimble precision exemplified by Beverly Sills (who was criticized in some circles for that very accuracy). Ms. Netrebko’s approach is to sing coloratura as an expressive elaboration of the vocal line, as she did affectingly as Anna. And she exudes vocal charisma.

Still, at moments throughout the evening her singing seemed cautious. She was at her best when sparring with other singers, especially the mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, who was Giovanna (the queen’s lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour, though it’s best to stick to the Italian names, since “Anna Bolena,” with a libretto by Felice Romani, plays very loose with history). Ms. Gubanova has an ample, dark voice with a slightly hard-edged quality that takes some adjusting to. She sang Giovanna with incisive delivery, folding embellishments and runs into impassioned vocal lines.

Her character was a bundle of nerves in Donizetti’s inspired Act II scene in which Giovanna finally confesses to the queen that she has been the king’s mistress and will become his new wife. Again the orchestra under Mr. Armiliato seemed to hold back, rather than empower, the intensity these two artists were trying to summon on stage.

The bass Ildar Abdrazakov brought his earthy, muscular voice to the role of Enrico (Henry VIII). Though his passagework was muffled by his gravelly tones at times, he was an imposing presence, and he did not overplay the king’s brutishness. The tenor Stephen Costello won a hearty ovation for his Riccardo (Lord Richard Percy, Anna’s former lover). This was a big assignment for the gifted and game young tenor. Mr. Costello captured the character’s consuming adoration for Anna through his impetuous and anguished singing.

The role includes a touchstone tenor aria, “Vivi tu,” in which the condemned Riccardo implores his friend Lord Rocheford (Anna’s brother, here the solid bass-baritone Keith Miller) to evade the king’s wrath and go on living. Mr. Costello mostly navigated the music’s demanding passagework and exposed high notes. To hear this rising artist stretching himself was part of the excitement.

The mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford took on the trouser role of Mark Smeaton, a court musician with a fatal crush on Anna. Her singing was sometimes shaky but always honest and ardent. The able tenor Eduardo Valdes as the court official Hervey rounded out the cast. Every role is significant in an opera so rich with ensembles, including a climactic Act I sextet almost as memorable as the enduring sextet from Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” and more contrapuntally intricate.

Mr. Gelb has said that ideally the Met should make an artistic statement by presenting an ambitious new production every opening night. Two years ago he took a chance on Luc Bondy’s ill-conceived staging of Puccini’s “Tosca.” Last season came the premiere of Robert Lepage’s production of Wagner’s “Rheingold,” which is still being argued over, as audiences await the last two installments of the complete “Ring” cycle this season.

“Anna Bolena” represented a different sort of risk. To make a case for this great, overlooked opera a company must have a stellar soprano in the title role. Ms. Netrebko is that artist. If only she and her colleagues on stage had received more help from Mr. McVicar and Mr. Armiliato.

The gala evening performance was relayed to Times Square and to Lincoln Center Plaza, where there was seating for some 3,000 people who had scooped up free tickets earlier. After the curtain calls on stage, the “Anna Bolena” cast appeared on the Met’s outdoor balcony to the cheers of the crowd. This is becoming a welcome tradition under Mr. Gelb.

“Anna Bolena” runs through Oct. 28, with additional performances in February, at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center; (212) 362-6000, metopera.org.

As ever, in the history of music, the “critics” are the ones who write and in many cases enhanced or destroyed a singer/musician’s career.  This has been the constant case from the inception of musical criticism with Schumann and Berlioz in the mid-nineteenth century.  This is not to say that Tommassini has any power to ruin Netrebko’s career, but he does have a huge audience by being the critic of one of the most powerful and well-read newspapers in the world.  So, NOW, now he chooses to talk about Bel Canto, about Italian singing when the last year brought absolutely horrifying presentations of Puccini and Verdi?  I absolutely agree with Mr. Tommassini, that Netrebko’s voice is one of the most beautiful voices cast at the Met this year, but let’s not discuss pitch or wavering from it, shall we, or we ought to have a new society for it.  Forgive me but Netrebko is the LEAST off pitch and her tone is unparalleled by her colleagues singing at the Met.  It seems that nothing was said about the extravagant flatness, sharpness, and completely disgusting Italian diction that was presented last season, was it?  In all, her singing is always expressive and she carries some of the mystique that singers of old carried with them, that implausible something that elevates them to the level of artists.  I agree that Armiliato was probably not the best choice to conduct Bolena and it is certainly too bad that Maestro Levine was not able to conduct this opening.  However, Bel Canto as the opening opera is not a choice made just to appease the rowdy public after that disastrous Tosca premiere last year (truly abominable), as Tommassini writes.  Bel Canto is the heart’s blood of the operatic machine that has withstood centuries.  More Bel Canto should be performed so that young singers will approach it without fear and with a more familiar ear.  I applaud the Met for presenting this difficult opera and to those who stretched their limits in trying to do the only thing they could in an age when those who truly understand Bel Canto are few and far between.

More Reviews:

Review by Mike Silverman of the Associated Press

“A Philadelphia Son Storms The Met” (Wall Street Journal)

 

Dove sei stato “Attila?”

March 6, 2010 / 1:00 pm ET on Met Opera Radio Broadcast

Photo by Ken Howard

The Cast

Conductor: Riccardo Muti
Odabella: Violeta Urmana
Foresto: Ramón Vargas
Ezio: Carlos Alvarez
Attila: Ildar Abdrazakov

Dramma lirico in a prologue and three acts by GIUSEPPE VERDI to a libretto by TEMISTOCLE SOLERA(with additional material by FRANCESCO MARIA PIAVE) after Zacharias Werner’s play Attila, König der Hunnen; Venice, Teatro La Fenice, 17 March 1846.

Personaggi


Attila King of the Huns bass
Ezio a Roman general baritone
Odabella the Lord of Aquileia’s daughter soprano
Foresto a knight of Aquileia tenor
Uldino a young Breton, Attila’s slave tenor
Leone an old Roman bass
Leaders, kings and soldiers, Huns, Gepids, Ostrogoths, Heruls, Thuringians, Quadi, Druids, priestesses, men and women of Aquileia, Aquileian maidens in warlike dress, Roman officers and soldiers, Roman virgins and children, hermits, slaves
Setting Aquileia, the Adriatic lagoons and near Rome, in the middle of the 5th century

History:

Verdi had read Werner’s ultra-Romantic play as early as 1844, and initially discussed the subject with Piave. However, for his second opera at La Fenice, the composer eventually fixed on Solera, the librettist with whom – at least until then – he seems to have preferred working. Solera set about preparing the text according to his usual format, with plenty of opportunity for grand choral tableaux such as are found in Nabucco and I Lombardi; but the progress of the opera was beset with difficulties. First Verdi fell seriously ill, and then Solera went off to live permanently in Madrid, leaving the last act as only a sketch and necessitating the calling in of the faithful Piave after all. Verdi instructed Piave to ignore Solera’s plans for a large-scale choral finale and to concentrate on the individuals, a change of direction that Solera strongly disapproved of. The première, whose cast included Ignazio Marini (Attila), Natale Costantini (Ezio), Sophie Loewe (Odabella) and Carlo Guasco (Foresto), was coolly received, but Attila went on to become one of Verdi’s most popular operas of the 1850s. After that it lost ground; however, it has recently been more than occasionally revived. In 1846 Verdi twice rewrote the romanza for Foresto in Act 3: the first time for Nicola Ivanoff, the second for Napoleone Moriani.

The prelude follows a pattern that later became common in Verdi’s work: a restrained opening leads to a grand climax, then to the beginnings of melodic continuity that are quickly fragmented. It is the drama in nuce.


Synopsis by Roger Parker

Prologue.i  The piazza of Aquileia  ‘Huns, Heruls and Ostrogoths’ celebrate bloody victories and greet their leader Attila who, in an impressive recitative, bids them sing a victory hymn. A group of female warriors is brought on, and their leader Odabella proclaims the valour and patriotic zeal of Italian women. Odabella’s double aria is a forceful display of soprano power, its first movement, ‘Allor che i forti corrono’ showing an unusually extended form which allows Attila to insert admiring comments. Such is the force of this movement that the cabaletta, ‘Da te questo’, merely continues the musical tone, though with more elaborate ornamentation.

As Odabella leaves, the Roman general Ezio appears for a formal duet with Attila. In the Andante ‘Tardo per gli anni, e tremulo’, Ezio offers Attila the entire Roman empire if Italy can be left unmolested. Attila angrily rejects the proposal, and the warriors end with a cabaletta of mutual defiance, ‘Vanitosi! che abbietti e dormenti’.

Prologue.ii  The Rio-Alto in the Adriatic lagoons  The scene opens with a sustained passage of local colour (strongly suggesting that Verdi now had his eye on the fashions of the French stage). First comes a violent orchestral storm, then the gradual rising of dawn is portrayed with a passage of ever increasing orchestral colours and sounds. Foresto leads on a group of survivors from Attila’s attack on Aquileia. In an Andantino which again shows unusual formal extension, ‘Ella in poter del barbaro’, his thoughts turn to his beloved Odabella, captured by Attila. In the subsequent cabaletta, ‘Cara patria, già madre’, the soloist is joined by the chorus for a rousing conclusion to the scene.

Act 1.i  A wood near Attila’s camp  A melancholy string solo introduces Odabella, who has remained in Attila’s camp in order to find an opportunity to murder him. In a delicately scored Andantino, ‘Oh! nel fuggente nuvolo’, Odabella sees in the clouds the images of her dead father and Foresto. Foresto himself appears: he has seen her with Attila and accuses her of betrayal. Their duet takes on the usual multi-movement pattern: Foresto’s accusations remain through the minor-major Andante, ‘Sì, quello io son, ravvisami’, but Odabella convinces him of her desire to kill Attila, and they lovingly join in a unison cabaletta, ‘Oh t’innebria nell’amplesso’.

1.ii  Attila’s tent, later his camp  Attila tells his slave Uldino of a terrible dream in which an old man denied him access to Rome in the name of God (‘Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima’). But he dismisses the vision with a warlike cabaletta, ‘Oltre quel limite’.

A bellicose vocal blast from Attila’s followers is interrupted by a procession of women and children led by the old man of Attila’s dream. His injunction precipitates the Largo of the concertato finale, ‘No! non è sogno’, which is led off by a terrified Attila, whose stuttering declamation is answered by a passage of sustained lyricism from Foresto and Odabella. The concertato takes on such impressive proportions that Verdi saw fit to end the act there, without the traditional stretta.

Act 2.i  Ezio’s camp  The scene is no more than a conventional double aria for Ezio. In the Andante, ‘Dagl’immortali vertici’, he muses on Rome’s fallen state. Foresto appears and suggests a plan to destroy Attila by surprising him at his camp. In a brash cabaletta, ‘È gettata la mia sorte’, Ezio eagerly looks forward to his moment of glory.

2.ii  Attila’s camp  Yet another warlike chorus begins the scene. Attila greets Ezio, the Druids mutter darkly of fatal portents, the priestesses dance and sing. A sudden gust of wind blows out all the candles, an event that precipitates yet another concertato finale, ‘Lo spirto de’ monti’, a complex movement during which Foresto manages to tell Odabella that Attila’s cup is poisoned. The formal slow movement concluded, Attila raises the cup to his lips, but is warned of the poison by Odabella (who wishes a more personal vengeance); Foresto admits to the crime, and Odabella claims the right to punish him herself. Attila approves, announces that he will marry Odabella the next day, and launches the concluding stretta, ‘Oh miei prodi! un solo giorno’; its dynamism and rhythmic bite prefigure similar moments in Il trovatore.

Act 3  A wood  Foresto is awaiting news of Odabella’s marriage to Attila, and in a minor–major romanza, ‘Che non avrebbe il misero’, bemoans her apparent treachery. Ezio arrives, urging Foresto to speedy battle. A distant chorus heralds the wedding procession, but suddenly Odabella herself appears, unable to go through with the ceremony. Soon all is explained between her and Foresto, and they join Ezio in a lyrical Adagio.

Attila now enters, in search of his bride, and the stage is set for a Quartetto finale. In the Allegro, ‘Tu, rea donna’, Attila accuses the three conspirators in turn, but in turn they answer, each with a different melodic line. At the climax of the number, offstage cries inform us that the attack has begun. Odabella stabs Attila, embraces Foresto, and the curtain falls.

The final act is, as several have pointed out, more than faintly ridiculous in its stage action, and parts of Verdi’s setting seem rather perfunctory; perhaps Solera’s original plan for a grand choral finale would have been more apt. Perhaps, indeed, the central problem with Attila is that it falls uncomfortably between being a drama of individuals (like Ernani or I due Foscari) and one that is essentially public (like Nabucco or I Lombardi). It is surely for this reason that two of the principals, Ezio and Foresto, are vague and undefined, never managing to emerge from the surrounding tableaux. On the other hand, Odabella and Attila, both of whom assume vocal prominence early in the opera, are more powerful dramatic presences. As with all of Verdi’s early operas, there are impressive individual moments, particularly in those grand ensemble movements that constantly inspired the composer to redefine and hone his dramatic language.

The young Verdi

The Met’s “Attila” already making headlines

From the New York Times:  ‘Attila’ and Muti in Debuts at the Met

From the New York Post: Curves banned from “Attila”

From Playbill Arts:  Enter the King: Mounting the Met’s First Attila

Some exclusive photos from Operachic:  Attila is the hunniest!

More on costumes and set on Fashionista.com:  First report of Prada’s costumes for the Metropolitan Opera’s “Attila”