Monday, February 27, 2012

Met showings will offer operatic time travel

Even though two of the Metropolitan Opera's movie-theater showings are still to come this springtime, opera lovers can already start planning their itineraries for next season's musical journeys -- which will carry them from ancient Egypt and Carthage to 1960s Las Vegas.

Hector Berlioz's "The Trojans." Richard Wagner's "Parsifal." Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." Handel's "Julius Caesar." The 12-opera schedule for next season's high-definition relays is dominated by works that have never been seen in Charlotte and probably won't be in the foreseeable future.

There's just a sprinkling of familiar operas, such as Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love"and Verdi's "Aida." One classic, Verdi's "Rigoletto," will appear in an unfamiliar guise: The Met's new staging will move the setting from centuries-ago Italy to 1960s Las Vegas. (Maybe the jester Rigoletto's outburst against the courtiers who torment him can be changed to, "Cortigiani! Vil Rat Pack dannato...")
The series includes one almost-new opera, Thomas Ades' "The Tempest." There will be revivals of two neglected Italian operas: Donizett's "Maria Stuarda," as in Mary Stuart, and Riccardo Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini," which is inspired by a character from Dante. The Met will also showcase a Verdi opera that isn't performed as often as its stature merits, "A Masked Ball."

Here's the schedule:

Oct. 13: Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love." Russian soprano Anna Netrebko plays a small-town girl who's courted by a local boy who thinks a potion will help.

Oct. 27: Verdi's "Otello." The Shakespeare-based tragedy stars tenor Johan Botha as the deceived war hero and Renee Fleming as his unjustly accused wife.

Nov. 10: Thomas Ades' "The Tempest." Another Shakespeare-inspired opera. Ades, one of England's leading composers, will conduct his own work.

Dec. 1: Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." Mozart's last opera centers on a conspiracy to kill a Roman emperor, who thwarts the plotters but forgives them.

Dec. 8: Verdi's "A Masked Ball." To get his historically based story of regicide past censors, Verdi had to move the setting from Sweden to Boston. Stage director David Alden's version will be in a "dreamlike setting," the Met's announcement says.

Dec. 15: Verdi's "Aida." The Egyptian epic will star a Ukrainian soprano new to the Met -- not to mention the rest of us -- named Liudmyla Monastyrska.

Jan. 5: Berlioz's "The Trojans." This is one of the few operas that can out-epic "Aida." It never even had a complete performance during its composer's lifetime. The cast includes Deborah Voigt, who played Brunnhilde in the Met's staging of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung."

Jan. 19: Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda." This will be the Met's first staging of Donizetti's loosely historical drama about the doomed Mary Stuart. Like the play by Schiller (of "Ode to Joy" fame) that inspired it, the opera includes a confrontation between Mary and Elizabeth I that didn't really take place. Audiences don't seem to mind a little fiction in the interest of theatrics.

Feb. 16: Verdi's "Rigoletto." Verdi meets Las Vegas.

March 2: Wagner's "Parsifal." Tenor Jonas Kaufman -- who starred in the Met's recent HD showing of "Faust" -- portrays the "pure fool" who finally attains wisdom. Bass Rene Pape, who played the devil in "Faust," leaves the dark side to become one of the Knights of the Holy Grail.

March 16: Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini." This luxuriant creation by a contemporary of Puccini's is inspired by a character from Dante's "Inferno."

April 27: Handel's "Julius Caesar." Spartanburg native David Daniels plays Caesar in this tale of the emperor and Cleopatra.