Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Get Ready for the New Year with the Met's Saturday Matinee Archival Broadcast of Strauss's "Die Fledermaus" from 1951

St. Louis Public Radio will carry the Met Opera's archival broadcast of Richard Strauss's Die Fledermaus from 1951 on their HD channel, KWMU-3 beginning at 12 noon.

WETA's web site says:
The light-hearted work, a traditional New Year’s favorite at opera companies, features an extraordinary cast led by longtime Philadelphia Orchestra music director Eugene Ormandy in his Met debut season: Patrice Munsel as Adele, Marguerite Piazza as Rosalinde, Risë Stevens as Prince Orlofsky, Richard Tucker as Alfred, John Brownlee as Dr. Falke, Charles Kullman as Eisenstein, and Oscar-nominated comic actor Jack Gilford in the speaking role of Frosch.

Munsel, just 25 years old at the time of this broadcast, had a major success in the role of the ambitious maid Adele. She was already an established Met star by 1951, having made her Met debut in Thomas’s Mignon eight years earlier at the age of 18. Piazza—well-known to television audiences for her regular role on Sid Caesar’s enormously popular “Your Show of Shows” —- made her Met debut in the role of Rosalinde and went on to a long career in cabaret, Broadway, and television. This season’s performances of Fledermaus were the only times Stevens and Tucker sang in the operetta in their long and acclaimed Met careers, each of which spanned four decades and included hundreds of performances.

The single intermission will include “In Memoriam,” a tribute to Met stars who have passed away during the previous year. Among the artists to be featured are Giorgio Tozzi, Cornell MacNeil, and Salvatore Licitra.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Donizetti's "La Fille du Régiment" Met Saturday Matinee Broadast

St. Louis Public Radio will carry the Met Opera broadcast of Gaetano Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment on their HD channel, KWMU-3 beginning at 12 noon. Approximate running time 2 hours, 50 minutes with intermission at approximately 1:20 p.m.

The Met's web site says:
Nino Machaidze is Donizetti’s spunky heroine in Laurent Pelly’s witty production. Her Tonio is Lawrence Brownlee, who delivers all nine high Cs of his famous aria with aplomb, and Kiri Te Kanawa is the Duchess of Krakenthorp
Caitlin McKechney, writing on The Classical Review web site says:
Donizetti’s comedies offer a mix of the bel canto fireworks of Rossini and an anticipation of Verdian majesty with a touch of Gilbert and Sullivan humor. La Fille may be one of Donizetti’s best-known operas, but it is largely famous for Ah mes amis, the “Mount Everest” of tenor arias with its nine high C’s.

Lawrence Brownlee delivered a magnificent rendition of the star-making aria, which famously catapulted a young Pavarotti to fame in the Met’s 1972 production. As the love-struck Tonio, Brownlee’s tone was full and even throughout, providing a bravura delivery of the Act 1 show-stopper. The tenor was also endearingly awkward in his lederhosen as he professes his love of Marie, the adopted daughter of the resident French soldiers, his vocal triumphs even more satisfying coming from this underdog character.

But, despite the renown of that famous aria, the show really belongs to Marie, who was enthusiastically portrayed and compellingly sung by Nino Machaidze. The Georgian soprano was spunky and appropriately tom-boyish, managing to bring dramatic interest to the regimental battle cry of the Act I Chacun le sait, turning the potentially sing-songy aria into an acrobatic display of comic gold.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Liping Zhang Stars as Madama Butterfly on Met's Saturday Matinee Broadcast

St. Louis Public Radio will carry the Met Opera broadcast of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on their HD channel, KWMU-3 beginning at 12 noon. Approximate running time 3 hours, 10 minutes with intermissions at approximately 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

The Met says:
Anthony Minghella’s breathtakingly beautiful staging returns with Liping Zhang as the tragic heroine. Robert Dean Smith and Marcello Giordani share the role of the faithless Pinkerton and Plácido Domingo conducts.
In the December 8, 2011, New York Times, Steve Smith writes:
Puccini’s sumptuous music, potently allusive and ideally flowing as if unspooled in an endless thread, is the most obvious and unshakable asset in any account of Butterfly. The story, however familiar, is reliably gripping; the characters are relatable, whether through pity or revulsion.

The current production — created by Anthony Minghella at the English National Opera, introduced at the Met in 2006 as the calling card of the Peter Gelb era and now keenly stewarded by Carolyn Choa, the director and choreographer — is among the most effective productions Mr. Gelb has brought into the house.

A compelling Cio-Cio-San, the geisha of the title, is crucial; Liping Zhang, a Chinese-Canadian soprano who has sung the part at the Met and elsewhere around the world, was an arresting presence. She sang vividly and affectingly, and acted with palpable commitment.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gounod's "Faust" Saturday Met Matinee Broadcast and High Definition Transmission

Jonas Kaufmann as Faust

St. Louis Public Radio will carry the Met Opera broadcast of Charles Gounod’s Faust on their HD channel, KWMU-3 beginning at 12 noon. Approximate running time 3 hours, 40 minutes with intermissions at approximately 12:50 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.

You may also listen to Faust via a live stream of the broadcast.

The Met says:
With Jonas Kaufmann in the title role, René Pape as the devil, and Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite, Gounod’s classic retelling of the Faust legend couldn’t be better served. Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff updates the story to the first half of the 20th century with a production that won praise in London last season. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts on the heels of his Don Carlo success.
In the New York Times, November 30, 2011, Anthony Tommasini wrote:
It is best to put aside any knowledge you may have of Goethe when attending a performance of Gounod’s Faust. There is beautiful music -— stirring ensembles and a few gotcha arias —- in Gounod’s score. But this melodramatic opera is anything but philosophical.

The standard rap against Faust is that Gounod turns the characters into stereotypes, with music to match. As Gounod presents him, Faust, an embittered old philosopher who has signed a contract with the Devil, becomes just another in a line of dashing young tenor heroes pining for a young woman and showing off his top notes. Gounod’s Méphistophélès seems far too charming to be malevolent; and the pretty young Marguerite is a little shallow, smitten as much by a casket of jewels as by the young Faust’s ardor.
The High Definition transmission of Faust will be presented at AMC Esquire 7, 6706 Clayton Road; St. Louis Mills 18; 5555 Saint Louis Mills Boulevard; AMC Chesterfield 14, 3000 Chesterfield Mall; O'Fallon 14, 900 Caledonia Drive; and The Hett, McKendree College, 701 College Road, Lebanon, IL. Click here to buy tickets.

Watch a brief video by clicking here

Monday, December 5, 2011

Union Avenue Opera Presents Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors" This Weekend

Union Avenue Opera adds to St. Louis' flourishing holiday music scene this weekend with Gian-Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, opening Friday evening. Journey back in time to the Middle East during the first century, and meet the young, crippled shepherd Amahl, and his widowed mother. Their lives are changed forever by a mysterious star in the night sky and the arrival of three kings seeking a wondrous child. What follows is an enduring tale of the power of faith and how ordinary kindness leads to miracles. Amahl and the Night Visitors is sure to captivate audiences of every generation. It’s also a perfect way to bring the family together!

St. Charles native Ricky Johnson, veteran of UAO’s production, returns to sing the title role of Amahl. Last seen in her critically acclaimed performance as Mrs. Patrick DeRocher in this summer's Dead Man Walking, Mezzo-soprano Debra Hillabrand makes her role debut as Amahl’s Mother. Also fresh from their appearances in Dead Man Walking are Tenor Clark Sturdevant as King Kaspar and Baritone Robert Reed as King Melchior. Returning after his company debut in the 2010 production, Bass-Baritone Todd Payne sings King Balthazar. Tenor Philip Touchette will sing The Page. A chorus of local singers and dancers rounds out the cast. No stranger to UAO, Allyson Ditchey serves as stage director. UAO Artistic Director and Conductor Scott Schoonover will conduct a chamber orchestra.

Last season, UAO opened its doors to school children for a complimentary Thursday matinee performance and will do so again this year on December 8th at 10am. Inquire with the company for ticket availability.

Join fellow opera patrons for a FREE opening night lecture on Amahl and the Night Visitors in the UACC Fellowship Hall on Friday, December 9th at 7pm. Non-ticket buyers welcome.

Amahl and the Night Visitors runs December 9th (8pm), 10th (5pm) and 11th (3pm). Tickets range $15-$47 and are available by contacting the Union Avenue Opera Box Office at 314.361.2881 or visiting The opera was commissioned especially for television and was first performed by NBC Television Opera Theatre in 1951. The production will be performed in English with projected supertitles at Union Avenue Opera, 733 North Union Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108 and has a run time of approximately 50 minutes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Renee Fleming Reprises Title Role in "Rodelinda" on Met Saturday Matinee on December 3

St. Louis Public Radio will carry the Met Opera broadcast of George Frideric Handels’s Rodelinda on their HD channel, KWMU-3 beginning at 11:30 a.m. Please note the half-hour earlier starting time.

You may also listen to Rodelinda via a live stream of the broadcast. Approximate running time 4 hours, 5 minutes. Intermissions at 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Renée Fleming, sensational in the 2004 Met premiere of Stephen Wadsworth’s much-heralded production, reprises the title role. She’s joined by Stephanie Blythe and countertenor Andreas Scholl, and Baroque specialist Harry Bicket conducts.

In the November 15, 2011, New York Times, James Oestreich writes:
In addition to Ms. Fleming’s star power, Stephen Wadsworth’s direction has received much credit for the production’s initial success and durability. And direction is surely needed.

The plot —- here updated more or less to the time the opera was written, 1725 -— defies quick description. It involves Bertarido, a king of Milan thought by most onstage, including his wife, Rodelinda, to be dead; his sister, Eduige, betrothed to Grimoaldo, who is now bent on claiming Rodelinda and, not incidentally, the throne; and two counselors to Grimoaldo: the sweet Unolfo, loyal to Bertarido (and aware that he is alive), and the irredeemably base Garibaldo, who meets an appropriate end at the point of Bertarido’s sword.

Opportunities for drama are obvious, but the work’s structure is unyielding. Ms. Fleming, in a Playbill interview, calls Rodelinda “a Handel opera with 30 arias and no ensembles.” Though she discounts the gorgeous duet that ends Act II and the lively quintet that ends the whole, she might have added that the arias are of the da capo variety: an A section giving way to B, then returning, however decorated or transformed.

Mr. Wadsworth’s pointed direction keeps the action moving forward even when the music circles back, though not without occasional distractions. For one, as Eduige, the formidable mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, sings at center stage, Rodelinda travels to a remote perch in the palace library — which, in Thomas Lynch’s set design, spans the stage —- to fetch a book for her son, Flavio. Who can ignore Ms. Fleming even when she is marking time?
The High Definition transmission of Rodelinda will be presented at AMC Esquire 7, 6706 Clayton Road; St. Louis Mills 18; 5555 Saint Louis Mills Boulevard; AMC Chesterfield 14, 3000 Chesterfield Mall; and O'Fallon 14, 900 Caledonia Drive. Click here to buy tickets.