Summer Encores from The Met: Live in HD


Piotr Beczala as the Duke in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera opens its series of Summer Encores this week – a selection of performances from the award-winning series, The Met: Live in HD – which are to be screened in cinemas around the world over the next few weeks. Featured in these Encore presentations are two Verdi operas – Rigoletto and Otello – Puccini’s La Rondine, and the Baroque fantasy The Enchanted Island.

The Met: Live in HD has just concluded its eighth season, which saw these productions screened in more than 2,000 cinemas, in 67 countries. The Met has now become the leading producer of alternative cinema content, and achieved an impressive sale of 15 million tickets worldwide in April, with the live transmission of Puccini’s La Bohème.


Željko Lucic as Rigoletto and Diana Damrau as Gilda Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The first performance in the 2014 Summer Encores series is Verdi’s Rigoletto – a highly acclaimed production by Tony Award-winning director, Michael Mayer, who lifted the setting from the decadence of a 16th-century Italian court and transported it to a glitzy and somewhat degenerate 1960s  Las Vegas strip – “a neon-lit world ruled by money and ruthless, powerful men”. Mayer’s version of Rigoletto certainly raised some eyebrows in the opera world when it premiered at The Met on February 16, 2013.


Željko Lucic in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The media, however, loved it. Bloomberg News reported: “It’s impossible not to like the new production. It’s wildly entertaining, inventive, strangely funny and yet also deeply sad… Mayer captures both the emotional depth and surface glitter in an audacious staging…. The audience whooped approval at the end.”

Mayer’s production, wrote The Wall Street Journal, “gives a contemporary immediacy to this tale of how power and vice corrupt everything around them… The strong cast of principals carries out the concept with gusto.”

Associated Press simply said: “Rigoletto hits the jackpot.”


Željko Lucic as Rigoletto, Diana Damrau as Gilda, Oksana Volkova as Maddalena, and Piotr Beczala as the Duke Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

In Mayer’s Rigoletto, the Duke – sung by Polish tenor Piotr Beczala – is a popular entertainer and casino owner.  Serbian baritone, Željko Lučić, is Rigoletto – the comedian and the Duke’s sidekick – and German soprano, Diana Damrau, sings Gilda, the Duke’s innocent daughter. Slovakian base, Štefan Kocán, is the assassin-for-hire, Sparafucile, and Belarussian mezzo-soprano, Oksana Volkova, makes her debut with the Met as Sparafucile’s beguiling sister, Maddalena.

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by young Italian conductor, Michele Mariotti, a rising star in Europe, who made his Met debut in the 2012-13 season, leading a production of Carmen.


Stefan Kocán as Sparafucile Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Met’s transmission of Rigoletto is hosted by the much-loved American soprano, Renée Fleming, recipient of the 2012 National Medal of Arts – America’s highest award presented to an individual artist.

Rigoletto will be screened on Wednesday, June 18, at 7.00 pm (ET), so the best advice is to check with your local theater for dates and times.

A list of US cinemas can be found on this link.

For cinemas in the UK, follow this link.

For other international cinemas, follow this link.

There will be additional broadcasts – of Roméo et Juliette and La Fanciulla del West – however they will be screened in select locations only, and the screening dates will be chosen by the individual cinemas. Please contact your local theater to check availability and dates.

More information on the Live in HD Summer Encores can be found on this link.


Metropolitan Opera

Piotr Beczala

Željko Lučić

Diana Damrau

Štefan Kocán

Oksana Volkova

Michele Mariotti

Renée Fleming



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Princess Grace Academy of Dance presents its annual gala


A student of the Princess Grace Academy in Julien Guérin’s ‘Somnia Vertigo’ Photo: Alice Blangero

Students of Monaco’s Princess Grace Academy of Dance are in the final stages of preparation for their annual end of year gala which takes place in Monte-Carlo on 18th and 19th June.   This is an important event in the training programme of these young dancers – the culmination of their studies over the past year, and an opportunity to demonstrate their prowess as they aspire to establishing themselves as artists on the international stage.

This year’s presentation is special for another reason, too – for the first time, the dancers will be accompanied by the Monte-Carlo International Youth Orchestra, led by Alessandro Crudele, considered to be one of the most outstanding and versatile young conductors to emerge from Italy in recent years.

Each year, as the the standard of dancing becomes higher, the gala becomes more professional, reflecting the growing importance of the Academy under the supervision of Artistic Director, Luca Masala, and his staff. The Academy, he says, is “not only a place of learning, but also a school of life”, guiding its dancers “through hard work, discipline and passion to their highest dreams”.


The gala features works from both the classical and contemporary repertoire Photo: Alice Blangero

In this presentation, the dancers will present a programme of both classical and contemporary dance. Orise is a work which has been choreographed by Michel Rahn, who – since 2011 – has held the position of Director and Assistant Teacher of dance at the Academy. A former principal dancer with companies such as Nederlands Dans Theater, the Grand Geneva Ballet and the Royal Ballet of Flanders, Michel Rahn has been teaching since 1976, and made his debut as a choreographer in 1981. He has created some 30 classical and contemporary works to date.

The programme also features a work by George Balanchine – his Donizetti Variations.  Choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1960, this ballet was part of a programme entitled Salute to Italy, celebrating the 100th anniversary of that country’s unification.  The other ballets on the Salute to Italy programme tended to be somewhat sombre, and Balanchine felt that he needed a “cheerful and sunny work” as a balance, so he chose selections from Donizetti’s opera Don Sebastian for these variations – the bel canto composer being well known for his melodic and lyrical scores. (George Balanchine Trust)


The gala is an important event in the training programme of these young dancers Photo: Alice Blangero

COMUNIC/ACTIONS is a work by Eugenio Buratti, Repertory Dance Master and choreographer for Balletto di Toscana.  With a background in both classical ballet and contemporary modern dance, Buratti has performed in works by Balanchine, Alvin Ailey and Glen Tetley, and his career as a dancer also included the role of Tazio opposite Rudolf Nureyev (as von Aschenbach) in Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice), in the  Fleming Flindt production at Teatro Filarmonico Ente Arena in Verona in 1991.  He currently collaborates with choreographers such as Angelin Preljocaj and Hans Van Manen in the creation of a contemporary repertoire for Balletto di Toscana.

The gala also features a world premiere – Somnia Vertigo, choreographed by Julien Guérin – a member of the company of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.  It’s an elegant and stylish work – performed to music from Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 – with  just a hint of Balanchine about it (see the first 48 seconds of this video clip).


The gala reflects the growing importance of the Academy Photo: Alice Blangero

The Princess Grace Academy Gala takes place in the Salle Garnier of the Monte-Carlo Opera on 18th and 19th June.


Princess Grace Academy of Dance

Alessandro Crudele

George Balanchine

Salle Garnier

Photographs by Alice Blangero


A version of this article recently appeared in Riviera Buzz


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