Met Opera presents Changing the Scene: Updated Settings for Classic Operas

Scene from the Met Opera production of Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

This next week, in the online presentation of its Nightly Opera Streams, the Metropolitan Opera presents productions which have been brought forward to a more contemporary time than that in which they were originally set.

The first of these productions, to be streamed on Monday, June 7th, is a highly acclaimed interpretation of Verdi’s Rigoletto by Tony Award-winning director, Michael Mayer, who transferred the setting from a decadent 16th-century Italian court to a glitzy and depraved Las Vegas strip in the 1960s. The Duke – sung by Polish tenor Piotr Beczala – is a popular entertainer and casino owner. Serbian baritone Željko Lučić is Rigoletto, the Duke’s sidekick and comedian, who embarks on a course of murderous revenge when his innocent daughter Gilda – sung by German soprano Diana Damrau – is seduced. 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 seductive sister, Maddalena. Conducted by Michele Mariotti, this production premiered at the Met on February 16th, 2013.

René Pape as Méphistophélès, Jonas Kaufmann as the title character and Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite in Gounod’s ‘Faust’
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Gounod’s Faust – to be streamed on Tuesday, June 8th – has been brought forward, by producer Des McAnuff, to the early part 20th century. Tenor Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role of the man who sells his soul to the devil in return for youth and the love of the beautiful Marguerite, sung by soprano Marina Poplavskaya. Bass René Pape is Méphistophélès and baritone Russell Braun is Marguerite’s brother Valentin. Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, this production dates from December 10th, 2011.

Juan Diego Flórez as Elvino and Natalie Dessay as Amina in Bellini’s ‘La Sonnambula’
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Tony Award-winning Mary Zimmerman’s production of Bellini’s La Sonnambula – which airs on Wednesday, June 9th – transfers this tale from a village in the countryside, to a rehearsal room in contemporary New York, where an opera company is rehearsing La Sonnambula, and where the singers are actually in love with each other. In the original setting, Amina – who is about to marry her sweetheart, Elvino – is found asleep in the bedroom of a stranger, and it’s only towards the end of the opera that Elvino discovers that Amina’s sleepwalking is the explanation. Soprano Natalie Dessay sings Amina, tenor Juan Diego Flórez is Elvino, and bass Michele Pertusi is Rodolfo. The conductor is Evelino Pidỏ, and this production was recorded on March 21st, 2009.

A scene from Handel’s ‘Agrippina’ with Joyce DiDonato in the title role
Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Streaming on Thursday, June 10th, Handel’s Agrippina – originally written in the Baroque era – casts an eye on the political scheming and personal complexities of the Roman emperor Claudius, his advisers and his wife Agrippina. Sir David McVicar brought the action of this opera into the present day, with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in the title role – the woman who was determined that her depraved son Nero should sit on the throne. Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey takes the role of Nero, soprano Brenda Rae makes her debut as Poppea, counter-tenor Iestyn Davis is Ottone, counter-tenor Nicholas Tamagna is Narcisco, baritone Duncan Rock is Pallante and bass Matthew Rose is Claudio. The production, from February 29th, 2020, is conducted by Harry Bicket.

A scene from Act 1 of Thomas Adès’s ‘The Tempest’ with acrobat Jaime Verazin as Ariel.
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Thomas Adès based his opera The Tempest on what is thought to be one of Shakespeare’s last plays – a tale of betrayal, revenge and forgiveness, set in a world of magic and spirits. Baritone Simon Keenlyside is Prospero, the magician who causes the shipwreck of his enemies, which sets in train the ensuing events. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is Miranda, his daughter, and tenor Alek Shrader is Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, with whom she’s in love. Tenor Alan Oke is Prospero’s duplicitous slave, Caliban, and soprano Audrey Luna is the sprite Ariel who thwarts Caliban’s plan to rid himself of his master. Streaming on Friday, June 11th, The Tempest is produced by Robert Lepage, and Thomas Adès himself is the conductor in this recording from November 10th, 2012.

Verdi’s comedy Falstaff is the featured production on Saturday, June 12th. Based on two of Shakespeare’s plays – The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IVFalstaff is produced by Robert Carsen who has set his opera in post-war London. Baritone Ambrogio Maestri takes the title role of the overweight knight, Sir John Falstaff, who plans to seduce two married women to gain access to their respective husbands’ wealth. Soprano Angela Meade is Alice Ford, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano is Meg Page – Falstaff’s intended ‘victims’. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is Mistress Quickly, Baritone Franco Vasallo is Alice’s husband Ford, and soprano Lisette Oropesa and tenor Paolo Fanale are the young lovers Nannetta (Alice Ford’s daughter) and Fenton.  Former Met Opera Music Director, the late James Levine conducts this performance which was recorded on December 14th, 2013.

A scene from Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera

On Sunday, June 13th, the Met Opera streams Phelim McDermott’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, set on a boardwalk in a Coney Island-inspired amusement park in the 1950s. Here, the four young lovers – Fiordiligi (soprano Amanda Majeski), Dorabella (mezzo-soprano Serena Malfi), Ferrando (tenor Ben Bliss) and Guglielmo (bass-baritone Adam Plachetka) – play out the intricacies of the comedy against a backdrop of thrilling fairground rides, and emotional – and literal – ups and downs. The role of Don Alfonso – whose scheming is behind all the confusion – is taken by baritone Christopher Maltman – and David Robertson conducts the production, which was filmed on March 31st, 2018.

All Nightly Met Opera Streams begin at 7.30 pm (ET) and remain available via for 23 hours. The performances are also accessible on all Met Opera on Demand apps.

Information sourced from Met Opera program notes

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