Metropolitan Opera’s ’18–’19 HD Season

A joy indeed it is to begin the next OperaMetro season with the posting of the Met’s 2018-2019 HD telecast schedule! To some degree the writing is a comforting endeavor, a way to fill the void created by the end of last season, like, wait, what? You mean it’s over!? But, truthfully, each of my days is full of musical moments colored by eager anticipation and glowing retrospection, the latter being decades long at this point. I kid you not…but I digress.

Below is listed the Met’s HD schedule for the 2018-2019 season. The dates and times (ET) listed herein are those of the live performances on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, the source of the telecasts. But these times and dates are not necessarily the same as those of the projected performance @ your favorite HD venue. Throughout the season OM, as you know, lists the specific times and dates at the bottom of a review of the to-be-telecast performance for the venues in our immediate neck of the woods. It’s a little help I give my friends to get by; additionally, to me it gives new meaning to my oft repeated phrase ‘support your local opera.’

The mod  Samson et Dalila  opens the Met season, also in HD

The mod Samson et Dalila opens the Met season, also in HD

The Met’s HD season opens on October 6, 2018 at 12:55 p.m., with a revival of Verdi’s classic Aïda, starring the great Anna Netrebko, who has, of late, tackled some of the grander roles in the Italian repertory* (see Asides and Addenda below). In this by now familiar production by Sonja Frisell, with sets by Gianni Quaranta, Netrebko is joined by Anita Rachvelishvili as Amneris, Alksandrs Antonenko as Radamès, Quinn Kelsey as Amonasro, and Ryan Speedo Green as the King. Nicola Luisotti conducts. A grand opening of a great HD season starring a grand diva.

A new production of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila is the actual Opening Night of this coming 2018-2019 season (Monday night @ 6:00 p.m., September 24), but the opera gets its first ever showing in HD on October 20 at 12:55 p.m. Together again in a steamy French opera are Roberto Alagna as Samson and Elīna Garanča as Dalila. Sets are by Alexander Dodge, costumes by Linda J. Cho; the production is directed by Darko Tresnjak, making his Metropolitan Opera debut.** Others in the cast include Laurent Naouri as the High Priest, Elchin Azizov as the Philistine King Abimelech and Dmitry Belosselskiy as the Old Hebrew. Sir Mark Elder conducts. This should be a good time: Garanča and Alagna raised the temperature in the House with Carmen back in the winter of 2010, the HD performance of which was captured on a 2 DVD set released soon thereafter by Deutsche Grammophon.

Next is a long awaited revival of I think a very underrated opera: Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, telecast on October 27 at 12:55. On the books at least is tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the role of Dick Johnson, paired with Eva-Maria Westbroek as Minnie. Nick Bosi is Nick, Željko Lučić is Jack Rance, Michael Todd Simpson is Sonora, and Oren Gradus is Jake Wallas. The production is by Giancarlo Del Monaco, son of Mario Del Monaco, a highly respectable Dick Johnson back in the day. The sets and costumes are by Michael Scott; Marco Armiliato conducts. The role of Johnson lies well for Mr. Kaufmann these days; here’s hoping we get to hear how well it lies for him live in the House. Were it not so difficult to type with my fingers crossed, they’d be crossed until October.

Nico Muhly’s new opera Marnie gets its Met premiere on October 19, but the HD telecast occurs on November 10 at 12:55. It’s based on Winston Graham’s novel, which is also the source of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of 1964. The alluring Isabel Leonard stars as Marnie, with Christopher Maltman as Mark Rutland, her husband, Iestyn Davies as his brother Terry, Janis Kelly as Mrs. Rutland, and Denyce Graves as Marnie’s mother. Conductor Robert Spano makes his Metropolitan Opera debut. Marnie is co-produced with the English National Opera, at which the opera premiered in 2017; Muhly’s opera Two Boys was well received at the Met in the fall of 2013.

Diana Damrau in the Met's new  La Traviata

Diana Damrau in the Met's new La Traviata

Arguably one of the most popular operas in the standard repertory, La Traviata returns to HD on December 15 at 12:55, at last given a new production to replace Willy Decker’s “ya seen it once, you’ve seen it all opera in concert (just about) with a lot of running around the stage and then there's this omnipresent large clock” production. Michael Mayer directs; the cast includes Diana Damrau as Violetta, Juan Diego Flórez returning to the Met as Alfredo, and Quinn Kelsey as Germont. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts. Christine Jones’ sets are sumptuous; costumes are designed by Susan Hilferty.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, Sir David McVicar’s new production of Francesco Cilea’s lovely Adriana Lecouvreur premieres with Anna Netrebko in the title role, Piotr Beczała as Maurizio, Anita Rachvelishvili as the Princess of Bouillon, Ambrogio Maestri as Michonnet, and Carlo Bosi as the Abbé. Charles Edwards did the Set Design; Brigitte Reiffenstuel does the Costumes; Adam Silverman is the Lighting Designer. The HD performance for Adriana Lecouvreur is January 12, 2019, at 12:55 p.m. Also an unjustly overlooked opera, for sure, but hold the phone for a minute: it is co-produced by five other opera companies here and in Europe. So maybe not so overlooked, right?***

Anna Netrebko as Adriana Lecouvreur in the new production

Anna Netrebko as Adriana Lecouvreur in the new production

Following Adriana on the HD circuit is another production by Sir Richard Eyre, Bizet’s Carmen on February 2 at 12:55. Starring along with Roberto Alagna (Don José) is the beautiful Clémentine Margiane in the title role.**** Micaëla is sung by Aleksandra Kurzak and Escamillo by Alexander Vinogradov. Louis Langree conducts. Another French favorite is Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, set in Lauent Pelly’s beloved production, his costumes too, and then sets designed by Chantal Thomas. Javier Camarena essays the role of Tonio to the Marie of Pretty Yende. Stephaine Blythe is the Marquise of Berkenfield. Maurizio Muraro is Sulpice. Enrique Mazzola conducts.

The Robert Lepage production of Wagner’s epic Die Walküre returns to the HD screen on March 30 at 12 p.m. The new cast sports American soprano Christine Goerke in her first run at the Met as Brünnhilde; Eva-Maria Westbroek repeats her role of Sieglinde; Stuart Skelton is Siegmund*****; Jamie Barton is Fricka; Greer Grimsley is Wotan, and Gunther Groissböck is Hunding; Philippe Jordan conducts. The complete Ring is performed at the Met this season, though Die Walküre is the only one to be telecast in HD; a complete Ring live @ the Met is a wonder to witness, certainly to hear in the House.

Isabel Leonard  stars in   Poulenc’s   Dialogues des Carmélites

Isabel Leonard stars in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites

Last, but most certainly not least, is the revival of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, telecast first time in HD on May 11 at 12 p.m. Heading the large cast is Isabel Leonard as Blanche de la Force, along with Adrianne Pieczonka as Mme. Lidoine, Erin Morley as Constance, Karen Cargill as Mère Marie, the great Karita Mattila as the First Prioress, David Portillo as Chevalier de la Force, and Dwayne Croft as the Marquis de la Force. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts. It’s the John Dexter production, which was new in 1977, with sets by David Reppa, costumes by Jane Greenwood, and lighting by Gil Wechsler. This is a dynamite cast, believe me, and a powerful operatic experience. Something not to be missed. Carmélites will be sung in the original French. ******

Photos by Vincent Peters, save the Carmélites above, which is by Ken Howard.

For those new to the Met in HD, the telecasts are a fantastic way to explore the world of opera in a convenient in a theater near you; check the Metropolitan Opera’s website for locations! Most venues provide subscription packages.

The LIVE IN HD Member Priority pass puts the window for advanced sales as July 12 to July 17 in the USA and Canada. You probably have received this already in the mail.

See you in HD!

Oh, and my pick for operas not to be missed at the Metropolitan Opera this season: Boito's Mefistofele, Puccini's Il Trittico, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Tchaikovsky's Iolanta/Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, Verdi's Falstaff, and of course the Ring, as mentioned above. 

And now for Asides and Addenda:

*The odds are that one of the next big roles in line for Ms. Netrebko is either Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera or Leonora in La Forza del Destino. Alas, Forza! One of my all time favorite operas. First cast was Franco Corelli, Ettore Bastianini, Gabriella Tucci, Giorgio Tozzi (February, 1965) at the Old Met. Had to stand for it...

**Make that Tony Award winning director Darko Tresnjak, who is most recently known here for his direction of Broadway’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (my whole family loved that show!), but…but also, a bit of trivia here, though not really trivial for those of us who know and love these things: Tresnjak is known for his direction of the Los Angeles Opera’s 2009 production of Walter Braunfels’ Die Vögel, (The Birds), which is available on an ArtHaus Musik DVD. Lest you’re thinking ah ha! now, what a coincidence!!! Probably Die Vögel is adapted from the Arthur Hitchcock horror film The Birds!!!!!! Just like Marnie…wow!, not so fast, it’s Aristophanes' play by the same name. Lovely opera, Die Vögel, by the way. Bravi LA Opera!

***Some local readers will recall the series we did in the fall of 2016 entitled Italian Operas you should know better: unjustly overlooked operas by Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Giordano, Cilea and Puccini. The series included Semiramide, I Puritani, La Forza del Destino, Andrea Chenier, Adriana Lecouvreur, and La Fanciulla del West. Save Forza and Chenier, four of the others have been performed at the Met within the past two seasons and this one to come. Bravi Metropolitan Opera! And maybe Forza soon.

**** Clémentine Margaine starred as Leonore in Donizetti’s La favorite at Caramoor in 2015 under the baton of Will Crutchfield.

***** Skelton was the stellar Tristan in the new production of Tristan und Isolde in fall of 2016, paired with Nina Stemme. Now musically speaking that was a Tristan und Isolde for the record books! Shame the production caused as many problems as it solved.

******Dialogues des Carmélites had its world premiere at La Scala in January of 1957 (in Italian with Virginia Zeani and Leyla Gencer), followed by its original French version in Paris later in June (with Denise Duval, Regine Crespin, Denise Scharley and Rita Gorr, conducted by Pierre Dervaux), subsequently recorded by EMI in 1958. Really an amazing recording, hands down. The opera premiered at the Met in English with this John Dexter production in the matinee performance on Saturday, February 5, 1977, with Maria Ewing, Shirley Verrett, Betsy Norden, Regine Crespin and Mignon Dunn, conducted by Michel Plasson.

A story for you: my dear friend Dick and I were going to the Met that same evening, 2/5/77, but he asked me to come to his house early to monitor the reel-to-reel recording he was making of the Carmelites broadcast. He had a local function of some kind to perform at that afternoon, probably a wedding, but this is tangential. It was my first exposure to Carmelites, though I knew some of Poulenc's music from the ABT. I remember being floored by the broadcast: you could literally hear the building tension in the audience, let alone on stage. The ending was heartbreaking. That night he and I attended the evening performance, Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète (new production with Renata Scotto, Marilyn Horne, James McCraken, Jerome Hines: Henry Lewis); as we entered the House, there was a pervasive emotional aura, members of the audience lingering, talking with others who had heard the broadcast. There were vibes…you remember vibes, right, man, good vibes, bad vibes. Two weeks later Dick and I later saw Carmelites (2/19). As we settled into our seats upstairs a strange odor, stinging, pervaded the air. “Tear gas, I think,” said Dick, who’d been in Viet Nam. Sure enough we had to evacuate the theater quickly and stood outside on Lincoln Center Plaza for at least an hour while the great ventilation system did its magic. The show must go on! And it did. And we discovered for ourselves what the aura was all about. Trust me, it’s a profound music-drama. Don’t miss this one.

Summer time! There is life! Enjoy! And look forward to the HD season. Plan to take a friend too. J.