The generosity of the Metropolitan Opera continues with Week 10 of its free stream of beloved operas and celebrated productions. A Cretan king’s impossible vow, a medieval knight’s secret name, the deadly conspiracy around a Swedish king, a Chinese princess’ deadly rules of courtship, a famous seducer’s downfall, an aged philosopher’s longing for youth at any cost, and a young woman’s passion for both love and money—these stories will enchant, thrill, and move us through the splendid and ravishing music that narrate them more intensely and viscerally than words. The nightly stream starts at 7:30 p.m. on the Met’s homepage and can be accessed for 20 hours. Please click on the title of each opera below for more information and the link to the full synopsis. To discover even more about the operas featured this week, check out the weekly guide along with articles, interviews, videos, podcasts, and educational resources.
Monday, May 18
Mozart’s Idomeneo – Starring Nadine Sierra, Elza van den Heever, Alice Coote, and Matthew Polenzani, conducted by James Levine. From March 25, 2017.
Considered Mozart’s greatest choral opera, Idomeneo is based on the French libretto by Antoine Danchet for an earlier operatic adaptation by André Campra. The opera tells the story of the King of Crete, Idomeneo, whose life is saved by the sea god Neptune at the terrible price of having to sacrifice the first creature he encounters—which turns out to be his son, Idamante. While he composed it in the Baroque tradition, Mozart introduced musical innovations, even interfering with his librettist’s text to increase the overall dramatic effect.
Tuesday, May 19
Wagner’s Lohengrin – Starring Eva Marton, Leonie Rysanek, Peter Hofmann, Leif Roar, and John Macurdy, conducted by James Levine. From January 10, 1986.
The story of the title character comes from the medieval German romance Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). It is inspired by the Knight of the Swan legend, a medieval tale about an enigmatic knight who arrives in a swan-drawn boat to help a damsel in distress requesting of her only that she never asks his name. The opera’s most famous piece is the “Bridal Chorus” (known as “Here Comes the Bride”) that is often played during wedding ceremonies.
Wednesday, May 20
Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera – Starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Kathleen Kim, Stephanie Blythe, Marcelo Álvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From December 8, 2012.
Conspiracy, impossible love, fortune telling, and murder animate this story about the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden during a masked ball. The text is based on Eugène Scribe’s libretto for an earlier operatic version: Daniel Auber’s Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué. Censorship forced Verdi to transplant the story to Boston during the British colonial era. For the last decades, in many productions the setting and the characters’ names have reverted back to the original 18th-century Stockholm location and personages.
Thursday, May 21
Puccini’s Turandot – Starring Christine Goerke, Eleonora Buratto, Yusif Eyvazov, and James Morris, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From October 12, 2019.
An opera that gives new meaning to losing one’s head for love. The beautiful Chinese princess Turandot asks three riddle questions of her princely suitors, and when they cannot answer all of them, she orders their heads chopped off. Will the mysterious Prince (Calaf) solve the three riddles and marry her? The story is based on the play Turandot by Count Carlo Gozzi. Its origin stems from on one of the seven stories in the epic Haft Paykar by 12th-century Persian poet Nizami. At the start of the 19th century Friedrich Schiller wrote a play by the same name. Puccini set the story in China and used traditional Chinese music for several themes, most notably Turandot’s theme. The opera is best known for its rousing, triumphant tenor aria, “Nessun dorma” (None shall sleep). Puccini died before completing the opera, and his student, Franco Alfano, finished it based on the composer’s sketches. At the premiere, conductor Arturo Toscanini ended the performance on the last note Puccini ever wrote (in the middle of Act III, two measures after Calaf’s father, Timur, sings “Liù, poesia”), turned to the audience, and said “Here the Maestro laid down his pen.”
Friday, May 22
Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Starring Joan Sutherland, James Morris, and Gabriel Bacquier, conducted by Richard Bonynge. From March 16, 1978.
The Don Juan myth has stimulated the imagination of countless playwrights, poets, musicians, philosophers, and filmmakers since the first written version of his story in the early 17th century, the play El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest) by Tirso de Molina. Mozart teamed with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte to create one of the greatest operas of all time. Legend has it that the real-life Don Juan, Giacomo Casanova, assisted them in the writing, drawing on his own amorous experiences as a famed libertine. The name Don Juan has entered the mainstream as a generic expression for a womanizer, even declared a “condition” by some psychiatrists: “Don Juanism.” For an endearing spin on the story watch Don Juan DeMarco, starring Johnny Depp as a mental patient convinced that he is the real Don Juan.
Saturday, May 23
Gounod’s Faust – Starring Marina Poplavskaya, Jonas Kaufmann, and René Pape, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 10, 2011.
An aged philosopher makes a pact with the devil in exchange for youth and earthly pleasures. The opera is based on Michel Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, that drew its inspiration from Part I of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic masterpiece Faust. The story has its roots in German folklore about the real-life alchemist, magician, and astrologer, Johann Georg Faust, known in English as John Faustus. Writers, playwrights, composers, and filmmakers have been fascinated and inspired by this timeless tale. The 1926 silent film adaptation of the legend by F.W. Murnau is considered one of the best horror films of all time.
Sunday, May 24
Massenet’s Manon – Starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Becza?a, and Paulo Szot, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From April 7, 2012.
This tragic tale of a beautiful young woman torn between love and luxury is based on the 1731 novel Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. There have been many adaptations of the story including another popular opera—Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini. For a more recent French cinematic adaptation, watch the 2013 film version.
Top photo: Bigstock