Shakespeare takes center stage in week 19 with three consecutive operas based on his plays. Alongside the Shakesperean masterpieces, we also get to experience the antics of the ever-popular and beloved Figaro, a legendary song contest, a bittersweet and elegant Viennese poetic gem, and love in the American Wild West. The nightly opera stream starts at 7:30 p.m. on the Met’s homepage and can be accessed for 22 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, July 20
Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia – Starring Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, Christopher Maltman, and Maurizio Muraro, conducted by Michele Mariotti. From November 11, 2014.
“Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!” The super-famous name belongs to the wily title character of one of the most delightful comic operas ever composed. An ideal introduction to opera for newcomers, The Barber of Seville is based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais. Excerpts from Figaro’s lively introduction aria have been used in film, television, commercials, and cartoons.
Tuesday, July 21
Wagner’s Tannhäuser – Starring Éva Marton, Tatiana Troyanos, Richard Cassilly, Bernd Weikl, and John Macurdy, conducted by James Levine. From December 20, 1982.
The story is inspired by the legend of Tannhäuser, a thirteenth-century German poet and “Minnesinger” (lyric poet-singer), and on the tale of a song contest at Wartburg, among other sources. Christianity and Greek-Roman mythology clash in the battle for Tannhäuser’s soul between Venus, the goddess of love, and the hero’s quest for penance, motivated by his love for the pure Elisabeth.
Wednesday, July 22
Verdi’s Macbeth – Starring Maria Guleghina, Dimitri Pittas, Željko Lu?i?, and John Relyea, conducted by James Levine. From January 12, 2008.
Verdi himself referred to Shakespeare’s tragedy as “one of the greatest creations of man.” His opera follows the play’s action relatively closely (read Shakespeare’s Macbeth online). For a recent adaptation of the play watch the 2015 film with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard – available on Amazon Prime.
Thursday, July 23
Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Starring Anna Netrebko, Roberto Alagna, Nathan Gunn, and Robert Lloyd, conducted by Plácido Domingo. From December 15, 2007.
Beautiful and heartrending, this opera captures the timeless love story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in refined, unforgettable music. There have been numerous cinematic adaptations of the play, but a classic favorite is Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film.
Friday, July 24
Verdi’s Falstaff – Starring Mirella Freni, Barbara Bonney, Marilyn Horne, Bruno Pola, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine. From October 10, 1992.
Verdi’s final opera, composed while he was nearing the age of 80, is adapted from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Part I and Part II of Henry IV. It is Verdi’s second comedy within more than fifty years of creating operatic tragedies. The composer commented on his choice: “After having relentlessly massacred so many heroes and heroines, I have at last the right to laugh a little.”
Saturday, July 25
Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – Starring Renée Fleming, Christine Schäfer, Susan Graham, and Kristinn Sigmundsson, conducted by Edo de Waart. From January 9, 2010.
A comedy about love, the passion of youth, and the wisdom of age. This opera is one of Strauss’ several collaborations with the Austrian genius librettist, novelist, poet, essayist, and dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is a gloriously elegant musical and poetic tribute to Vienna as well as a fascinating mélange of zany comedy and profound reflection on aging and the passing of time.
Sunday, July 26
Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West – Starring Eva-Maria Westbroek, Jonas Kaufmann, and Željko Lu?i?, conducted by Marco Armiliato. From October 27, 2018.
Opera’s own Western is set in a mining camp during the Gold Rush era. Based on an American author’s play—David Belasco’s The Girl of the Golden West—this opera was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. Native American music—Pueblo music of the Zuni people—is featured in the traveling minstrel’s aria early in the opera. The 1938 movie, The Girl of the Golden West, is based on the play with songs by Sigmund Romberg.
Top photo: Bigstock