In Week 21, genius composers Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Handel, Offenbach, and Wagner invite us into their thrilling, resplendent, moving, profound, and tender musical universes through fantasy, drama, satire, and opera’s own version of sci-fi. The nightly 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, August 3
Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Starring Ying Huang, Erika Miklósa, Matthew Polenzani, Nathan Gunn, and René Pape, conducted by James Levine. From December 30, 2006.
A love story with unforgettable music and fantastical, comedic, and philosophical elements, this opera is known as a “Singspiel” (the literal translation from German is “sing-play”); it includes both singing and spoken dialogue. This Met production by Julie Taymor is especially fun and imaginative. In honor of Mozart’s 250th anniversary year an English-language film version of the opera directed by Kenneth Branagh was released in 2006.
Tuesday, August 4
Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Starring Erin Morley, Hibla Gerzmava, Kate Lindsey, Christine Rice, Vittorio Grigolo, and Thomas Hampson, conducted by Yves Abel. From January 31, 2015.
Opera’s own sci-fi or opéra fantastique (fantastical opera) about a hopelessly romantic poet, his loves, and his muse abounds with supernatural elements and memorable music. Based on three short stories by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann that the composer actually saw as a play, Les contes fantastiques d’Hoffmann (The Fantastical Tales of Hoffmann) written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré.
Wednesday, August 5
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra – Starring Kiri Te Kanawa, Plácido Domingo, Vladimir Chernov, and Robert Lloyd, conducted by James Levine. From January 26, 1995.
The story is based on the play Simón Bocanegra by Antonio García Gutiérrez, whose play El trovador inspired an earlier opera by Verdi, Il trovatore. Political intrigue, self-sacrifice, paternal love, and young passion are at the core of this complicated plot about a 14th century Doge of Genoa, his long-lost daughter Amelia, and her lover, Adorno.
Thursday, August 6
Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Starring Kristine Opolais, Maria Zifchak, Roberto Alagna, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Karel Mark Chichon. From April 2, 2016.
Based on the short story Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long and on David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, this opera tells the tale of a teenage geisha who marries an American Navy lieutenant with tragic consequences. There have been many cinematic adaptations of the story—a poignant one is the 1995 film of the opera directed by Frédéric Mitterrand. This particular Metropolitan Opera production was directed by renowned filmmaker Anthony Minghella.
Friday, August 7
Wagner’s Parsifal – Starring Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem, Bernd Weikl, and Kurt Moll, conducted by James Levine. From March 28, 1992.
One of Richard Wagner’s masterpieces, this opera is based on the 13th-century epic poem, Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)—the story of the Arthurian knight, Percival, on the quest for the Holy Grail. This is Wagner’s last completed opera.
Saturday, August 8
Handel’s Agrippina – Starring Brenda Rae, Joyce DiDonato, Kate Lindsey, Iestyn Davies, Duncan Rock, and Matthew Rose, conducted by Harry Bicket. From February 29, 2020.
The title character is modeled on the ambitious and scheming mother of future Roman Emperor Nero, the historical Julia Agrippina the Younger, who schemes and plots to secure the throne for her son. This ironic and darkly humorous opera became an immediate success and established Handel’s reputation internationally.
Sunday, August 9
Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Starring Hibla Gerzmava, Malin Byström, Serena Malfi, Paul Appleby, Simon Keenlyside, and Adam Plachetka, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From October 22, 2016.
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 el convivado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest) by Tirso de Molina. The name Don Juan has entered the mainstream as a generic expression for a womanizer. For an endearing spin on the story watch the film Don Juan DeMarco, starring Johnny Depp as a mental patient convinced that he is the real Don Juan.
Top photo: Bigstock