In Week 22 Puccini takes center stage with three magnificent operas featured alongside two Verdi masterpieces inspired by the famous playwrights Victor Hugo and Friedrich Schiller. Bizet and Wagner complete the line-up with passion, tragedy, and eternal love. 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 10
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut – Starring Karita Mattila, Marcello Giordani, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by James Levine. From February 16, 2008.
This tragic tale of a beautiful young woman torn between love and wealth 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 by Jules Massenet.
Tuesday, August 11
Bizet’s Carmen – Starring Aleksandra Kurzak, Clémentine Margaine, Roberto Alagna, and Alexander Vinogradov, conducted by Louis Langrée. From February 2, 2019.
Always a crowd-favorite and ideal for a newcomer to opera, the music from Carmen—like the “Habanera” or the “Toreador Song”—is so popular that it has crossed over into pop culture and often been a part of the soundtrack of commercials and films. For a moving cinematic adaptation, check out the 1954 film Carmen Jones. Discover the literary source of the opera: Prosper Merimée’s novella Carmen – free on Amazon Kindle.
Wednesday, August 12
Verdi’s Rigoletto – Starring Christiane Eda-Pierre, Isola Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Louis Quilico, and Ara Berberian, conducted by James Levine. From December 15, 1981.
The play Le roi s’amuse (The King Amuses Himself—included in this collection on Amazon) by French novelist, poet, and dramatist Victor Hugo was banned in France after the first performance in 1832 for what the censors believed to be insulting references to the king. Verdi, in turn, encountered censorship from the Austrian authorities in Venice when he and his librettist adapted Hugo’s play into the opera—and the plot’s location had to be changed from France to Mantua. The opera became so popular instantly that the Duke’s famous aria “La donna è mobile” (“Woman is fickle”) was being sung on the streets the day after the premiere.
Thursday, August 13
Puccini’s Turandot – Starring Nina Stemme, Anita Hartig, Marco Berti, and Alexander Tsymbalyuk, conducted by Paolo Carignani. From January 30, 2016.
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 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).
Friday, August 14
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – Starring Deborah Voigt, Michelle DeYoung, Robert Dean Smith, and Matti Salminen, conducted by James Levine. From March 22, 2008.
A supreme landmark of the operatic repertoire. The opera’s complex love story is based on Gottfried von Strassburg’s twelfth-century romance Tristan – available in English on Poetry in Translation. The iconic “Liebestod” (love death) finale has been used in films and television to symbolize doomed love, while the prelude underlines the suffering and the impending destruction of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
Saturday, August 15
Puccini’s La Bohème – Starring Kristine Opolais, Susanna Phillips, Vittorio Grigolo, Massimo Cavalletti, Patrick Carfizzi, and Oren Gradus, conducted by Stefano Ranzani. From April 5, 2014.
This timeless love story is based on Henri Murger’s collection of stories Scènes de la vie de bohème (Scenes of Bohemian Life) and is set in Paris’ artistic Latin Quarter. A crowd-favorite and great introduction to the world of opera, this is one of the most-frequently performed operas around the globe. Like Carmen, it has provided inspiration to other genres from the Broadway musical Rent to the film Moonstruck.
Sunday, August 16
Verdi’s Luisa Miller – Starring Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, Bonaldo Giaiotti, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. From January 20, 1979.
This is Verdi’s 15th opera, considered the beginning of his “middle period” during which his musical genius would blossom into new compositional directions. Based on Friedrich Schiller’s play Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love)—available on Project Gutenberg—it features one of Verdi’s signature father-daughter relationship portrayals, always tender and moving, as well as a young love destroyed by intrigue and manipulation.
Top photo: Bigstock