Week 23 begins with a verismo (realism) masterpiece and ends with a children’s story. In between, forbidden passion and romantic infatuation mingle with political conspiracies, fortune-telling, sparkling pranks, and tender love to dazzle us over the next seven operatically-versatile evenings. 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 17
Puccini’s Tosca – Starring Patricia Racette, Roberto Alagna, and George Gagnidze, conducted by Riccardo Frizza. From November 9, 2013.
One of the most electrifying and intense melodramas in the operatic repertoire. The love-lust-politics triangle of an opera diva, her artist lover, and Rome’s secret police chief, Baron Scarpia, leads to torture, murder, and suicide. This opera is based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou. Discover more in the opera study guide.
Tuesday, August 18
Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini – Starring Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. From April 7, 1984.
Tricked into a marriage she never wanted, Francesca falls in love with her husband’s brother, Paolo, who loves her in return, with murderous consequences. This powerful melodrama is based on the play Francesca da Rimini by Gabriele d’Annunzio, which is, in turn, inspired by an episode from Canto V of Dante’s Inferno.
Wednesday, August 19 – Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
Starring Anna Netrebko, Elena Maximova, Alexey Dolgov, Peter Mattei, and Štefan Kocán, conducted by Robin Ticciati. From April 22, 2017.
Step into the world of Russian opera with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, based on Pushkin’s novel in verse—a classic of Russian literature—available on the Poetry in Translation website. The novel has been adapted into several films; a British-American version, Onegin (1999), starring Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler, is available on Amazon.
Thursday, August 20- Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera
Starring Aprile Millo, Harolyn Blackwell, Florence Quivar, Luciano Pavarotti, and Leo Nucci, conducted by James Levine. From January 26, 1991.
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.
Friday, August 21 – Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra
Starring Adrianne Pieczonka, Marcello Giordani, Plácido Domingo, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. From February 6, 2010.
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.
Saturday, August 22 – Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Starring Kathleen Battle, Rockwell Blake, Leo Nucci, Enzo Dara, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, conducted by Ralf Weikert. From December 3, 1988.
“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.
Sunday, August 23 – Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel
Starring Judith Blegen, Frederica von Stade, Jean Kraft, Rosalind Elias, and Michael Devlin, conducted by Thomas Fulton. From December 25, 1982.
The beloved children’s story Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm found a musical home in this fairy-tale opera by Engelbert Humperdinck whose sister wrote the libretto. Its music is inspired by folk themes as well as by some of the harmonic techniques of Richard Wagner for whom Humperdinck worked as an assistant for a time. The roles of the two children are embodied by adults: Hansel is sung by a mezzo-soprano while Gretel by a soprano. In cinema, the most recent adaptation is the 2020 horror film Gretel and Hansel by director Osgood Perkins.
Top photo: Bigstock