The Metropolitan Opera in Your Homes—Week 24: It’s Verdi Time!

Welcome to the week dedicated to the genius and grand master of Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi. Seven of Verdi’s iconic creations for the operatic stage will melt our hearts, ravish our souls, and bewitch our senses in a profusion of unforgettable music depicting timeless aspects of the human experience: fateful passion, tender love, parental devotion, political and personal intrigue, and otherworldly influences. The nightly opera stream starts at 7:30 p.m. on the Met’s homepage and can be accessed until 6:30 p.m. the following day, with the exception of the August 28 stream of La Traviata, which will be available until August 29 at 12:00 p.m. The August 29 stream of Don Carlo will begin at the normally scheduled time of 7:30 p.m. Please click on the title of each opera below for more information and the link to the full synopsis. 

Monday, August 24
Verdi’s Rigoletto – Starring Diana Damrau, Oksana Volkova, Piotr Becza?a, Željko Lu?i?, and Štefan Kocán, conducted by Michele Mariotti. From February 16, 2013.

The play Le roi s’amuse (The King Amuses Himselfincluded 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. This production by Michael Mayer is set in 1960’s Las Vegas during the Rat Pack era.

Tuesday, August 25
Verdi’s Il Trovatore – Starring Anna Netrebko, Dolora Zajick, Yonghoon Lee, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Stefan Kocán, conducted by Marco Armiliato. From October 3, 2015.

The dramatic tale of a love triangle, a lost brother, a mother’s revenge, and fantastical and tragic twists of fate is based on the play El trovador (The Troubadour) by Antonio García Gutiérrez. Beautiful, sweeping melodies abound in this opera that is a showcase for four voices: tenor, soprano, mezzo-soprano, and baritone, and of which the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso has said: “all it takes for a successful performance of Il trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world.”

Wednesday, August 26
Verdi’s Luisa Miller – Starring Sonya Yoncheva, Olesya Petrova, Piotr Becza?a, Plácido Domingo, Alexander Vinogradov, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. From April 14, 2018.

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. 

Thursday, August 27
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. 

Friday, August 28
Verdi’s La Traviata – Starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 15, 2018.

Verdi’s operatic version of Alexandre Dumas fils’ tragedy La dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias) tells the tale of the young courtesan who finds redemption in true love and who is forced to sacrifice that love on the altar of societal restrictions. There are several film adaptations, but Greta Garbo’s performance in the 1936 film version (on Amazon) is among the best.  

Saturday, August 29
Verdi’s Don Carlo – Starring Marina Poplavskaya, Anna Smirnova, Roberto Alagna, Simon Keenlyside, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and Eric Halfvarson, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 11, 2010.

A supreme masterpiece, Verdi’s greatest political opera highlights the complex conflicts between politics, religion, friendship, and love like no other operatic work. Rooted in sixteenth-century Spanish history and inspired by Friedrich Schiller’s play, Don Carlos, Infant of Spain (read in English translation), the story turns on the life-and-death psychological power struggle between King Philip II and his son Don Carlos for the love of Elisabeth de Valois, and the freedom of Flanders.    

Sunday, August 30
Verdi’s Falstaff – Starring Lisette Oropesa, Angela Meade, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Paolo Fanale, Ambrogio Maestri, and Franco Vassallo, conducted by James Levine. From December 14, 2013.

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.” 

Top Bigstock Photo: Via Giuseppe Verdi, street plate on a wall of old house in Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy.

About Maria-Cristina Necula (53 Articles)
Maria-Cristina Necula’s published work includes the newly-released "The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions," "Life in Opera: Truth, Tempo and Soul," two translations: "Europe à la carte" and Molière’s "The School for Wives," and three poetry collections. Her articles and interviews have appeared in "Classical Singer" Magazine, "Das Opernglas," "Studies in European Cinema," and "Opera News." As a classically-trained singer she has performed in the New York City area at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Florence Gould Hall, and the Westchester Broadway Theatre, and has presented on opera at The Graduate Center, Baruch, The City College of New York, and UCLA Southland. She speaks six languages, two of which she honed at the Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Vienna, and she holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The Graduate Center. Discover more about her work at www.mariacristinanecula.com.