The Metropolitan Opera in Your Homes—Week 26: It’s French Week!

Week 26 makes it official: it has now been six months of uninterrupted opera streaming from the Metropolitan Opera! This week’s focus is on French opera and some of its most extraordinary composers, featuring three exquisite operas by Jules Massenet and two masterpieces by Hector Berlioz, alongside which Charles Gounod and Georges Bizet enchant us each with an unforgettable and abundantly-melodious work. 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, September 7
Massenet’s Manon – Starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Becza?a, Paulo Szot, and David Pittsinger, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From April 7, 2012.

This tragic tale of an attractive young woman torn between love and luxury is based on the 1731 novel Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. There have been many adaptations of the story; another famous operatic one is Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini. For a more recent French cinematic adaptation, watch the 2013 film version on Amazon. 

Tuesday, September 8
Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Starring Diana Damrau, Vittorio Grigolo, Elliot Madore, and Mikhail Petrenko, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. From January 21, 2017.

Beautiful and heartrending, this opera captures the timeless love story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in refined, memorable music. There have been numerous cinematic adaptations of the play; a classic favorite is Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film. For a fun and romantic take on the creation of Romeo and Juliet, watch the 1999 film Shakespeare in Love on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 9
Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust – Starring Susan Graham, Marcello Giordani, and John Relyea, conducted by James Levine. From November 22, 2008.

Berlioz portrays Faust, Goethe’s philosopher who sells his soul to the devil, in an operatic adaptation that has been described as a blend of opera and oratorio, so complex and difficult to stage that it is often performed in concert. The plot is based only on Part I of Goethe’s epic, Faust.  

Thursday, September 10
Massenet’s Cendrillon – Starring Kathleen Kim, Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Stephanie Blythe, and Laurent Naouri, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. From April 28, 2018.

Rossini’s Italian operatic version of Charles Perrault’s 1697 beloved fairy tale Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper may be the more famous adaptation, but Massenet’s opera is a charming variation in its own right. It is also sung in French, the original language of the story. It took 119 years for this work to arrive at the Met, and this production is its premiere. For a live action film adaptation of the story, rent the 2015 movie on Amazon.

Friday, September 11
Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles – Starring Diana Damrau, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecie?, and Nicolas Testé, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. From January 16, 2016.

Set in Ceylon, this story of two friends’ love for a high priestess is fraught with inner conflicts: between friendship and rivalry, between sacred and worldly love. The lovely “friendship duet” is one of the best-known duets for male voices in all opera. 

Saturday, September 12
Berlioz’s Les Troyens – Starring Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Karen Cargill, Bryan Hymel, Eric Cutler, Dwayne Croft, and Kwangchul Youn, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From January 5, 2013.

Berlioz thrills us again, with a masterpiece (for which he wrote the libretto himself), Les Troyens (The Trojans), based on Virgil’s poem the Aeneid. The Trojan horse, the Greek ambush, the aftermath of the Trojan war, Aeneas’s love and abandonment of Dido—these iconic tales of the Latin epic unfold on the rich orchestration, drama, and beautiful lyricism of what is considered by many to be the greatest French opera ever composed.  

Sunday, September 13
Massenet’s Werther – Starring Lisette Oropesa, Sophie Koch, Jonas Kaufmann, David Biži?, and Jonathan Summers, conducted by Alain Altinoglu. From March 15, 2014.

The German epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther catapulted its author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to fame overnight and inspired a Werther craze in fashion and love throughout Europe. Composer Jules Massenet and his librettists drew their inspiration from the novel to create an emotionally-intense, poetic, and passion-charged opera. For a fictionalized account of how love catalyzed the young Goethe to write this novel, watch the film Young Goethe in Love! on Amazon.

Top Bigstock photo: The French flag flying a the Arc de Triomphe.

About Maria-Cristina Necula (54 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.