The Metropolitan Opera in Your Homes—Week 36: Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Week 36 is dedicated to the Metropolitan Opera’s Music Director, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with seven thrilling performances conducted by the exceptional and versatile Maestro. The nightly opera 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, November 16
Verdi’s Don Carlo – Starring Marina Poplavskaya, Roberto Alagna, Simon Keenlyside, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 11, 2010.

A supreme operatic achievement, 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, 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.    

Tuesday, November 17
Gounod’s Faust – Starring Marina Poplavskaya, Jonas Kaufmann, and René Pape, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 10, 2011.

An aged philosopher makes a pact with the devil in exchange for youth and earthly pleasures. The opera is based on Michel Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, that drew its inspiration from Part I of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic masterpiece Faust. The story has its roots in German folklore around the real-life alchemist, magician, and astrologer, Johann Georg Faust, known in English as John Faustus. Writers, playwrights, composers, and filmmakers have been fascinated and inspired by this timeless tale. The 1926 silent film adaptation of the legend by F.W. Murnau is considered one of the best horror films of all time.  

Wednesday, November 18
Dvo?ák’s Rusalka – Starring Renée Fleming, Emily Magee, Dolora Zajick, Piotr Becza?a, and John Relyea, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From February 8, 2014.

In Slavic folklore, Rusalka is a “water sprite.” This is one of the best-known Czech operas, famous for the title character’s “Song to the Moon”—an aria that is often performed in concerts. Based on Czech fairy tales with elements from Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Mermaid, this tale of the nymph who renounces her world and the ability to speak for the love of a human who betrays her has been called “a sad, modern fairy tale” and a “profoundly disturbing drama.”

Thursday, November 19
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.  

Friday, November 20
Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites – Starring Isabel Leonard, Adrianne Pieczonka, and Karita Mattila, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From May 11, 2019.

Based on a play by Georges Bernanos, this opera tells the story of the Carmelite nuns who went to the guillotine during the French Reign of Terror for not accepting to renounce their calling. The nuns, known as the martyrs of Compiègne, actually existed and were executed on July 17, 1794. They died singing a religious hymn, and Poulenc captured this in an extremely poignant finale. 

Saturday, November 21
Puccini’s Turandot – Starring Christine Goerke, Eleonora Buratto, Yusif Eyvazov, and James Morris, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From October 12, 2019.

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 on one of the seven stories in the epic Haft Paykar by 12th-century Persian poet Nizami, and at the start of the 19th century Friedrich Schiller wrote the play Turandot: the Chinese Sphinx. 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). Puccini died before completing the opera, and his student, Franco Alfano, finished it based on the composer’s sketches. At the premiere, conductor Arturo Toscanini ended the performance on the last note Puccini ever wrote (in the middle of Act III, two measures after Calaf’s father, Timur, sings “Liù, poesia”), turned to the audience, and said “Here the Maestro laid down his pen.” 

Sunday, November 22
Berg’s Wozzeck – Starring Elza van den Heever, Tamara Mumford, Christopher Ventris, Gerhard Siegel, Andrew Staples, Peter Mattei, and Christian Van Horn, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From January 11, 2020.

This first opera of Austrian composer Alban Berg is based on Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck, the harrowing tale of a poor soldier’s medically-manipulated descent into madness and eventual murder of his lover. Wozzeck is regarded as the first opera in the 20th-century “avant-garde” style. It is also one of the best-known operatic examples of “Sprechgesang” (spoken singing) and atonality (music that avoids establishing a key).

Top photo: Bigstock

About Maria-Cristina Necula (68 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.