You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less… fireworks. The artist is always there. (Maria Callas)
This week we are transported into the artistic stratosphere of some of opera’s greatest superstars in their signature roles. From Leontyne Price, Luciano Pavarotti, and Jessye Norman to Renée Fleming, Roberto Alagna, Anna Netrebko, and more, this is operatic performance at its utmost mastery and most breathtaking artistry. 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 30
Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin – Starring Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Valery Gergiev. From February 24, 2007.
Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is based on Pushkin’s novel in verse by the same name—an absolute 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.
Tuesday, December 1
Verdi’s Aida – Starring Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, James McCracken, and Simon Estes, conducted by James Levine. From January 3, 1985.
With this love-versus-patriotism story set in ancient Egypt, soprano Leontyne Price gives her farewell performance at the Metropolitan Opera in her signature role of Aida, as she retires from the stage. One of the most renowned singers of all time, she opened the new Metropolitan Opera in its current location at Lincoln Center in 1966 as Cleopatra in Barber’s Anthony and Cleopatra. Read more about this legendary soprano.
Wednesday, December 2
Wagner’s Parsifal – Starring Katarina Dalayman, Jonas Kaufmann, Peter Mattei, Evgeny Nikitin, and René Pape, conducted by Daniele Gatti. From March 2, 2013.
One of Richard Wagner’s masterpieces, this opera is based on the 13th-century epic poem, Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)—the story of the Arthurian knight, Percival, on the quest for the Holy Grail. This is Wagner’s last completed opera.
Thursday, December 3
Verdi’s Macbeth – Starring Anna Netrebko, Joseph Calleja, Zeljko Lucic, and René Pape, conducted by Fabio Luisi.From October 11, 2014.
Verdi himself referred to Shakespeare’s tragedy as “one of the greatest creations of man.” His opera follows the play’s action relatively closely (read Shakespeare’s Macbeth online). For a recent adaptation of the play watch the 2015 film with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard – available on Amazon Prime.
Friday, December 4
Bizet’s Carmen – Starring Barbara Frittoli, Elina Garanca, Roberto Alagna, and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From January 16, 2010.
The opera that launched the Metropolitan Opera’s Nightly Stream on March 16. Based on Prosper Merimée’s novella Carmen, this opera is always a crowd favorite. Some of its music—such as the “Habanera” or the “Toreador Song”— has crossed over into pop culture and often been a part of the soundtrack of commercials and films. For some cross-cultural fun check out the 1954 film Carmen Jones or the “Hip Hopera” version starring Beyoncé.
Saturday, December 5
Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos – Starring Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Tatiana Troyanos, and James King, conducted by James Levine. From March 12, 1988.
One of Strauss’ brilliant collaborations with writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, this opera combines elements of commedia dell’arte (literally, “comedy of the profession”—an early form of professional theatre that originated in Italy and was characterized by masks, improvisation, and pantomime) with those of serious opera. It underlines the competition for audience attention between what was called “high” and “low” art. At the musical soirée of a rich Viennese, two troupes of musicians and singers—one operatic, the other burlesque—must perform at the same time, since dinner is running late. In one unforgettable evening of entertainment the Greek mythological tragic tale of Ariadne’s abandonment by Theseus and the slapstick world of the commedia dell’arte unite.
Sunday, December 6
Puccini’s Tosca – Starring Shirley Verrett, Luciano Pavarotti, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Conlon. From December 19, 1978.
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 (free with Kindle Unlimited).
Top photo: Bigstock