World of Opera

Reneé Fleming and Susan Graham Live at Carnegie

Thursday, January 24, 2013
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Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall (photo by Jeff Goldberg-Esto, courtesy of Carnegie Hall)

Join two stars of the opera stage for an informal evening of French songs, as Carnegie Hall is transformed into a Parisian salon.

Tune in at 8pm, with hosts Fred Child of APM's Performance Today and Jeff Spurgeon of WQXR.

Co-Starring with 'Carmen': Bizet's 'The Pearl Fishers'

Friday, January 18, 2013
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Host Lisa Simeone brings us Bizet's The Pearl Fishers from the renowned Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Sunday night at 6:30pm on Classical New England.

Annick Massis who stars as Leila. 
(Photo by Gianni Ugolini)
Annick Massis (soprano) ......................... Leila
Charles Castronovo (tenor) .................... Nadir
Jean-Francois Lapointe (baritone) ......... Zurga
Nicolas Testé (bass) ....................... Nourabad

Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Michel Plasson, conductor
Is it possible for a musical artist to come up with a work so successful that it actually ends up hurting its creator's reputation? It sounds unlikely, but let's have a look at one possible example. 

Mention the name Georges Bizet to a roomful of music lovers and responses will vary widely. Some might consider him "one of the all-time greats," while others would deride him as "a lightweight tunesmith" -- and every one of the varying opinions might just rest on a single composition. It's a mega-hit that tends to relegate his other works to second string status, leading some to dub Bizet as a "one hit wonder." 

Carmen, Bizet's final opera, was largely panned at its Paris premiere in 1875, and the composer died just a few months later. So he never saw what it ultimately became: one of the most popular and frequently performed operas of all time. Carmen's "Habanera," the "Toreador March" and Don Jose's "Flower Song," are just a few of its many hit numbers -- which can make it seem as though that single score must surely contain all of Bizet's finest music. 

So it's easy to forget that another of the composer's best-loved tunes comes from a different opera, and reveals that there's more to Bizet than just Carmen.

The opera is The Pearl Fishers, and it boasts a tenor-baritone duet, called "Au fond du temple saint," that sits right beside those famous numbers from Carmen on the Bizet hit parade; you can hear it in versions ranging from big band jazz arrangements to synthesized elevator music. But The Pearl Fishers itself has remained in Carmen's shadow -- which is too bad, as it has far more to recommend it than just one, ubiquitous duet. It also reveals another dimension of Bizet's brilliance. 

The Pearl Fishers premiered in 1863 and, like Carmen, it got a rocky reception. But there was one prominent critic who saw things differently right from the start. In one of his last reviews, published a week or so after the opera's first performance, Hector Berlioz cited The Pearl Fishers as evidence of Bizet's "characteristic genius" and described the opera as having "a considerable number of beautiful, expressive pieces, filled with fire and rich coloring." Listen for yourself, and you might just decide that Berlioz was right. 

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone brings us Bizet's The Pearl Fishers from the renowned Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, a hall which many feel has the world's finest acoustics. Tenor Charles Castronovo and baritone Jean-Francois Lapointe star as Nadir and Zurga, the troubled friends who join in the famous duet, with soprano Annick Massis as Leila, the woman who comes between them.  

More from World of Opera

About Host Lisa Simeone 

Coming up on World of Opera:

Jan. 27, 2013

Boston Baroque 
Boston Baroque Orchestra and Chorus 
Martin Pearlman, conductor

CAST: Owen Willets (Orfeo); Mary Wilson (Euridice); Courtney Huffman (Amor)

Of Gluck's two interpretations of the Orpheus story, Orphée, the French version, is probably the more striking -- with a famous, bravura aria and couple of well-known ballet numbers. But this version, in Italian, was the original, and is widely regarded as Gluck's masterpiece. Its premiere, in 1762, was a landmark event in 18th-century musical theater.


Feb. 3, 2013
Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona 

GIUSEPPE VERDI: La Forza del Destino 
Liceu Symphony Orchestra and Chorus 
Renato Palumbo, conductor

CAST: Violeta Urmana (Leonora); Marcello Giordani (Don Alvaro); Ludovic Tézier (Don Carlo di Vargas); Abramo Rosalen (Marquis of Calatrava); Marianne Cornetti (Preziosilla); Bruno de Simone (Fra Melitone); Cristina Faus (Curra); Vicenc Esteve Madrid (Trabuco); Vitali Kowaljow (Padre Guardino)

The first of this quarter's two productions from the historic Liceu in Barcelona, Verdi's vivid exploration of fate is relentless drama of politics, passion and revenge, brought to the stage by a highly-accomplished, international cast.


Feb. 10, 2013
Chorégies d'Orange Festival, France (Théâtre Antique, Orange) 
Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra 
Myung-Whun Chung, conductor

CAST: Inva Mula (Mimi); Vittorio Grigolo (Rodolfo); Nicola Beller Carbone (Musetta); Ludovic Tézier (Marcello); Marco Spotti (Colline); Lionel Lhote (Schaunard/Benoit); Jean-Pierre Frémeau (Alcindoro/Parpignol)

With Valentines Day approaching, it's what many consider the greatest "date opera" ever written. La Boheme comes to us from a venue that lives up to its name: The Théâtre Antique is an ancient Roman theater dating all the way back to the first century A.D.


Feb. 17, 2013 
Göteborg Opera, Sweden 
VINCENZO BELLINI: The Capulets and the Montagues 
Göteborg Opera Orchestra and Chorus 
Giancarlo Andretta, conductor

CAST: Kerstin Avemo (Giuletta); Katarina Karnéus (Romeo); Mats Persson (Lorenzo); Karl Rombo (Tebaldo); Markus Schwarz (Cappelio)

Bellini's take on the Romeo and Juliet story is unusual in that it's not primarily based on Shakespeare's tragedy, instead deriving from an Italian novella. It was a runaway hit at its premiere, causing Bellini to refer to it as "Zaira's revenge," as much of its music was recycled from his opera Zaira, which had failed less than a year earlier.


Feb. 24, 2013
Zurich Opera House
Zurich Opera Orchestra and Chorus 
Fabio Luisi, conductor

CAST: Kristine Opolais (Jenufa); Christopher Ventris (Laca); Michaela Martens (Kostelnicka); Pavol Breslik (Steva Buryja); Ivana Rusko (Karolka); Hanna Schwarz (Grandmother Buryjovka); Cheyne Davidson (Starek); Lukas Jakovski (Mayor); Susanne Grossteiner (Jano)

Janacek was in his sixties, at an age when many are thinking of retirement, when the surprise success of Jenufa first brought him widespread fame. The opera is an undoubted masterpiece, telling a disturbing, yet strangely inspiring story of multiple betrayals, gruesome murder and ultimate, if unlikely, forgiveness.


Mar. 3, 2013
Teatro San Carlo, Naples 
Teatro San Carlo Orchestra and Chorus 
Michele Mariotti, conductor

CAST: Carmen Giannattasio (Violetta); Saimir Pirgu (Alfredo); Vladimir Stoyanov (Giorgio Germont); Giuseppina Bridelli (Flora); Bernadette Lucarini (Annina)

2013's yearlong celebration of Verdi's 200th birthday continues with one of his most beloved operas, in a performance from the historic San Carlo in Naples, a theater dating to the mid 1700s.


Mar. 10, 2013
Bastille Opera, Paris 
Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus 
Michail Jurowski, conductor

CAST: Gleb Nikolsky (Prince Ivan); Vladimir Galusin (Prince Andrei); Larissa Diadkova (Marfa); Vsevolod Grivnov (Golitsin); Orlin Anastassov (Dosifey); Sergei Murzaev (Shaklovity); Viacheslav Voinarovsky (Scrivener); Natalia Tymchenko (Emma)

Mussorgsky followed up on his popular epic Boris Godunov with this colorful drama, which delves deeply into a complex and fascinating era of Russian history. Along with a number of striking characters, Khovanshchina also delivers some of the composer's most popular orchestral numbers, including "Dawn Over the Moscow River."


Mar. 17, 2013 
Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona 
Liceu Symphony Orchestra and Chorus 
Antonino Fogliani, conductor

CAST: Mariella Devia (Imogene); Gregory Kunde (Gualtiero); Vladimir Stoyanov (Ernesto); Vicenc Esteve (Itulbo); Fernando Radó (Goffredo); Elena Copons (Adele)

Regarded by many as the first truly Romantic Italian opera, Il Pirata was also Bellini's first indisputable hit, beginning a career that soon saw him threatening Rossini as Italy's most popular opera composer.


Mar. 24, 2013 
Boston Early Music Festival 
Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra 
Stephen Stubbs and Paul O'Dette, directors

CAST: Amanda Forsythe (Niobe); Philippe Jaroussky (Anfione); Keven D. Skelton (Clearte); Yulia Van Doren (Manto); Charles Robert Stephens (Teresia); Matthew White (Creonte); Jesse Blumberg (Poliferno); Jose Lemos (Nurse)

This rarely-heard gem is a splendid jumble of comedy, tragedy, mythology and politics. It's also one of the most accomplished operas of its time, employing a musical style that seems to bridge the artistic worlds of Monteverdi and Handel.


Mar. 31, 2013 
La Scala, Milan 
La Scala Orchestra and Chorus 
Nicola Luisotti, conductor

CAST: Leo Nucci (Nabucco); Liudmyla Monastyrska (Abigaille); Veronica Simeoni (Fenena); Alexander Antonenko (Ismaele); Vitaly Kovalyov (Zaccaria); Tatyana Ryaguzova (Anna); Giuseppe Veneziano (Abdallo); Ernesto Panariello (High Priest of Baal)

Verdi's first hit opera comes to us in a 2013 production from the same, historic theater where its world premiere was staged in 1842. It's one of many Verdi operas in which his patriotic followers found a timely political agenda woven into an exotic, historical context, and its emotional chorus "Va Pensiero" became a sort of unofficial, Italian national anthem.

Passions and Potions: Donizetti's 'The Elixir of Love'

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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Host Lisa Simeone presents The Elixir of Love from one of the world's great operatic venues, London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Sunday night at 6:30pm on Classical New England.

A scene from Donizettii's The Elixir of Love
(Courtesy of World of Opera)
Roberto Alagna (tenor) ...................... Nemorino
Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano) ................... Adina
Ambrogio Maestri (baritone) ....... Dr. Dulcamara
Fabio Capitanucci (baritone) .................. Belcore
Susana Gaspar (soprano) .................. Giannetta

Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
Bruno Campanella, conductor
Love potions -- or at least hopeful notions of love potions -- have been around for a long time. And why not? The pleasures of romance can be painfully hard to come by, and the idea of a magic formula that turns endless frustration into instant passion can be pretty appealing.

Not surprisingly, love potions have turned up everywhere, from ancient fables to 1950's pop songs. Remember "Love Potion No. 9," by the Clovers? And while love potions also play a role in any number of operas, there are two that stand out above the rest -- and they couldn't be more different.

Based on a medieval legend, Wagner's emotionally driven Tristan and Isolde features an elixir that actually works, but with dire consequences. The romance that ensues leaves one lover deceased and the other demented.

Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, isn't nearly so intense. It's a lighthearted romp, featuring a phony love potion that's nothing but a bottle of cheap, red wine. Still, along with all the laughs, Donizetti's unassuming comedy does serve up a couple of solid insights. It demonstrates that, when it comes to love, the genuine article beats any potion-induced passion. And it suggests that, when searching for a magic formula to stimulate the libido, human foibles can make placebos safer and more effective than any mysterious elixir.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents The Elixir of Love from one of the world's great operatic venues, London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden -- in a production featuring one of today's great tenors, Roberto Alagna. He stars as the lovesick Nemorino, alongside soprano Aleksandra Kurzak as Adina and baritone Ambrogio Maestri as Dr. Dulamara, the shady salesman whose dubious tonic gets the story rolling.

More from World of Opera

About Host Lisa Simeone

Susan Graham Sings Berlioz at Tanglewood

Thursday, July 26, 2012
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Remembering Shirley Verrett

Monday, July 23, 2012
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Evelyn Lear Sings Strauss

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
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About the Author


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