By Carole Reedy
As we near the end of the 2012-2013 season of Met opera transmissions, this month brings the monumental Wagnerian Parsifal and the Met’s lush production of Zandonai’s rarely seen Francesca da Rimini. On April 27, Handel’s Julio Cesar closes the season.
But don’t despair! The 2013-2014 season begins anew in October. Following the description of the two March 2013 operas below, we offer a bit of speculation about the operas under consideration for the 2013-2014 HD season.
Parsifal by Richard Wagner Opening night: July 26, 1882 in Bayreuth, Germany Saturday, March 2, 2013, Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City; Teatro Macedonia Alcalá in Oaxaca City and at other theaters and cinemas throughout Mexico Note early start: 11 am-4:40 pm (lecture by Sergio Vela for Mexican audiences will take place at 9:30 am)
The Met celebrates this bicentennial year of Wagner’s birth with a new production of Wagner’s final opera, directed by Francois Girard. Wagner intended that Parsifal be an event, not just a repertory piece, and indeed it is. Wagner started writing the opera in 1857, but didn’t finish until 25 years later. At the opening in 1882, one attendee remarked that he didn’t know what else Wagner could do in his life. In fact, Wagner died several months later.
This is a story of renewal, about a young man, a “pure fool” according to prophesy, who meets an ailing brotherhood of knights. From that point, his path from suffering to enlightenment and destiny is unveiled. Director Girard warns against a too-literal interpretation of the Christian theme in the opera. “I think Parsifal has been overly depicted as a Christian drama,” he says. “There are strong references—the mass, the wounds of Christ, the Grail, the holy spear. But it also has a very distinct Buddhist and, I would even say, nihilist foundation. We’re trying very hard to rebalance that in our approach.”
The remarkable cast stars tenor Jonas Kaufman. “Jonas is the dream for Parsifal,” according to Girard. “He can sing the music better than anyone, but he also has acting skills that we don’t always see in singers. He’s also a beautiful man with a pure face that this young fool calls for.” The world’s leading Wagnerian bass, René Pape, sings Gurnemanz. The director sums up the five-hour-plus afternoon in these words: “Parsifal is not just an opera—it’s a mission. It’s a sacred piece in the history of music, and I don’t think it’s a piece with which to play tricks. I hope that the contemporary costumes will add to the impression that this is not the story of a distant monastery. It’s us. It’s our suffering, our temptation, our weakness, the violent impulses in us.”
Francesca Da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai Opening night: Feburary 19, 1914 in Turin, Italy
Saturday, March 16, 2013, Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City; Teatro Macedonia Alcalá in Oaxaca City and at other theaters and cinemas throughout Mexico
Note even earlier start: 10 am-2 pm (with Vela lecture at 8:30 am)
It seems odd that this 20th century Italian opera–Zandonai’s best known work–is performed only occasionally. Operabase statistics tell us it was performed just three times between 2005 and 2010. But the New Grove Dictionary of Opera calls it “one of the most original and polished Italian melodramas of the 20th century, [which] combines a powerful gift for Italian melody … with an exceptional command of orchestration.”
The opera is based on a play by Gabriele d’Annunzio, inspired by the story of Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini from Canto V of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Francesca is married to Paolo’s deformed brother. Paolo and Francesca fall in love. Paolo’s other brother also falls in love with Francesca, and you can imagine the results. It all makes for great opera drama and music, of which Zandonai was a master.
In fact, Zandonai was the dying Puccini’s choice to finish his masterpiece Turandot, and Toscanini was in agreement with the decision. But for some obscure reason, Puccini’s son vetoed it and chose Franco Alfano to finish the beloved work. The ravishingly beautiful production of Francesca da Rimini finally returns to the Met after 26 years. Dramatic soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek and tenor Marcello Giordani are the doomed lovers.
Rumor has it…
Don’t hold us to it, but the scuttlebutt (via Salazar’s Opera Family Circle site) says the 2013-2014 Met HD season will include the following operas:
Eugene Onegin, a new production with Anna Nebrebko, Piotr Beczala, and Mariusz Kwiencien Falstaff, a new production conducted by James Levine starring Angela Meade and Stephanie Blythe.
Die Fledermaus, a new production. Prince Igor, a new production. Werther, a new production starring Elina Garanca. The Nose, same production as 2009. La Cenerentola with Joyce Didonato and Juan Diego Flórez. Tosca with Sondra Radvanovsky and Roberto Alagna. La Boheme Rusalka with Renee Fleming. Andrea Chernier And one more–Norma, Cosi Fan Tutti, or Wozzeck.
¡Vamos a ver! We should have confirmation from the Met in a month or so. Whatever the choices, it proves to be ‘una temporada maravillosa!’