Enjoy a feast of free Opera streamings

Opera From The Metropolitan Opera in New York

Opera buffs are in opera heaven with the Met’s series of free Nightly Opera Streams that features outstanding performances from the award-winning Live in HD series.

A great advantage for South Africans is that it is streamed nightly in the US, which means we can watch it daily until midnight!

You can watch it in subtitles and there as some fantastic backstage interviews after each viewing. Registration on the Met Opera site is free.

This week the Met Opera invites you to revel in the delicious drama of opera’s most dysfunctional family dynamics

Monday, 30 November, Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra

The title ruler of Simon Boccanegra is one of the repertory’s most compelling characters, a 14th-century Doge of Genoa, beset on all sides, juggling political adversaries bent on murder with his love for his long-lost daughter Amelia. In addition to Boccanegra’s searing internal conflict between public duty and private grief, the story offers cloak-and-dagger intrigue, passionate young love, and noble sacrifice—set to an unfailingly dramatic, enveloping score that only Verdi could have created.

This evocative production by Giancarlo Del Monaco sumptuously captures the look and feel of 14th century Genoa and is a perfect compliment to Verdi’s setting of this story of searing conflict between public duty and private grief. Plácido Domingo is Gabriele Adorno, sworn enemy of the doge of Genoa, Simon Boccanegra (Vladimir Chernov). Gabriele is in love with the beautiful Amelia (Kiri Te Kanawa at her most affecting) who turns out to be none other than the long-lost daughter the doge. James Levine’s authoritative conducting of the Met orchestra and chorus reveals the dark power of Verdi’s score. From January 26, 1995.

From the legendary Luciano Pavarotti and Leontyne Price to current superstars Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann, this week of streams presents some of opera’s most outstanding artists in roles that are particularly significant pieces of their legacy.

Tuesday, 1 December, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece exemplifies the dramatic sweep, complex characterization, and insight into human nature that define great Russian literature and music. The story comes from Pushkin, and provides one of opera’s most compelling heroines: Tatiana, an intelligent but naïve adolescent girl who is first rejected by an older, more worldly man, then blossoms into an elegant, rich, aristocratic woman and returns the favor when the two meet again. The score is a chiaroscuro tour-de-force, sensitively capturing the many shades of the characters’ turbulent, conflicted emotions.

The pain of unrequited love is portrayed unforgettably by two of today’s greatest stars. Renée Fleming is musically and dramatically radiant as the shy Tatiana, who falls in love with the worldly Onegin, played with devastating charisma by Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Their mesmerizing vocalism and chemistry explode in one of opera’s most heartbreaking final scenes. With Valery Gergiev on the podium conducting Tchaikovsky’s passionate score, this performance is one for the ages. From February 24, 2007.

Wednesday, 2 December, Verdi’s Aida

Boasting one of opera’s most popular and thrilling scores, Verdi’s immortal tragedy about a love triangle in ancient Egypt delivers passion, intrigue, and heartbreak in equal measures. The characters—including a celestially beautiful Ethiopian princess, the formidable daughter of the king of Egypt, and the dashing commander they both love—are larger than life, and the scenery is as grand as it gets.

This was one of the most emotional evenings in Met history—the night Leontyne Price bid farewell to opera. Aida is the role that inspired audiences around the world to acclaim her as the greatest Verdi soprano of her time. And this telecast shows why: the famous soaring phrases that seemed to never end, the shimmering top to her lustrous voice, undimmed by the years. But most of all, there is the ennobling heart and soul Price lavished on every performance—captured here forever. With James Levine conducting the Met orchestra, chorus, and ballet. From January 3, 1985.  

Thursday, 3 December, Wagner’s Parsifal

Wagner’s final masterwork, about a naive young hero’s quest to restore the Holy Grail, demands unparalleled stamina from singers, conductor, and audience alike. Yet the payoff is an operatic experience as profound as anything in the canon, with an overwhelming, symphonic score, compelling psychological portraits, and a message of absolute redemption. The Met’s probing, post-apocalyptic setting by François Girard uses striking imagery to explore the work’s themes of destruction, reconciliation, and salvation.

The Met assembled an ideal cast for François Girard’s acclaimed new production of Wagner’s final masterpiece. Jonas Kaufmann in the title role of the fool “made wise by compassion” is as convincing vocally as he is haunting dramatically, delivering a thoroughly moving portrayal. René Pape is equally compelling as Gurnemanz, the veteran Knight of the Grail, and Katarina Dalayman thrillingly brings out the dual sides of Kundry. Peter Mattei is Amfortas, the anguished ruler of the Grail’s kingdom, and Evgeny Nikitin sings the evil magician Klingsor. Daniele Gatti on the podium reveals both the serenity and dramatic tension of what may be Wagner’s greatest score. From March 2, 2013.

Friday, 4 December, Verdi’s Macbeth

The plot may be focused on the eponymous Scottish king, but Verdi’s high-flying take on Shakespeare’s drama boasts three powerhouse arias for Lady Macbeth, making it a signature showpiece for divas at the very top of their game. Drawing equally on showstopping vocal virtuosity and deftly crafted drama, Verdi’s version of this tale of intrigue and power will keep you on the edge of your seat for all four razor-sharp acts.

Star soprano Anna Netrebko created a sensation with her riveting performance as the malevolent Lady Macbeth, the central character in Verdi’s retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy. She is joined by Željko Lučić, who brings dramatic intensity and vocal authority to the title role of the honest general driven to murder and deceit by his ambitious wife. The great René Pape is Banquo and Joseph Calleja gives a moving performance as Macduff. Adrian Noble’s powerful production provides an ideal setting for this dark drama, which is masterfully presided over by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi. From October 11, 2014.

Saturday, 5 December, Bizet’s Carmen

Even people who have never set foot in an opera house know the music of Carmen, Bizet’s iconic tale of the irresistible and free-spirited Gypsy, whose fatal attraction with the jealous soldier Don José burns too hot for them to control. The heart-pounding action and parade of energetic, toe-tapping melodies make the acts fly by and ensure that the work stays with you long after the curtain comes down. 

Richard Eyre’s stunning new production of Bizet’s opera was the talk of the town when it was unveiled on New Year’s Eve 2009. Elīna Garanča leads the cast as the iconic gypsy of the title—a woman desired by every man but determined to remain true to herself. Roberto Alagna is Don José, the soldier who falls under her spell and sacrifices everything for her love, only to be cast aside when the toreador Escamillo (Teddy Tahu Rhodes) piques Carmen’s interest. With dances created by star choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and conducted by rising maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, this Carmen brings every aspect of Bizet’s tale to thrilling life, from its lighthearted beginning to its inevitably tragic climax. From January 16, 2010.

Sunday, 6 December, Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

In penning this “chamber opera” in 1912, Richard Strauss sought to meld two powerful, yet seemingly contradictory, theatrical forces: the staid and decorous opera seria (a tradition of high art, noble deeds, and mythological settings), and the brash and low-brow slapstick of commedia dell’arte, populated by harlequins and clowns. The result is a heroic tale plucked from Greek mythology that is brazenly interrupted by a buffo brigade of singing comedians.

Jessye Norman is a regal Ariadne, the mythological Greek heroine in this opera-within-an-opera, opposite the passionate Bacchus of the great James King. Kathleen Battle delivers the coloratura fireworks of Zerbinetta, the leader of a commedia dell’arte troupe that finds itself stranded on Ariadne’s island. Tatiana Troyanos and Franz Ferdinand Nentwig star as the young Composer and the Music Master in the opera’s prologue. James Levine brings out all the color and charm of Strauss’s brilliant chamber-sized score with its equal amounts of pathos and humor. Bodo Igesz’s production features sets by esteemed designer Oliver Messel. From March 12, 1988.

Monday, 7 December, Puccini’s Tosca

In his classic potboiler, Puccini stirs together some of humanity’s strongest motivating forces—love and loyalty, fear and cruelty—to create an operatic thriller that sinks its teeth into the listener with the opening chords and never lets go. Taking place in Rome in 1800, the story concerns a fiery yet devoted diva, the painter/revolutionary she loves, and a sadistic police chief determined to crush political rebellion and claim Tosca for himself. All three are among opera’s most indelible characters.

A stellar cast brings Puccini’s spellbinding opera to life, seizing every opportunity to thrill the audience. Luciano Pavarotti is Cavaradossi, the painter and political revolutionary in love with the beautiful and famous singer Tosca (the riveting Shirley Verrett). Rome’s diabolical chief of police, Baron Scarpia (Cornell MacNeil), wants Tosca for himself—but he underestimates the fury of a woman in love. With torture, murder, and a suicide in its final moments, Tosca packs more dramatic punches than most other operas—and this classic telecast captures them all. James Conlon conducts in a production by the incomparable Tito Gobbi, one of the great Scarpias of the 20th century. December 19, 1978.

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