Verdi and Puccini Operas highlight upcoming season series at USCB

in Arts by

By Alan Schuster

Ten Live in HD performances from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera to the screen of the USCB’s Center for the Arts will make up the 2015-2016 season series, beginning on Saturday, October 3, with Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, starring the dynamic diva Anna Netrebko. Two weeks later, another Verdi classic, Otello, will be broadcast. And in early 2016, three consecutive Puccini operas will be performed. All things considered, there is much to be enjoyed in this tenth consecutive season.

October 3, Il Trovatore (Verdi). Francis Toye, the composer’s preeminent biographer, wrote that Il Trovatore “is perhaps the nearest approach to a purely singers’ opera, with its extraordinary wealth of melody, that assures its triumph.” Opera radio commentator Milton Cross calls the music “swift, spontaneous and stirring.” Joining Netrebko are two Met all-stars, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and mezzo Dolora Zajick. Tenor Yonghoon Lee sings the title role and Marco Armiliato conducts.

October 17, Otello (Verdi). The composer once claimed that his work was guided by the dictates of “brevity, clarity and truth.” Otello is very likely his best example. Sir Denis Forman wrote that the opera is “a continuous stream of music, powerful, passionate and responsive to the meaning of every line.” Toye similarly expressed his high esteem in these words: “Have the love, the anguish, the passion, and the hatred of human beings ever been presented with deeper insight or poignancy than in this music? I think not!” Baritone Zeljko Lucic (an impressive Rigoletto in 2014) will press his evil intentions upon tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko as Otello and Sonya Yoncheva as his wife, both of whom are making their Met debuts in these roles.

October 29-30-31, Pat Conroy at 70. A literary Festival Celebrating South Carolina’s Prince of Titles.

November 4, Wednesday, Tannhauer (Wagner). This event will be an Encore presentation of the ‘live’ HD telecast of October 31, due to the Conroy presentation mentioned above. The opera – an early work by Wagner – is based on a pair of unrelated medieval legends: Tannhauser, a German knight minstrel, has come to live under the magic spell of Venus, the goddess of love. With the exception of some weak links in the plot, a fine succession of music prevails throughout, enriched by Wagner’s unique imagination. Met fans favorite conductor, James Levine, accompanies tenor Johan Botha as Tannhauser and sopranos Eva-Maria Westbroek and Michelle DeYoung as rivals for his love.

The following content includes information taken from recent Met Opera sources.

November 21, Lulu (Berg). Conductor James Levine returns, this time for Alban Berg’s shocking masterpiece about a sexually irresistible young woman whose behavior causes destruction for those who fall under her spell. Coloratura soprano Marlis Petersen does the damage in her acclaimed interpretation of the title role.

January 16, 2016, Les Pecheurs de Perles (Bizet). If Georges Bizet’s remarkable Carmen had never been written. It’s very likely that ‘The Pearlfishers’ which preceded it would have graduated into the opera repertoire on its own merits. Tenor Matthew Polenzani and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien are the two pearl fishers whose friendship is tested by their rivalry for the love of the beautiful priestess Leila, sung by another Met favorite, Diana Damrau.

Jan 30, Turandot (Puccini). Dramatic soprano Nina Stemme sings her first Met performance in the demanding title role of the icy Chinese princess. Tenor Marco Berti sings Calaf (including the enormously famous aria “Nessun dorma”) as the suitor who risks his head for Turandot’s hand in Franco Zeffirelli’s visually spectacular production.

March 5, Manon Lescaut (Puccini). Kristine Opolais and Jonas Kaufman star as ill-fated lovers in Puccini’s passionate adaptation of Prevost’s classic novel about a free-spirited country girl who becomes the toast of Paris. Sir Richard Eyre’s new version is set in the 1940s.

April 2, Madama Butterfly (Puccini). Another Puccini heartbreaker awaits Kristine Opolais in the title role, this time in Anothony Minghella’s critically acclaimed 2006 production. Tenor Roberto Alagna sings Lieutenant Pinkerton, the callous officer who crushes Butterfly’s dreams of love.

April 16, Roberto Devereux (Donizetti). A superb cast will enrich Gaetano Donizetti’s final opera of his “Tudor trilogy”, following Anna Bolena and Maria Stuardi. Acclaimed bel canto soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will sing Elizabeth I with tenor Matthew Polenzani as the title character; Elina Garanca (a fabulous Carmen in a 2014 HD presentation) as Duchess Sara; and Mariusz Kwiecien as the Duke of Nottingham.

April 30, Elektra (Strauss). A blazing tragedy about an ancient Greek princess hell-bent on revenge concludes the Met’s series. Soprano Nina Stemme stars as the obsessed and bloodthirsty Elektra. Waltrude Meier portrays her mother, the object of her fury. Bass Eric Owens is cast as her exiled brother, Orest.

If you go…

Tickets for all opera presentations are now available. All seats are general admission. Adults $20; OLLI members $18; Students $10. Order online at www.centerforethearts.com or by calling 843-521-4145. Box office opens at noon. USCB Center for the Arts is located at 801 Carteret Street, Beaufort, South Carolina.