Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Thank you to all who have made Salazar Opera Family Circle a success. We look to have an even more successful 2012. If you enjoyed this page and want to get all the latest updates join us on Facebook or Twitter.

Once again thank you for following us.

Here are some of the most popular posts of the year.
Salvatore Licitra 
Faust Review
The Enchanted Island Review 
Salzburg festival 2012  

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Enchanted Island opens tomorrow

The stunning new production by Phelim Mcdermott opens tomorrow. Sir William Christie leads an all star cast lead by Joyce Didonato, David Daniels, Placido Domingo and Danielle Di Niese.

To read more about the opera read our review linked here.

Here is a video courtesy of the Met Opera

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Met Dress Rehearsal Review: (Cliche/Pun Alert) "The Enchanted Island" is Enchanting!

By David Salazar (For December 28 Dress rehearsal)

Please keep in mind that this review is of a dress rehearsal, so there are many factors to consider when reading it, the first being that the performance started at 10:30, which is not a normal performance hour for singers. However, the rehearsal was conducted like a live performance, and for this reason I take the liberty of treating it as such and writing a review. I will also be unable to attend any of the other Enchanted Island performances, making it necessary for me to lay my thoughts out here.  

For the first time this season, Peter Gelb has finally held up his end of the "theater first" bargain when it comes to his new productions. And make note, this is one of the finest productions to grace the Met stage in years.

For those who do not know, "The Enchanted Island" is a pastiche: a narrative combination of diverse arias and ensembles from different works and composers of the baroque period. Back in the 18th Century, it was normal for singers to interpolate arias from different works to suit their needs, and thus the pastiche was eventually adopted on a regular basis. The Met usually does not present baroque opera (the hall is much too large in many cases), but it seems appropriate that this sort of approach would be taken to reinvigorate the style into the repertoire.

The story and libretto, written by Jeremy Sams, borrow heavily from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," with a twist on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" mixed in. "Balanced" is probably the most appropriate manner to describe Sam's libretto. At the center of the story is Prospero, an elderly tyrant who once loved Sycorax, the former ruler of the Island. He abandoned her, stole away her spirit Ariel, made her son Caliban his slave, and took control of the island. Sycorax withered away into an unpleasant looking hag seeking revenge. Prospero also has a daughter Mirando who he hopes to marry off to Ferdinand, a nobleman. So he promises to free Ariel if she will conjure a spell to bring Ferdinand to shore and make him fall for Miranda and she for him.  Courtesy of Sycorax and Caliban's sabotage, Ariel conjures up the wrong spell and washes up the wrong ship, which actually holds the four lovers (Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia, Helena) from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." When Ariel confuses the men for Ferdinand, and Sycorax attempts to take one of the ladies for her son, all hell breaks loose and we are treated to some arresting comedy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Enchanted Island Rehearsal Thoughts/ Review Coming Soon!

Just got back from seeing the Enchanted Island Dress Rehearsal this morning. Will post my thoughts at some point tomorrow. Just to leave a hint: I actually liked the production!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Enchanted Island has 44 numbers

The Met has released a list of all the numbers included in the new pastiche "The Enchanted Island."

Here they are:

George Frideric Handel: Alcina, HWV 34

Act I1. "My Ariel" (Prospero, Ariel) – "Ah, if you would earn your freedom" (Prospero)
Antonio Vivaldi: Cessate, omai cessate, cantata, RV 684, "Ah, ch’infelice sempre"

2. "My master, generous master – I can conjure you fire" (Ariel)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, oratorio, HWV 46a, Part I, "Un pensiero nemico di pace"

3. "Then what I desire" (Prospero, Ariel)

4. "There are times when the dark side – Maybe soon, maybe now" (Sycorax, Caliban)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act V, Scene 1, "Morirò, ma vendicata"

5. "The blood of a dragon – Stolen by treachery" (Caliban)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, Part I, Scene 1, "O voi, dell’Erebo"

6. "Miranda! My Miranda!" (Prospero, Miranda) – "I have no words for this feeling" (Miranda)
Handel: Notte placida e cheta, cantata, HWV 142, "Che non si dà"

7. "My master’s books" – "Take salt and stones" (Ariel)
Based on Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Deuxième entrée: La Musique, Scene 7, "Aimez, aimez d’une ardeur mutuelle"

8. Quartet: "Days of pleasure, nights of love" (Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Semele, HWV 58, Act I, Scene 4, "Endless pleasure, endless love"

9. The Storm (chorus) – The Calm
André Campra: Idoménée, Act II, Scene 1, "O Dieux! O justes Dieux!"

10. "I’ve done as you commanded" (Ariel, Prospero)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, "Di rabbia indarno freme"

11. "Oh, Helena, my Helen – You would have loved this island" (Demetrius)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, Part I, Scene 2, "Così la tortorella"

12. "Would that it could last forever – Wonderful, wonderful" (Miranda, Demetrius)
Handel: Ariodante, HWV 33, Act I, Scene 5, "Prendi, prendi"

13. "Why am I living?" (Helena)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act II, Scene 1, "Dolce riposo")
"The gods of good and evil – At last everything is prepared" (Sycorax)
Jean-Marie Leclair: Scylla et Glaucus, Act IV, Scene 4, "Et toi, dont les embrasements… Noires divinités"

14. "Mother, why not? – Mother, my blood is freezing" (Caliban)
Vivaldi: Il Farnace, RV 711, Act II, Scene 5 & 6, "Gelido in ogni vena"

15. "Help me out of this nightmare" – Quintet: "Wonderful, wonderful" (Helena, Sycorax, Caliban, Miranda, Demetrius)
Handel: Ariodante, HWV 33, Act I, Scene 5, recitative preceding "Prendi, prendi"

16. "Welcome Ferdinand – Wonderful, wonderful," reprise (Prospero, Miranda, Demetrius)
"All I’ve done is try to help you" (Prospero)
Vivaldi: Longe mala, umbrae, terrores, motet, RV 629, "Longe mala, umbrae, terrores"

17. "Curse you, Neptune" (Lysander)
Vivaldi: Griselda, RV 718, Act III, Scene 6, "Dopo un’orrida procella"

18. "Your bride, sir? "(Ariel, Lysander, Demetrius, Miranda) – Trio: "Away, away! You loathsome wretch, away!" (Miranda, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Susanna, oratorio, HWV 66, Part II, "Away, ye tempt me both in vain"

19. "Two castaways – Arise! Arise, great Neptune" (Ariel)
Attr. Henry Purcell: The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island, Z. 631, Act II, no. 3, "Arise, ye subterranean winds"

20. "This is convolvulus" (Helena, Caliban) – "If the air should hum with noises" (Caliban)
Handel: Deidamia, HWV 42, Act II, Scene 4, "Nel riposo e nel contento"

21. "Neptune the Great" (Chorus)
Handel: Four Coronation Anthems, HWV 258, "Zadok the priest"

22. Who dares to call me? (Neptune, Ariel)
Based on Handel: Tamerlano, HWV 18, "Oh, per me lieto"
"I’d forgotten that I was Lord" (Neptune, Chorus)
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, Act II, Scene 3, "Qu’a server mon courroux"

23. "We like to wrestle destiny – Chaos, confusion" (Prospero)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act II, Scene 5, "Pena tiranna"

Act II24. "My God, what’s this? – Where are you now?" (Hermia)
Handel: Hercules, oratorio, HWV 60, Act III, Scene 3, "Where shall I fly?"

25. "So sweet, laughing together – My strength is coming back to me" (Sycorax)
Vivaldi: Argippo, RV 697, Act I, Scene 1, "Se lento ancora il fulmine"

26. "Curses, a fresh disaster" (Ariel, Demetrius, Helena, Caliban) – "A voice, a face, a figure half-remembered" (Helena)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act III, Scene 4, "Hanno penetrato i detti tuoi l’inferno"

27. "His name, she spoke his name" (Caliban)
Handel: Hercules, oratorio, HWV 60, Act III, Scene 2 "O Jove, what land is this? – I rage"

28. "Oh, my darling, my sister – Men are fickle" (Helena, Hermia)
Handel: Atalanta, HWV 35, Act II, Scene 3 – "Amarilli? – O dei!"

29. "I knew the spell" (Sycorax, Caliban) – "Hearts that love can all be broken" (Sycorax)
Giovanni Battista Ferrandini (attr. Handel): Il pianto di Maria, cantata, HWV 234, "Giunta l’ora fatal –Sventurati i miei sospiri"

30. "Such meager consolation – No, I’ll have no consolation" (Caliban)
Vivaldi: Bajazet, RV 703, Act III, Scene 7, "Verrò, crudel spietato"

31. Masque of the Wealth of all the World
a. Quartet: Caliban goes into his dream, "Wealth and love can be thine"
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Act III, Scene 7, "Tendre amour"
b. Parade
Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Troisième entrée: Les Dances, Scene 7, Tambourin en rondeau
c. The Women and the Unicorn
Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Troisième entrée: Les Dances, Scene 7, Musette
d. The Animals
Jean-Féry Rebel: Les Éléments, Act I, Tambourins I & II
e. The Freaks – Chaos
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, Act I, Tonnerre
f. Waking
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Act III, Scene 7, "Tendre amour," reprise

[there is no No. 32]

33. "With no sail and no rudder – Gliding onwards" (Ferdinand)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act II, Scene 1, "Io ramingo – Sussurrate, onde vezzose"

34. Sextet: "Follow hither, thither, follow me" (Ariel, Miranda, Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, oratorio, HWV 46a, Part II, Quartet: "Voglio tempo"

35. "Sleep now" (Ariel)
Vivaldi: Tito Manlio, RV 78, Act III, Scene 1, "Sonno, se pur sei sonno"

36. "Darling, it’s you at last" (Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, Helena)
Vivaldi: La verità in cimento, RV 739, Act II, scene 9, "Anima mia, mio ben"

37. "The wat’ry God has heard the island’s pleas" (Chorus)
Handel: Susanna, oratorio, HWV 66, Part III, "Impartial Heav’n!"

38. "Sir, honored sir – I have dreamed you" (Ferdinand, Miranda)
Handel: Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi, cantata, HWV 197, "Ma se l’alma sempre geme"

39. "The time has come. The time is now" ("Maybe soon, maybe now," reprise) (Sycorax)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act V, Scene 1, "Morirò, ma vendicata"

40. "Enough! How dare you?" (Prospero, Neptune) – "You stand there proud and free – You have stolen the land" (Neptune)
Rameau: Castor et Pollux, Act V, Scene 1, "Castor revoit le jour"

41. "Lady, this island is yours" (Prospero, Caliban, Ariel) – "Forgive me, please forgive me" (Prospero)
Handel: Partenope, HWV 27, Act III, Scene 4, "Ch’io parta?"

42. "We gods who watch the ways of man" (Neptune, Sycorax, Chorus)
Handel: L’allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, HWV 55, Part I, "Come, but keep thy wonted state – Join with thee"

43. "This my hope for the future" (Prospero) – "Can you feel the heavens are reeling" (Ariel)
Vivaldi: Griselda, RV 718, Act II, scene 2, "Agitata da due venti"

44. "Now a bright new day is dawning" (Ensemble)
Handel: Judas Maccabaeus, oratorio, HWV 63, Part III, "Hallelujah"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Die Walkure from the MET

A few days ago the Met's production of Die Walkure was uploaded. I wanted to share this as it has yet to be presented on PBS and there is still no talk of a DVD release.

I'm sorry if the link does not work any longer. The Video was removed by the user. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

What does Howard Shore have in common with Wagner?

In preparation for my annual film awards I was listening to the haunting score to David Cronenberg's new film A Dangerous Method written by Oscar winner Howard Shore. As I was listening I came across very familiar music that is accredited to Shore. For music lovers most will cringe or question this. However the music is from Wagner arranged for Piano.

Can anyone guess where this melody comes from?


Let me give you a hint. Lepage just finished the third installment.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gheorghiu's latest conquest

Diva Angela Gheorghiu is recording a rock song with the Romanian rock band Holograf. From the clip it sounds like music in the vane of Bon Jovi.

This is the latest Diva to crossover. A year ago Anna Netrebko recorded a pop song with the Russian star Phillip Kirkarov. The song went on to win numerous awards.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Linda di Chamounix will open tomorrow in the Liceu

Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez make their role debuts in this highly anticipated new production of Donizetti's Linda Chamounix.

The opera will be part of the live in HD from the Liceu of Barcelona.

It was just brought to my attention that the HD of Linda has been cancelled. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Open Dress Rehearsal for The Enchanted Island

There is an open dress rehearsal on December 28th for the Enchanted Island open to the public. Tickets will be distributed tomorrow December 17th at noon.

A Preview of the Enchanted Island will come soon!

For more information Click here 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hansel and Gretel opens Tonight!

Richard Jones' creatively charged production returns to the Met with a stellar cast that includes Kate Lindsey and star soprano Alexandra Kurzak

For more information read the Hansel and Gretel Preview linked here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

La Fille Du Regiment opens tonight

Lawerance Brownlee and Nino Machaidze star in Laurent Pelly's exciting production of the Daughter of the Regiment.

For more information click here 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Act 1 of Don Giovanni at La Scala

A few Days ago I published an article about the Scala Don Giovanni with a few clips. Today I have the complete first act for you.


 The Second Act will be coming soon.

James Levine cancels the rest of the Met Season or NEXT SEASON

It has been announced that James Levine has withdrawn from the remainder of the season and the 2012-2013 season:

Music Director James Levine will not conduct at the Metropolitan Opera for the remainder of this season, or during the 2012-13 season, in order to allow for a full recovery from the spinal injury he suffered last August. After falling while on vacation last summer, Levine underwent emergency surgery that forced him to withdraw from his performances in the first part of this season.

Due to the severe injury to his spinal cord, Levine’s doctors have said that his post-operative recovery will be a long-term process. Since September he has been at a rehabilitation facility, which he will be leaving shortly. While his condition has greatly improved in recent months, it is uncertain exactly when he will be fully recovered and able to return to conducting.

Following recent consultations with Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager, Levine has decided not to conduct for the remainder of the current season, or for the entire 2012-13 season. Although he might be ready to start conducting sooner, the decision about next season had to be made now in order to secure the services of replacement conductors for the works Levine had been scheduled to lead. The Met’s 2012-13 season and casting will be announced this coming February.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don Giovanni at La Scala

Today was the opening night of Teatro alla Scala di Milan. The season opened with a highly anticipated production of Don Giovanni by Robert Carsen. The Production conducted by Music Director Daniel Barenboim starred Anna Netrebko, Bryn terfel, Barbara Frittoli, Giuseppe Fillianoti,
Peter Mattei and Anna Prohaska.

 Here is a video of Anna Netrebko

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Top New Productions of the Gelb Regime (Yes I do like the guy)

By: David Salazar

A reader recently sent me a message telling me that I do a lot of "Peter Gelb bashing" and asked if I liked anything that he has done over the years. I'm not going to lie and I say that I was unaware of how negative some of my remarks have been toward the Met's General Manager. But considering that we are now five years into his tenure, I think it is a good time to reflect on him a bit.

Certainly there are a few things that I thought Joseph Volpe (the last General Manager) did better, most notably the respect he commanded from his singers and his unwilling to tolerate misbehavior. He fired Soprano Kathleen Battle after diva-like behavior. By comparison, Gelb has allowed Soprano Angela Gheorghiu to cancel NEW productions left and right with no penalty for her behavior.

However, Gelb has had his own fair share of successes and shown potential for growth in some areas, most notably his ability to market the Met's new image around the world through his Live in HD series. In fact, he has changed the world of performing arts with the Live in HD in general. Every time I go to the movie theaters, Fathom events is always promoting some sort of live performance in movie theaters whether it ranges from Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theater or Rock Concerts. This was virtually non-existent 5 years ago but is a major component of the movie theater and performing arts business as we now know it. And it's all because of Peter Gelb.

But the need to write this article has come up because of my constant criticizing of Mr. Gelb's strategy to bring in theater directors instead of opera directors to direct his new productions. I just want to set the record straight: I don't dislike the strategy and appreciate the desire to evolve this wondrous art form. The world of opera should not be a museum; it is a living breathing art form that needs to co-exist with its times. But opera does not need a revolution; it needs evolution. Compared to Europe's revolutionary stance on opera, Gelb has taken a more evolutionary route and I certainly applaud him for it. But with trial and error undoubtedly comes error and we have unfortunately seen a great deal during the past 5 years (and if you've kept up with my reviews this year you know a lot of error has occurred this season).

But there have been a great deal of surprising successes as well. So if any of Mr. Gelb's friends or fans are reading this, this is my opportunity to set the record straight with you.

So without further ado here are the honorable mentions followed by My Top 5 New Productions under Peter Gelb.

Honorable Mentions (no particular order):

"From the House of the Dead" by Leo Janacek
Directed by Patrice Chereau

"La Fille Du Regiment" by Gaetano Donizetti
Directed by Laurent Pelly

"The Nose" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Directed by William Kentridge

5. "La Damnation de Faust" by Hector Berlioz
Directed by Robert LePage

This Faust is technically not an opera, but has been staged as such in recent times. LePage took advantage of the work's structural freedom and magical themes to create some truly revelatory moments on stage. His use of the video technology and its ability to interact with the singers was truly mesmerizing and innovative. I had a few issues with the lack of depth on stage and some of the malfunctions of the production, but it was all forgotten as I watched Faust swim underwater and the horses race across the stage through video projections. The winning moment of the night however may have been Marguerite's aria about her passion for Faust, portrayed by a flame that matched the singer's intensity to the the tee. If the volume and strength of the voice increased, so did the size and intensity of the flame.

LePage went on to the largest undertaking possible at the Met (The Ring Cycle), but this is his best work by far.

4. "Carmen" by Georges Bizet
Directed by Richard Eyre

This was a controversial production for many critics and apparently was too violent for some audience members. I don't understand the critics problems (some thought it was conservative, some thought it claustrophobic, others too violent, etc.) and I don't know why the audience found it too violent (for tasteless violence take a look at Calixo Bieto's vulgar borderline torture porn over at the Liceu). Eyre's production was a tremendous upgrade from Zeffirelli's safer approach. It plays on that idea of evolution that I mentioned. It is still "traditional" in the sense that it tells the same story with no major alterations. However, it pushes the material into a more physical dimension that has not been previously seen at the Met. Yes it is violent, but certainly not to the point of vulgarity. Eyre brings out both the sexual tensions and allows them to simmer until they reach their boiling point. There are some nods here to past interpretations of Carmen, specifically cinematic ones: Francesco Rosi's metaphor of Carmen and Jose's battle being like a bullfight; an entire dance sequence (without music) to begin Act 2 that is clearly inspired by Carlos Saura's film based on the opera. The production eases conservative audiences into more uneasy territory while also appealing to youthful audiences with its drive and energy.

The opening black curtain has a red line across it, almost looking like it was slashed across the curtain. It adds to the violent nature of the work and prepares us for what is to come. The stage is used brilliantly throughout: the woman from the cigarette factory come up from below the stage to demonstrate not only the hell they live in but their inferiority; the soldier's base is a small space all the way downstage and separated from the center of the stage by walls and fences, emphasizing their isolation and distance from the common folk and their problems. The second act's grotto is extremely picaresque and attuned with Spanish folklore. The mountains of the third act are cavernous and menacing, while the final act actually gives us an opportunity to enter the bullring at the very end to reveal the slaughtering of the bull.

I saw this production twice and both times with different casts. From watching the performers it was clear to me that the singers completely understood their relationships on stage and with their environments. The production was clearly well thought out and the concept so clear that it crossed over from one season and cast to the next with little difficultly or detriment.

3. "Il Trittico" by Giacomo Puccini
Directed by Jack O'Brien

Another example of evolution over revolution. O'Brien essentially "updates" the setting of Puccini's trio by setting them in the twentieth century. Unlike the other productions mentioned on this list, this one is more in the vein of the traditional set that Met audiences expect with lavish sets and fine costumes. But O'Brien doesn't do lavish for the sake of lavish and visual splendor: this style has substance. "Il Tabarro" has a massive boat as its centerpiece with a gorgeous "recreation" of the Seine that is so real it almost makes you feel like you were there in that time period. But despite that initial excitement of seeing this intense realism on stage, the overall set has a grimy feel to it. The boat is corroded, the streets in the port are likewise dirty and all of the wardrobe matches this ambience with its rustic look and feel.

"Suor Angelica" is set in the garden of a convent with three walls on each side of the stage emphasizing the claustrophobic and implacable nature of the environment. The lighting has a blue hue throughout giving the work a cold and oppressive feel. This is further supported by O'Brien's direction of all the characters that Suor Angelica interacts with. Not only does the Princess reject her, but the nuns do as well, walking about like lifeless zombies (adding to the despair of this work). The final revelation takes place all the way upstage as the door in the back opens to reveal the child. It is sublime in its execution and matches the emotional intensity of Puccini's music.

The set of "Gianni Schicchi" does not have the same powerful impression of realism that "Il Tabarro" does but it is large and finely detailed. However, despite the lavish nature of the mansion, it is in disarray and filled with imbalanced structures, creating a fantastic juxtaposition for this incredible comedy.

The production is not only incredible to look at from a production stand-point. Both times I saw it, the different casts (with some like Alessandro Corbelli reprising roles) were equally engaged. The energy that emanates from the differing sets and O'Brien's trust in the material clearly transferred to the casts that made these two "Triticco" performances some of the most of memorable I have seen on the Met stage.

2. "Madame Butterfly" by Giacomo Puccini
Directed by Anthony Minghella

This production opened Gelb's tenure at the Met and remains one of the finest that he has released. The set is minimalism at its finest, blending some Asian theatrical tricks with western theatrical staples. Magic is at the center of this production's concept as Minghella and crew gave this work an ethereal nature to support Butterfly's fantasy of having a real family with Pinkerton.

The set is one large mirror that combined with incredible use of props and supreme lighting creates moments that of sublime nature. Take the famous love duet, one of the opera's major dramatic and musical centers. China balls and other globes emanating light fall from the ceiling and scatter across the stage. The stage lights are minimal, relying mainly on the effect of the lights coming from these globes. This creates a glorious feel of night, but a night that is taking place in a different dimension for the two lovers. Their playing a game of hide and seek through this maze of globes adds to the playful nature of the scene, but also emphasizes their getting lost in this world of bliss, if only for one night.

Butterfly's entrance all the way upstage in the midst of other geisha's clad in lavish attire also adds to the magical aura of this character. We hear the singing off stage and slowly getting closer. Where are they coming from? Suddenly from upstage we see the geisha's rise from below and dominate the stage.

At the start of the second act, we see Butterfly serving something for her lover Pinkerton as he sits in what is likely their living room. Suddenly a door sweeps by and takes Pinkerton with it. It was all a figment of her imagination. Moments such as these, may seem simple, but they are extremely effective in their execution.

And I have yet to bring up the puppetry that has gained a great deal of attention over the years. Instead of taking risks of putting a real baby on stage, Minghella turned to the art of puppetry to create one of the most memorable characters in any Met Production EVER. Cio-Cio San's (Butterfly) baby boy as executed by a fine team of 3 puppeteers is simply unforgettable in how he makes you forget he's a puppet; he just reads as a real child. The prelude of Act 3 also utilizes Puppetry as Butterfly imagines a different and happier life.

The final scene in which Butterfly kills herself is also electric with red lighting and extended silk robes representing Butterfly's blood. With Cio-Cio San silhouetted, one can almost see the form of the disappearing butterfly on stage giving the tragic ending a transcendent quality that seems more at home with Isolde's "Liebestod" than Butterfly's death. However, there are no complaints here as the effect does not lessen the feeling of remorse. This truly mesmerizing death juxtaposed with the moments of watching the baby blindfolded on stage left while Pinkerton arrives just a tad bit late from the downstage right are breathtakingly moving.

Most importantly, like the others on this list, Minghella trusts the text and source material and simply finds new ideas and themes from within. His theme of Butterfly living out a fantastical existence is a fascinating insight that sheds new light on a repertoire staple. And it is because this insight is founded within the confines of RESPECT for the source material that this production appeals not only to new, but also traditional audiences. These are the kind of new productions of canon works that the Met has been dying for recently and that Gelb needs to keep on bringing.

1. "Satyagraha" by Phillip Glass
Directed by Phelim McDermott

I absolutely love Minghella's Madama Butterfly production. And to give another production my top honor simply emphasizes just how moving this Satyagraha is. The production is so clear in its intent to engage its audience in a dialogue throughout. In my review of this year's performance of Satyagraha I spoke of Wagner's philosophy of the "Gesamtkunstwerk"  being achieved to perfection in this production.

The entire work does not have a typical narrative, but instead makes historical references to Gandhi's creation of the Satyagraha movement. Supporting the opera's break from traditional narrative, McDermott does the same with the production, utilizing every theatrical trick in the book to create numerous abstractions that support the material. Massive puppets and skyscraper cutouts dominate over Gandhi, emphasizing the power of the western world attacking him and his people; The Indian Opinion newspapers stretch all across the stage from left to right, up and down, and even up toward the ceiling portraying Gandhi's message reaching across all cultural and even mystical barriers. A magical flame announces the baptism of the moment. Text that projects across the set also adds insight to the philosophy of the text. Video projections emphasize the protests of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, connecting Gandhi's movement to Martin Luther King's, here believed to be the heir and perpetuation of Gandhi's legacy.

The best production decision of all? No subtitles. There simply is no need. The production is so focused and engaging that there is no reason to look away.

However, despite all the philosophy and symbols packed into the production, McDermott does not forget that people go to the opera for visceral experiences; to understand and feel the emotions of characters larger than themselves. Gandhi is definitely one of those larger than life characters and despite the dense subject matter McDermott makes it a point to provide his audience with ecstasy and catharsis. To simply quote my enthusiastic review:

 "It was in Act 3, the scene with the least visual activity, the power and message of the work really touched me. We see Martin Luther at the center of upstage, his back to the audience up on a high podium preaching. The set is closed off in an oval shape save for the opening through which we see King speak. Gandhi (played beautifully by Richard Croft) is downstage and has just lost all of his supporters and friends and is alone. He turns toward King and the stage opens up around the podium revealing a cloudy sky, giving off the sense that King is preaching to the infinity. At this moment Gandhi walks over to the podium and puts his hand over it, like King his back to the audience. The music changes its direction at this moment and begins a sequence of ascending repetitions. It is a magical moment and one that really brought across that feeling of human transcendence and unity that the opera hopes to send.  Moments later, after singing a gorgeous pleading ascending line time and time again, Gandhi turns around and comes face to face with King: the acknowledgement of that human transcendence, and absolutely cathartic moment.

For its ability to combine and stimulate human imagination, reason, and emotion this production represents one of the great milestones in Gelb's tenure as Met Manager. I am truly grateful of his desire to expand the repertoire and introduce modern works in ways that can stimulate all audiences. This Satyagraha certainly represents his best example to date. Here's hoping he keeps them coming.

I would like to reiterate that these are my opinions and impressions. I would love to hear other people's own lists and any comments whether they agree or disagree with me.

Madama Butterfly Opens Tonight

Anthony Minghella's astounding production opens tonight starring Lipang Zhang under the direction of the great Placido Domingo.

For more information here is a link to my preview:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Met Opera Review: McAnuff blows up "Faust"

By David Salazar (For the 12.3.2011 Performance)

Saturday night's performance of Charles Gounod's "Faust" proved a peculiar evening for numerous reasons. Usually a night at the opera is punctuated by what is going onstage and how it seems to affect the audience. However, this time it was the other way around. For those wondering, there were no boos (though I am sure some would have loved to have done that had Des McAnuff and crew shown up for curtain calls). No, the uneasy moment that reverberated throughout the night was an unknown man's battle cry of "Occupy Wall Street" that rang throughout the hall moments before the start of Act 3. The result was a mix of boos and cheers that lasted for almost 2 minutes. Safe to say this ovation/jeering lasted longer than any ovation for any of the performers for the rest of the night. From my perspective, this moment (whether it actually had any affect on the singers or was just a coincidence) emphasized a great restlessness that permeated the evening.

Politics may very well have been the presiding theme of the evening (though not modern US politics). The production represents one of Peter Gelb's latest attempts to establish his artistic voice and standing in the world of opera. He has long stated the need to evolve the art form and bring in "real " directors to get rid of the pageantry that has long "bogged down the art form (take that for what you will)." The Met needs to compete with the rest of the art forms in New York and in the US, so it is natural that from a political standpoint, "Change that We Can Believe In" has been HIS Battlecry for the 5 years of his tenure. So this "Change" sees its latest ramification in McAnuff's political (to some degree considering its inclusion of World War 1 & 2 and the atomic bomb) "Faust."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Faust Premieres tonight

The new production Des McAnuff opens tonight at the Metropolitan Opera. They will stream it live on at

For more information check out my Faust Preview

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Preview of the new MET Eugene Onegin

As it was previously reported the MET will produce a new production of Eugene Onegin by Deborah Warner. The production is a co-production with the English National Opera where it was highly praised for its engrossing and atmospheric quality.

Here is a video and a couple of pictures

"Eugene Onegin"

Friday, November 18, 2011

La Boheme opens tonight

Franco Zeffirelli's stunning production of La Boheme returns to the Met.

For more information click here 

No Siegfried for Lehman this Season Afterall

It has just been announced that  “Jay Hunter Morris will sing the role of Siegfried in Siegfried on April 21 matinee and April 30, 2012, and in Götterdämmerung on May 3, 2012. He replaces Gary Lehman who has withdrawn due to illness.” 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rodelinda Opens Tonight

Renne Fleming returns to the role of Rodelinda with a stellar cast that includes Stephanie Blythe and Andreas Scholl

For more information click here (Rodelinda Preview)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Met Opera Review: Stellar Cast Compensates for Dull, Safe "Don Giovanni" Production

By David Salazar (For 11.11.11 Performances)

Mozart's "Don Giovanni" is one of those fascinatingly ambiguous works of art that are endlessly reinterpreted both in an academic and performance context. When a new production is set to come out, there is always a sense of anticipation as to how the events and characters will be portrayed on stage. "What is the new angle?" is generally the question that comes to mind, one which not many of the cornerstones of the operatic repertoire (save for Wagner's works) can really claim to have.

The same question was posed for the Met's latest production by Tony Award Winning Director Michael Grandage. Prior to Grandage's latest attempt, director Marthe Keller offered a relatively conservative approach to the opera in 2004 after 14 years of Franco Zeffirrelli's two visually stunning, but traditional productions. What I mean by conservative in this context is that the stage design and visuals such as costuming and furniture hew closely to the librettist's intentions with regards to time period. Both Zeffirelli and Keller's productions, while different (Keller's staging was less elaborate than Zeffirelli, though no less engaging and satisfactory) essentially gave its audience what is generally expected of this great work. This is by no means a negative comment whatsoever. So naturally a new production means a new direction.

Except that this is not the case. The problem is not that Grandage simply continues that which Zeffirelli and Keller did before them. The problem is that this one lacks the grandiosity of the Zeffirelli or the mood and tone of Keller's. It is simply safe and because of the caution, dull and boring. I can't really blame Grandage for his cautious nature. The Met audience has become rather difficult to please with these new high concept productions (ask Mary Zimmerman about her "Sonnambula") and "Don Giovanni" with its plot filled with rape, violence, and intrigue has been the object of tasteless productions around the world (see Barcelona or Salzburg's productions). But there is certainly great disappointment with the feeling that this conservative production is a step down from what the Met used to have. More importantly, if there was no new idea being expressed about the opera, why get rid of something that already fulfilled the same ideas, and did them better no less. Seems like a pointless exercise in money wasting and certainly not the artistic progress expected from the world's greatest Opera House.

I would not call Grandage's "Don Giovanni" a bad production. Bad production is one in which the effort looks unfinished and the actors look lost on stage (see this season's new "Anna Bolena"). The problem is that the opera becomes rather bland and predictable. There is no play on any of the characters' ambiguities. There is a certain restraint in all of the aforementioned elements (the violence, sex, and intrigue). This is a Don Giovanni that we have seen again and again. This lack of insight or depth makes me wonder where Grandage's attention was when directing this production, especially when one looks at the production's main attraction and greatest gimmick: the high walls filled with rows and rows of doors that open and close without any really method or direction.

This production had so much potential. After all, this is the story of multiple characters with their own secrets hidden behind doors and closets, things that they may not want other characters to see or know. Add in the fact that we are seeing upwards of 30 doors on stage at the time and you wonder about the possibilities of what could be seen when one opens or closes, etc. Not only a great possibility to depict individual characters, but to create the world. Who else lives behind all those doors? How do they interact with the main characters? An example of this missed opportunity is during Leoporello's "Madamina" aria in Act 1. As he relates the catalog of women that Don Giovanni has loved, the doors open on the left wall to reveal many women. Then the doors on the right do the same. Then the two walls slide off stage and the row of doors in the back does exactly the same exact thing. But the catch here is that we don't really get any emphasis on the text. It is just a random conglomeration of women hanging out and doing nothing. Even worse is that since the doors open without any sense of sequence, the effect loses focus and direction as the viewer is overloaded with too many things happening at once. Maybe one group of women in some sort of order and with different tasks or visual depictions would not only add to Leoporello's narrative and give the audience something to immerse them into the production. Instead, it all looks like superfluous clutter that probably would not have been missed had it not been included. This is all the more frustrating when one considers how distracting this ploy is to the great acting of Luca Pisaroni and Barbara Frittoli in this sequence. At the end of the opera when the remaining characters enter Giovanni's palace to see what has become of him the doors are used in an outrageously distracting and confusing manner. The characters hed down stage and the walls close up the center of the stage behind them and moments later they open up to reveal an empty space. Why they needed to open up again seems pointless considering that if they are to open up there is an anticipation of something revelatory happening. Instead we get an empty space. Essentially they closed the doors to get rid of a table and move the back wall. More importantly, if there was no big reveal at the end, why even bother with the closing and reopening to begin with. The only result is to distract from the gorgeous singing on stage.

Fortunately, there are salvageable aspects of this production. The dances are well choreographed and incorporated into the production. The end of Act 1 and Don Giovanni's manner of escaping the trap set by his enemies is refreshingly exciting. The iconic scene at the end of the opera is also well staged with prostitutes, a drunk Don Giovanni, an attempted rape and the doors are finally put to novel use. AND... there are jets of fire that spit up from the ground.

But I think that the night's greatest remedy was the singing and acting from the stellar cast. And I mean STELLAR. Not one person on stage showed any sign of weakness. Mariusz Kwiecien was the perfect Don Giovanni. Leading the way with a dynamic voice that not only filled the house with its strength, but also drew one in with its suave elegant pianissimo phrases during the famous "Vieni alla Finestra" in Act 2. He seemed invincible moving around with agility and such presence that dwarfed all the other characters around him. This was no evil villain, this was a charismatic "Bad Boy" capable of not only seducing every woman on stage but every audience member into forgetting about his evil nature. The choice to be drunk in the final scene only added to the credibility of this man's lack of fear for death. His inebriation not only of the wine, but of his power made him so arrogant of his godliness that it was only logical for him to have no fear in the face of death. Despite other great performances at the Met, this was Kwiecien's first true star role. Even though he was in jeopardy of missing out completely due to an untimely injury before the premiere, he was able to make it in time for this memorable triumph.

Venezuelan Bass-Baritone Luca Pisaroni was fantastic as Giovanni's sidekick Leoporello. His singing was equally robust and his diction was filled with such a high level precision, an especially important aspect for the comic timing of Leoporello. And make no mistake, he was hilarious throughout the night: Running away from Don Giovanni and then running back for his money like a little lapdog getting his treat; crawling away from the statue; attempting exaggerated poses as Giovanni during the serenading of Donna Elvira. His Leoporello was a perfect foil to Kwiecien's Giovanni: nowhere near as confident or athletic, clumsy, and weak both physically and emotionally. But this only emphasized the master-servant relationship between the two characters. I would have loved to see Pisaroni take the flirting with Donna Elvira in his Act 1 aria further, but this is far from his fault. I put it on Grandage for not pushing him further.

Had the rest of the cast not been equally stellar, Marina Rebeka could have easily stolen the show as Donna Anna. The Latvian Soprano, who made her debut in this role this season, sang with such poise and elegance. Her vocal abilities could never be called into question. In this respect, she seemed invincible. Her demanding coloratura passages were even and fluid and her entire range was effortless and pure. Polished does not even come close to describing her excellent voice. Her acting didn't hurt matters. Her Anna may not have been the most original interpretation (again this is on Grandage for not pushing the subtext), but she had dignity and a sense of strength that dominated all around her. Kwiecien's Don Giovanni dominates the drama, but Rebeka's Anna provides his ideal dramatic counterpart and nemesis.

Barbara Frittoli's wondrously sung Donna Elvira provides the perfect counterpart to Rebeka's Anna. Her Elvira was powerless and desperate. Elvira's character is often ridiculed for her obsessive nature, but Frittoli, while maintaining the melodramatic nature of the character, gave her character a tragic dimension, singing "Mi Tradi" as if the character was dying of pain and sorrow. Her singing throughout was breathtaking in its level of expressiveness and depth.

Ramon Vargas, the night's Don Ottavio, had one of the most incredible moments I have ever witnessed on the Met Stage when he sang his "Dalla Sua Pace." It is impossible for me to describe how softly he sang the aria, but the entire house went quiet for those few minutes, the orchestra barely audible. All was still as Vargas drew everyone in with his gorgeous pianissimo tone. The moment was  ethereal and sublime. Those words are not good enough to describe how fantastical that singing was. His second aria "Il Mio Tesoro" was sung with strength and tremendous breath support. One coloratura passage that most singers separate into two and sometimes three breaths in the middle of the aria was sung here in just ONE breath like a Luigi Alva or Francisco Araiza would have done (major proponents of this role). On this night, Vargas proved that he continues to be one of the most elegant and exciting tenors of today.

I am running out of superlatives for describing the singers. Mojca Erdmann was every bit as remarkable as her counterparts, giving Zerlina naive delicacy while maintaining sweetness and ease in her voice. During her second aria "Vedrai Carino" she added an interpolated high note during the cadenza that was breathtaking in its sweep. She was coquettish and playful in that same scene with Masetto, a sturdy Joshua Bloom. In my Siegfried review, I mentioned that I was excited to see Erdmann in this performance after her impressive interpretation of the Bird in Wagner's epic. She did not disappoint. Stefan Kocan was imposing as Il Commentatore

Louis Langree had the difficult task of filling in not only for James Levine, but for Fabio Luisi who shared the run with Langree. Both Levine and Luisi are high profile conductors noted for their  finesse and refinement in this repertoire. But Langree is no slouch and showed that his interpretation of this iconic score was just as powerful. He chose swift tempos throughout adding great propulsion to the lengthy work. However, he never indulged his fast tempos at the expense of the singers. As I stated while relating Vargas' "Dalla Sua Pace," Langree was the ideal collaborator, never rushing or overpowering the singers on stage. However, when given the chance (such as the Final Scene), Langree showed off the orchestra's fortitude with some earth shattering chords.

From a musical standpoint, there was nothing more you could ask for from this performance. And for many, this is a sufficient reason to go to the opera. Under different circumstances, I would have been one of those many. However, since this was a new production, a new approach, a new opportunity to see this masterpiece in refreshing light, I was hoping for some revelation from the production. While it is rather unfortunate that this end of the bargain was once again left unfulfilled (see Siegfried), I was fortunate enough to be able to see new and established stars perform to their fullest and greatest capacities.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Notable CD and DVD releases for the month of November

November brings some of the most interesting releases by the most glamourous opera stars working today.
Liszt Songs

Diana Damrau's followup album features the works of Liszt. These lieder works by Liszt are little known and as a result should make for a revealing experience.

Kirsten Flagstad sings Wagner Operatic Scenes and Arias
Rare recordings of legendary Wagnerian Kirsten Flagstad appear for the first time on CD. The album features scenes from her signature roles including Brunhilde and Isolde.

The incomparable soprano Marlis Petersen reveals her most vulnerable side in this new production of La Traviata. The production by Peter Konwitschny may not appeal to conservative opera viewers but Petersen is a performer not to be missed.

Berg: Lulu
The leading Lulu of our time Patricia Petibon reveals her darkest side in this new DVD released by Deutshe Grammophon. Michael Boder conducts the Liceu orchestra with passion and intimacy.

Controversial director Calixto Bieito brings eroticism to Bizet's Carmen. The extraordinary cast features the legendary Beatrice Uria-Monzon, Robert Alagna, rising star Marina Poplavskaya and Erwin Schrott. 
The Metropolitan opera releases Renee Fleming's thrilling Capriccio conducted by one of the world's greatest conductors Andrew Davis. 

Maria Guleghina and the late Salvatore Licitra bring their Chemistry to Franco Zeffirelli's Turandot. Live from Verona the DVD features Licitra at the height of his powers and an encore of opera's most famous Aria, "Nessun Dorma".

Salzburg Festival announces 2012 lineup

Today the Salzburg Festival announced their program for 2012. The festival includes some of the worlds most exciting artists inlcuding the Anna Netrebko (La Boheme), Elina Garanca (Verdi Requiem), Jonas Kaufmann (Carmen, Ariadne Auf Naxos &Verdi Requiem), Rene Pape (Verdi Requiem), Rolando Villazon (Il Re Patore), Placido Domingo (Tamerlano), and Cecilia Bartoli (Giulio Ceasare).

Here is the full lineup
Staged opera:
  • Mozart: Die Zauberflöte (Felsenreitschule) (Concentus Musicus Wien, Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Director: Jens-Daniel Herzog, cast: Georg Zeppenfeld, Bernard Richter, Mandy Fredrich, Julia Kleiter, Sandra Trattnigg, Anja Schlosser, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Tölzer Knaben, Markus Werba)
  • Peter von Winter: Das Labyrinth oder der Kampf mit den Elementen(Residenzhof) (Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, Conductor: Ivor Bolton, Director: Alexandra Liedtke, cast: Christof Fischesser, Julia Novikova, Malin Hartelius, Michael Schade)
  • Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (Wiener Philharmoniker, Conductor: Riccardo Chailly, Director: Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cast: Christof Fischesser, Emily Magee, Elena Moșuc, Eva Liebau, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Eleonora Buratto, Jonas Kaufmann, Roberto Saccà)
  • Puccini: La Bohème (Wiener Philharmoniker, Conductor: Daniele Gatti, Director: Damiano Michieletto, cast: Piotr Beczala, Anna Netrebko, Massimo Cavalletti, Nino Machaidze, Alessio Arduini, Carlo Colombara, Davide Fersini)
  • Bernd Alois Zimmermann: Die Soldaten (Wiener Philharmoniker, Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher, Director: Alvis Hermanis, cast: Alfred Muff, Laura Aikin, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, Cornelia Kallisch, Tomasz Konieczny, Stefanie Kaluza, Reinhard Mayr, Daniel Brenna, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Boaz Daniel)
  • Bizet: Carmen (Wiener Philharmoniker, Conductor: Simon Rattle, Director: Aletta Collins, cast: Magdalena Kožená, Jonas Kaufmann, Kostas Smoriginas, Genia Kühmeier, Christian van Horn, Andrè Schuen, Christina Landshamer, Rachel Frenkel). First seen at the Easter Festival
  • Handel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Giardino Armonico, Conductor: Giovanni Antonini, Director: Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, cast: Andreas Scholl, Cecilia Bartoli, Anne Sofie von Otter, Philippe Jaroussky, Christophe Dumaux, Jochen Kowalski). First seen at the Whitsun Festival.
Opera in concert:
  • Handel: Tamerlano (Musiciens du Louvre, Conductor: Marc Minkowski, cast: Bejun Mehta, Plácido Domingo, Julia Lezhneva, Franco Fagioli, Marianne Crebassa, Michael Volle)
  • Mozart: Il Re Pastore (Orchestra La Scintilla, Conductor: William Christie, cast: Rolando Villazón, Martina Janková, Eva Mei)
Verdi Requiem- Jonas kaufmann,Anja Harteros, Elīna Garanča and René Pape, Daniel Barenboim

from Elīna Garanča, Magdalena Kožená, Thomas Hampson, Christian Gerhaher, Matthias Goerne, Thomas Quasthoff, Juan Diego Flórez and José Carreras.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Faust Preview 2011-12

Jonas Kaufmann brings his elegant voice to the role of Faust.

The Production
Des McAnuff makes his Met debut in a production that premiered at the English National Opera. McAnuff's concept is to update Faust to the first half of the twentieth century. Faust is not just a romantic lover but also a scientist. In the production Faust travels back in time in order to try and relive his life. He goes back and sees the two World Wars. Although his pact with the Devil is overcome by his love, he still meets with death in the final moments of McAnuff's production, which return us to the gloomy laboratory of the opening scene. When the production premiered in September 2010, the production received mixed reviews. Critics stated that the production for not asking questions and for being too safe.  In addition they stated that the weakest part of the production are the set pieces such as the waltzes and chorus ensembles  making the production theatrically disappointing. 

The Cast 
While the production may not have been a total successful at the English National Opera, the Met has put together a thrilling cast.

Jonas Kaufmann leads the cast with his smoldering lyric tenor. After triumphing in Siegmund, Kaufmann returns to the lyric repertoire to show his versatilityKaufmann is known for his Italian, French and German repertoire and he has already triumphed in Tosca and Carmen at the Met as well as Travaita. Kaufmann hasn't sung Faust in years but he possesses the right voice for the role. His voice while dark has a solid middle register, and booming top notes. He is capable of producing subtle pianissmos and thrilling high notes thus phrasing like the tenors of the golden age. In addition to his voice Kaufmann is a committed actor capable of bringing audiences to many emotional states. He should be a successful Faust.

Robert Alagna and Joseph Calleja take over in January. Alagna no longer has the top register or heft to play Faust. However he specializes in French which is a plus because he knows the style of the music. The last time he sang Faust Alagna was hailed for his ardent singing but critics did note that he was vocally uneven. He may not be a polished Faust but acting wise he will be incredible.Joseph Calleja has one of the most beautiful voices to appear in the last decade. His voice is a lyrical voice with beautiful ringing high notes. His phrasing is subtle and his singing provides energy and charisma. However he has yet to demonstrate why he is one of the promising tenors of the future. In addition he is unable to express emotions and his acting lacks energy. However, I am sure Calleja will be a vocally successful Faust if nothing else.

Marina Poplavskaya once again benefits from Angela Gheorghiu's Diva behavior. Gheorghiu who was originally scheduled for the opera, withdrew because she was artistically against the production. As a result Poplavskaya was given the task to sing Marguerite. Poplavskaya made a name for herself last year when she took on none other two Verdi heroines, Violetta in La Traviata and Elisabetta in Don Carlo. Poplavskaya possesses a spinto soprano. She does not have a natural french or Italianate voice that most are used to. Instead her voice can sound strident at times and metallic. However it has warmth in her middle and lower register something that helps for the role of Marguerite. Her top range is sometimes insecure and her coloratura is sloppy. Marguerite may not be a coloratura soprano role but it is a lyric role which requires security at the top. The major question is can Poplavskaya bring depth and warmth to Marguerite as well as emotion. This is something Poplavskaya lacks even though she is a brilliant actress. She can be cold at times. Having seen her in Don Carlo she was static and looked bored. Can Poplavskaya finally launch her stardom this year or will she simply remain an understudy for sopranos like Gheorghiu.

Rene Pape returns to his triumphant portrayal of Mephistophele. From the beginning of the opera Pape becomes the devil and he is a charismatic one to. His voice is chilling, radiant, youthful, and incisive. While he may be a villain, Pape is capable of making Mephistophele into a likable and funny character. Being a great actor he and Kaufmann should have great chemistry making for a pleasant night.

Rising stars Kate Lindsay, Michele Losier, Russell Braun and George Petean round out the cast in the roles of Valentin and Siebel. They should make for youthful incarnations of the roles.   

The cast should make for a pleasant night even if the production is a let down. 

This is part of the live in HD transmissions at the Met. DECCA will most release this production.