Lohengrin: Live in HD Transmission Transcript

READ: Maltman Show Intro

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Hello.  I'm Christopher Maltman.  Welcome to today's performance of Lohengrin, Wagner's epic opus inspired by the myth of the Holy Grail.  With its massive orchestra, spectacular chorus, compelling principal roles and the intriguing story of religious mysticism, Lohengrin holds a special place in the hearts and minds of opera lovers.  In fact, it's the Wagner title most performed in the Met in its entire 140-year history. Today we have a remarkable cast of singers in the leading roles.  Tenor Piotr Beczala is the mysterious hero, the legendary Swan Knight.  Soprano Tamara Wilson is Elsa of Brabant, the royal maiden who stands unjustly accused of a heinous crime.  Soprano Christine Goerke and bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin are Ortrud and Telramund, the pagan couple who want the throne of Brabant for themselves.  Bass Günther Groissböck is King Heinrich, who seeks unity for his people, and baritone Brian Mulligan, is the King's Herald. With this new production, director François Girard and his designer, Tim Yip, have created a striking, postapocalyptic battleground in which the force of light and darkness fight their eternal struggle.  Met music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will be marshaling the vas sonic forces required for Wagner's transcendent score.  He's ready go to the pit now.  Here is Lohengrin.

STAGE MANAGER:  Maestro to the pit, please.  Maestro to the pit.

INTERVIEW: Maltman w/ Piotr Beczala

PIOTR BECZALA:  Thank you.  Hi.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Piotr, hello.  What a thrilling first act.

PIOTR BECZALA:  Hi.  How are you?  Looking great.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Thank you very much.

PIOTR BECZALA:   Better than me.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  No, absolutely beautiful.  Look, tell us about your approach to the character of Lohengrin.  I mean, is he just a regular guy, a fairy tale hero or something sent from the gods?

PIOTR BECZALA:  Yeah.  It just depends on the stage directing.  Uh, but, uh, my Lohengrin is just outsider  Does not belong to this, uh, to this part of the world, and we can see now in production how outsider he is, you know, almost like landing by, uh, Enterprise.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, look, you're perhaps best known for your Italian and French repertoire.  But here you are singing your first Wagner role here on the stage of the Met.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Acclaimed by critics for your vocal beauty, and how do you keep this trademark beautiful bel canto line in this dramatic music?

PIOTR BECZALA:  Well, thank you very much, Chris.  It’s–it's–uh, well, I started Lohengrin 2016 already and step by step, uh, you know, I'm so happy to have the opportunity to sing this on this huge scene.  Uh, well, it's really based in bel canto and, uh, in some Italian repertory, like, like Wagner roles, and this is actually his idea.


PIOTR BECZALA:  Uh, so, and it's really fantastic written for the voice.


PIOTR BECZALA:  Uh, it's just a great voice to sing it.  But, you know, the thing is going, uh, more and more.  You know, the real opera for Lohengrin starts in the third act.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Yeah.  I know.  Well, look, perhaps golf has something to do with how you deal with it as well.  The New York Times recently reported that you were playing video golf–

PIOTR BECZALA:  Well, yes.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  –in your dressing room.  Now is that to relax yourself or is it–


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  –just because the Met dressing rooms aren't quite big enough to swing a real golf club?

PIOTR BECZALA:  No, no.  I could swing my putter.  But, uh, that's true.  That's true.  No, I have to kill somehow the 1 hour–1 hour, 45 minutes.


PIOTR BECZALA:  Uh, and I can't sing permanently all the time in my dressing room.


PIOTR BECZALA:  So practicing other stuff.  Uh, so I–I play a little golf.  I–I study new stuff, new operas.


PIOTR BECZALA:  Uh, yeah, well, but when this, uh, break is over, it starts really hard work for Lohengrin.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, as you say, a lot of your big singing really comes in Act III.  So, I mean, you've told us a little bit about how you deal with that.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  But, I mean, is there any other ways you kill the time?  I mean, are there any other ways that also you deal with this incredible vocal marathon?

PIOTR BECZALA:  You know, I try also to–to pick some places from Lohengrin from the last–from the last scene and–and try to–to clean some moments, not just vocally.


PIOTR BECZALA:  Because it's just a long evening.  And, you know, the voice, as you know, has some up and downs, uh, through the evening.


PIOTR BECZALA:  And I have tried to avoid the downs.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Yeah.  We have to keep it right there the whole time.

PIOTR BECZALA:  Yeah.  Sometimes I'm dreaming to be a bass-baritone.  You know, it would be–life would be much easier.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Oh, no.  No.  We like you as a tenor. 


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  But look, I mean, talking of marathons, it's hard to believe that we've had the pleasure of you on the stage for around 30 years now.

PIOTR BECZALA:  I just don’t believe that.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Where did the time go?

PIOTR BECZALA:  I don’t know.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  I mean, you still sound so fresh, so youthful.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Thank you, and how have you achieved this vocal longevity?

PIOTR BECZALA:  I think, you know, it's the same thing.  We have to just keep the flexibility and we have to keep the flexibility through singing different repertory.


PIOTR BECZALA:  And I'm still singing some kind of, uh, Lucia di Lammermoor or Rigoletto, you know, and just having a good balance in my– in my repertory.


PIOTR BECZALA:  Not going only in this heavy, uh, repertory.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Absolutely.  Try and sing a whole load of different things.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  But look, Piotr, you've got some huge vocal heroics coming up.  So we'll let you take a little bit of a rest.

PIOTR BECZALA:  And go play golf, no?


PIOTR BECZALA:  I go to St. Andrews now.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Thanks so much for speaking to me.

PIOTR BECZALA:  I have to say hello to all the people that are watching us now, especially in Poland and Vienna.  All the best.  Enjoy.


READ: Throw to roll-in

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  In 2013, director François Girard had an enormous success at the Met with his production of Wagner's Parsifal.  In the original mythic source material, Lohengrin is Parsifal's son, and François has found a directorial connection between his staging of the two operas.  We recently soke to him and his set and costume designer, the Academy Award winner Tim Yip, about their approach to the storytelling.

ROLL-IN B: Lohengrin Production Team

FRANÇOIS GIRARD:  The tale of Lohengrin is fairly simple.  We're still into the Arthurian Legends and tales.  Lohengrin belongs to the Knights of the Grail.  But really I think what the driving forces are here is the connection and the confrontation between Lohengrin and Ortrud, both representing opposite forces in spirituality, as in Christianity and Paganism.

TIM YIP: So this is something of deep questions, right?  It's about, how is God related to you, and how are you related to God?  And what is the moral–or the exact morals we have.  The most interesting thing for me for Wagner’s music is imagination, is something like it pushes you to think about something abstract, but at the same time it's really philosophy.  So at that point it’s driving you to create a new image and a new space for the stage.

FRANÇOIS GIRARD:  We have staged Parsifal ten years ago, and here, all that’s left and all that connects with our Parsifal is Lohengrin himself and his costume.  He’s come dressed as the characters of the Grail in our Parsifal.  And also a cosmic sky element that is the backdrop to both operas

TIM YIP: The first set is we’re under the bunker, everyone is there, so that they’re just some people living in underground.

FRANÇOIS GIRARD:  We're in some kind of a bleak future where, once again, the spirituality is in decline, and the order is in decline in a society that is weakened by many elements, many aspects.  The arrival of Lohengrin in this world will restore trust, confidence, light and brightness within the community.

TIM YIP: They're living in this place, but looking for hope.  And they always have a hole to see the moon.  And also, under the moon, they have so many million years of memory.

FRANÇOIS GIRARD:  The moon here, like, serves two functions.  First of all, as we saw in the overture, it's a time-passing device, it's a clock.  We use the moon cycles to suggest time has passed.  But also the red moon becomes the symbol of a Pagan, feminine unconscious.

TIM YIP: So that it's like a dream.  Everything is a dream.  Everything is black.  Everyone is dressing in the same clothes.  Even the King and all those characters, they're the same.  Only Lohengrin is different.  From Lohengrin’s costume, actually it refers to a common business office worker.  It's not the big boss, but it's something working, working class, to make the superpower become related to a common level.

FRANÇOIS GIRARD:  The overpopulation of the opera was an appeal to me.  Like, there's so many people on stage.  First of all, we have this immense chorus.  Three choruses, like, two men’s choruses and the retinues of Elsa for a total of 130 choristers.  And what do you do with these people to create imagery and a flux of color within them was, for me, a way to keep the energy into the piece.

TIM YIP: So at this point, when they're singing, the colors are coming up one by one, different sections.  You know, they have red, they have green and they also have white, of course.  And when they go into it, we have a beautiful movement.  So how can we do this?  We are using some kind of invisible magnets, but at the same time, you feel that it is really easy for the dancer to feel it there, so that they have a weight, they have a size.  You cannot do them so strong.  You cannot do them so weak.  And also, I demanded the fabric is a really good fabric.  It's real silk, so that the draping is so beautiful inside, and the reflection is so beautiful.

FRANÇOIS GIRARD:  A lot of what you do when you direct Lohengrin is to manage that force of that music, and that Qi, and I think, you know, the color schemes and the staging is very much in line with that.

READ: Maltman Neubauer / Toll / Throw to break

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  This opera certainly deserves the majestic treatment that Francois and Tim have delivered.  The Met's Live in HD series is made possible thanks to its founding sponsor, the Neubauer Family Foundation.  Digital support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.  The Met Live in HD series is supported by Rolex.  Today's performance of Lohengrin is also being heard over the Toll Brothers Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.  We'll be back after a break.

READ: Maltman intro to tape

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Welcome back.  Over the past few years, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin has conducted breathtaking performances of Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, and Parsifal here at the Met.  Now he brings his orchestral mastery to Lohengrin.  He sat down at the piano recently and talked us through some of the nuances of Wagner's shimmering score.

ROLL-IN C: The Harmony of Lohengrin

YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN:  I feel like Wagner is really starting to be his own genius, or own unique composer in history, with Lohengrin.

There was a before Lohengrin and there was an after.  You know, we think of the Ring Cycle as being, of course, this epic journey of four operas.  And we think of Tristan as being the epitome of love in music.  We think of Parsifal as being this end of life, end of musical production from him, as being ethereal and something opening up to another world.  And we think of Flying Dutchman as maybe the last real romantic opera where Wagner starts to really express himself and will take this into a different direction. But then Lohengrin is at the center of this all because it’s where Wagner decides to keep what he liked of the past, some of the form, but also developing now leitmotifs or especially motifs, identifiable melodies or rhythms that are associated with characters.  In the case of Lohengrin, it's almost a leitmotif, but I feel that what's more his thinking is harmonic.  So the harmony, or the keys specifically, are associated with each character.  For example, you get the King, and also the Herald, who's also always with the King, telling the story and moving the people along with the big crowd scenes.

This is very neutral.  King is always in C Major, with the trumpets doing [plays].  So this is very regal, and I say neutral because C Major doesn't have any accidentals, you know, so that's like our–the basic key in music.

When Elsa arrives, who is to become Lohengrin’s beloved, then we move in A-flat.  So we start from C Major, and then we move [plays].  And so there's her famous aria.  [plays]

Now when Lohengrin arrives, it's very interesting because that's Elsa [plays], but then he's in A Major [plays], which is a neighboring key, but actually very differently written.  And in a way that shows already that they will never be able to be reconciled because [plays] it clashes all the time.  But this is his motif, which is the very famous Prelude.  There's something so sunny about this key.

And finally, there's the evil ones, the ones with Ortrud and Telramund.  It's the relative minor of A Major of Lohengrin, F-sharp minor.  So all their music is [plays].

So that's another way for Wagner of saying this is the good, A Major, and the minor is the evil.  But the difference between the good and the evil is actually very small [laughs].  And I feel like he's never explored the keys in such a clear way, and eventually that is maybe even more telling than the leitmotif, which he will develop later in his other works.

With works that are so vast and big proportions, just the fact of holding together an opera, not only for the conductor, but for all the performers onstage, whether you play an instrument or sing in the chorus or sing as a principal, it is a challenge to pace the whole thing and make it a cohesive entity.  You have to take good care of every little detail, not stopping at them, but at least loving them in such a way that they hold the structure in the end, and the structure is magnificent.

INTERVIEW: Maltman w/ Tamara Wilson

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Fascinating insights from Met music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.  I am joined now by our innocent, yet formidable Elsa, soprano Tamara Wilson.  Hi.

TAMARA WILSON:  Hi, there.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Congratulations on making your role debut as Elsa.  You sound absolutely fantastic.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  But what are you enjoying most about singing this particular role on the stage of the Met?

TAMARA WILSON:  Well, my fabulous cast and colleagues, uh–


TAMARA WILSON:  I could not ask for a better group of people to sing with.  Yeah, mm-hmm.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Wow, wonderful.  And I guess foremost among this is Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the illustrious conductor who must make life quite easy for you.

TAMARA WILSON:  Very much so.  Yeah.  When we first started rehearsals, he was like, I feel like there's a string between you and me, and I was yes.


TAMARA WILSON:  So yeah, love working with him.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Now look, you made your Met debut here back in 2014 as Aida.  So can you explain for our viewers a little bit perhaps about what might be different between singing a major Wagner role like Elsa and a Verdian heroine like Aida?

TAMARA WILSON:  Well, the first one was, uh, I only had like four days of rehearsal and then my first debut on stage was like that night.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  No time to be afraid.

TAMARA WILSON:  So that was–that was different.  This one, we have a little bit more rehearsal, which is lovely.  Um, I say that singing Verdi for me is like being on a sailboat.  You've got to pull all the strings, do everything yourself–


TAMARA WILSON:  –make sure you don’t drown.  And then for Wagner, I feel like you're on this big cruise ship and you've just kind of got to float over everything the whole time.  So it's still hard work trying not to drown.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Right.  It certainly doesn't sound it.  But look, you're very well known for your interpretations of Verdi, of course.  And I must point out I had the very great pleasure of sharing the stage with you in Otello with you as a magnificent Desdemona.  But, I mean, how does Elsa and how does Wagner fit now into your repertoire and is there more to come?

TAMARA WILSON:  There is more to come.  Yay.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Oh, very exciting.

TAMARA WILSON:  Yeah.  Um, I–I don’t know.  I approach all of my characters kind of the same.  You know, I come from an emotional place.


TAMARA WILSON:  And the only thing that really changes is how I color thing with the language or shade things.  But as far as singing Verdi or Wagner, you know, it's still my voice, and so I've got to sing it with my whole voice.  Yeah.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Absolutely.  I hear you.  But that's very exciting that there's more of this to come.  Well, look, bac to the present, Act I ended to happily for Elsa.  But this is opera.  We know that then that can't stay that way.  We won't want to give away the ending.  But can you tell us a little bit more about the conflicts that face Elsa in Act II?

TAMARA WILSON:  In Act II, she thinks, oh yay, I'm getting married, bonus.  I’m all good.  Everything's good.  Then, uh, she gets a little, uh, visit from her friend who, uh, decides to plant a little seed of doubt.  Yeah, and that kind of poison takes on a big part of the second act.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And upsets the apple cart.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Look, Tamara, it's a powerful performance you're giving today.  thank you so much for joining me–

TAMARA WILSON:  Thank you.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And toi, toi, toi for the rest of the show.

TAMARA WILSON:  Thanks so much.  Bye, mom and dad and Cass.  Love you.

READ: Throw to Act II

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  At the end of the previous act, the hero Lohengrin has defeated Telramund in battle and promised salvation to the people of Brabant.  And Elsa has agreed not to ask the hero's name, thus winning his hand in marriage.  But there's plenty of time for things to go wrong, as we shall see when the next act commences.  Here is Act II of Lohengrin.

INTERVIEW: Maltman w/ Christine Goerke

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Wow, Christine.  What music, what a scene to finish Act II with.  I mean, I'm getting the impression though that you kind of enjoy being the villain.  Is it good to be bad?

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  It's very good to be bad.  [laughs]  Yes.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, look, I'm so glad you're enjoying this.  But, I mean, in other Wagner roles you've done, in 2019, you delivered a Brünnhilde for the ages in the Met's Ring Cycle.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  But Ortrud has very different demands.  Can you tell us about how Wagner writes for her?

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  He–it's very interesting.  In fact, she is very much in the mezzo genre of the kind of roles that I do, and there's a lot more dramatic writing.  And what I love is that not only with the text and the way he's written the lines for Ortrud, but also the way that he has orchestrated Ortrud.  There are such immense colors, and they are so creepy and wonderful and we get to play into all of that.  So this is a total joy to be able to do this role.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, it's a gift for a tremendous singing actor, as you are.

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  You're kind.  Thank you.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  In fact, talking of your versatility, less than two months ago, you were here performing in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites.  So, I mean, how do you transform from martyred Poulenc nun to pagan Wagner sorceress?

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  Therapy [laughs].  No.  It's very funny.  That's what I've been telling everyone.  By the time this entire period is over, I will absolutely need therapy going back and forth.  But the funny thing is talking about this particular role, I go at every single role from the idea that that character is absolutely correct and they're the only one in the entire piece that is right.  So they could be similar.  They're not similar.  But–

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, look, a key part in interpreting these roles of course is your director.  And here you had François Girard.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And he's imagined such a vivid and detailed world for you in this production.  But, I mean, what specific pointers did he give you for Ortrud?  What was his vision of her?

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  Do you know, it's very interesting.  He had–we've all been talking about the caw-caw.  So he envisioned her, there's a lot of very specific movements that he wants and poses.  And you'll probably notice a lot of hand motions.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Oh, yes.  Seen all of those.

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  Yes, very subtle that way.  But they are part of sort of the physical language of the character that François and I worked out.  And in fact, we talked about the crow all the time.  The crow.


CHRISTINE GOERKE:  So we were running around a lot saying caw-caw.  So anybody who's involved in this knows caw-caw.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, look, I mean, you're so experienced here on the stage of the Met.  But I believe this is the first time you've ever sung Wagner under the baton of the Met's music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  That is absolutely true.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And how has that been?

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  A glorious pleasure.


CHRISTINE GOERKE:  Such a wonderful pleasure.  I love to work with Yannick any opportunity I have.  but this especially has been just wonderful.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, Christine, look, I'm going to ask you a futile question.  Please try and be nice in the next act.



CHRISTINE GOERKE:  Okay [laughs].

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Thank you for joining me.

CHRISTINE GOERKE:  My pleasure.  Can I give a quick shoutout to my family in Michigan?


CHRISTINE GOERKE:  In Bloomfield Hills and Livonia and also at my alma mater, Stony Brook.  Thank you so much for watching, and please keep supporting Met Live in HD.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Wow.  Thanks, Christine.


READ: Maltman intro Lohengrin at Met

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Lohengrin had its Metropolitan Opera premier  back in 1883, the Met's very first season.  And although it has been a while since Met audiences last got to see it, Lohengrin is nevertheless the most performed Wagner opera in the company's history with 624 performances and counting, including today's.  Met Radio producer William Berger explains the opera's central role in Met history.

ROLL-IN D: The Story of Lohengrin at the Met

WILLIAM BERGER:  The story of Lohengrin at the Met is, in a lot of ways, the history of the Met.  It was here in our first season in 1883, sung in Italian as everything was that season.  And in the 1890s when the Met was really famous for having the greatest singers in the world, almost as a monopoly, we heard the great Polish tenor Jean de Reszke, and Lillian Nordica, the “Yankee Diva” from Maine, the first American to sing at Bayreuth, and they sang over 50 performances each of these roles.  Shows you how often it was done.

In those early productions, you can really see how they were able to embrace the Romanticism of this opera at face value, in all its forms.  And that means the fairytale qualities, but also the German nationalism and the militarism, these aspects of the opera that you hear in the score too, in the thrilling military passages urging the soldiers to fight for the homeland, from the invaders from all sides, and all these things that were less associated with the toxic history that came after. In the 1930s and '40s, the Met benefited from having an abundance of some of the best singers from Europe who were avoiding the war and the political situation, and came here.  And here we see a costume worn by the great Danish tenor Lauritz Melchior as the Swan Knight, with the Holy Grail featured prominently.  And we also got such singers as Lotte Lehmann and Friedrich Schorr here at the Met, performing in Lohengrin in these years.

In 1966, when the Met moved to the new house, Lohengrin was one of the new productions we used to show the facilities here.  And that production was in fact conceived by Wieland Wagner, who was Richard Wagner's grandson, and responsible for the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival after World War II, and a new look and a new presentation of Wagner's works, looking for the universal aspects of these operas, rather than the specifically German.

The next new production of Lohengrin at the Met was in 1976 by August Everding with designs by Ming Cho Lee, and costumes by Peter J. Hall.  The costumes, the whole look, are more archetypal, very dreamlike, and you can see more of this movement toward finding what is universal and abstract in the psychological and cultural sense. And the next step in that process was the almost entirely abstract production by Robert Wilson in 1998.  That starred Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner in the lead roles.  It emphasized visual minimalism in movement as well as costume and lighting, and took it as far as possible away from a medieval nationalist fairytale.

As with all the classics, people discover over time meanings that have more resonance than anyone suspected previously.  And right now I think what people are most interested in, in this masterpiece that Wagner left us, are the personal and psychological questions of: Can lovers ever know each other?  And who are we really beyond our name?  And these sorts of questions are really much more compelling, and give us a lot more to unpack than the issues we thought were at the center of these stories.

READ: Maltman intro to tape

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  The way Lohengrin productions at the Met have evolved over the past 140 years is impressive.  I was in the audience for this Lohengrin this week, and I was amazed by the prowess of the Met's orchestra and chorus, these great singers.  I'm sure you're dazzled as well watching on movie screens.  But I must tell you, it's not the same thing as being here.  To get the full effect of any operatic performance, you have to be sitting here, inside the opera house where the experience is visceral.  So please, come to the Met or visit your local opera company. It's artistically invigorating when an essential piece of the operatic repertoire like Lohengrin gets a fresh treatment like the one we're seeing today.  But putting on monumental productions like Lohengrin and populating the stage with some of the world's greatest Wagnerian singers is extremely experience.  Ticket sales cover only a fraction of the costs.  We depend on audiences like you to help make the Met's productions possible.  So please, if you're able to make a donation to the Met, I encourage you to visit metopera.org/membership or simply text HDLIVE to 44321 to make a contribution.  Thank you sincerely. The Met's next cinema presentation is two weeks from today.  It will be Verdi's final opera, Falstaff.  And I am very happy to say that instead of standing here and talking to you, I will be singing the role of Ford.  My dear friend and colleague, Michael Volle, is singing the title role and our entire cast is having an indecent amount of fun in this production of Verdi's great comedic masterpiece.  Here's a clip from the final dress rehearsal last week in which Falstaff explains that his belly is his kingdom.

INTERVIEW: Maltman w/ Michael Volle

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Michael Volle is with me now.  Hi, Michael.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Look, here we are in the middle of a Wagner opera talking to one of the world's great Wagnerian baritones.  That's you.  Talking about a Verdi comedy.  So tell us what you love about Falstaff.

MICHAEL VOLLE:  I always say if you are sick of feeling depressed or something, listen to Falstaff, do a little bit of Falstaff and you are fine again and you save all the costs for a doctor because it makes you so happy.  The music is full of joy.


MICHAEL VOLLE:  And I must say also this production, these ensemble, including you, a wonderful Ford, really, I can't wait.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Thank you.  Well, look, the feeling is mutual.  But look, Sir John is one of Shakespeare's most famous creations, and he's larger than life in all ways.  But do you have sympathy for him or do you think he gets what he deserves in this production?

MICHAEL VOLLE:  Ah.  Well, you know, in the very end, he mentions something which is really very timeless.  Each society needs one they can blame for everything and they put all the teasing on.


MICHAEL VOLLE:  And this is also Sir John Falstaff.  But as–like he mentions in the end, without me, without Sir John Falstaff, it would be boring.  I am the salt in the soup or however you say that.  And I'm very important for you, even if he really behaves in a special way.  But it's a great, great character.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, you are indeed the seasoning, the salt, the chili pepper in this particular production.  But look, also there's so much wonderful physical comedy in this production.  You yourself will be dancing, shooting a shotgun–


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  –carving a real turkey.  How does that taste, by the way?

MICHAEL VOLLE:  Delicious.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Do you enjoy working with so many props on stage, having so much to do?

MICHAEL VOLLE:  You get used to.  But about the music and the piece, this is tricky, that it must–it must work automatically because you must be very aware.  If you think one second about the turkey or the shots, you are lost and Daniele Rustioni, our incredible, wonderful conductor, he cannot stop the show.  the orchestra is going on and the music.  You have to be very precise.  Yes.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, you never seen to miss a beat.  But one of the other great joys of this productions, especially for me, has been the work of us, as you mentioned before, about as an ensemble.  And it seems that our team spirit, our infectious energy, our love for this piece has also infected the audience who seem to go crazy at the end of shows.  How have you found the reception for Falstaff here at the Met?

MICHAEL VOLLE:  Unbelievable.  And you feel it very soon.  Each performance is different.  But it starts even in the first scene when they react, when they laugh.  And this is great.  And we have this wonderful, uh, moment in the very end in the fugue, int this tricky fugue in the very end of the piece.  There is a general pause.


MICHAEL VOLLE:  And it's very full of tension and the people start to applaud.  And then Daniele and me, we stop the show because I'm going on with the next words, and we turn around and say what are you doing, stop it.  And I can't wait for it tomorrow.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well look, we'll see how they react tomorrow–

MICHAEL VOLLE:  Let's see.  Let's see.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  –for our next performance and also for our HD broadcast–


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  –which is on April the 1st.  Thank you, Michael, for joining us.

MICHAEL VOLLE:  Thank you.

READ: Maltman Neubauer / Toll / Throw to break

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  The Met's Live in HD series is made possible thanks to its founding sponsor, the Neubauer Family Foundation.  Digital support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.  The Met Live in HD series is supported by Rolex.  We'll be back after the break.

READ: Maltman intro to Der Rosenkavalier rehearsal

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  As Met HD audiences know, this opera house is a hive of constant activity as we prepare for upcoming productions.  While Lohengrin is unfolding onstage up there, three levels below ground, the company is rehearsing a revival of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, which will open at the Met on March 27th and be seen live in movie theaters on April 15th.  Just behind this door, dazzling soprano Lise Davidsen is working on the Marschallin Act I monologue in which she bemoans the passing of time with Met assistant conductor Bradley Moore on piano.  Let's look in.

INTERVIEW: Maltman w/ Lise Davidsen

LISE DAVIDSEN:  Yeah.  Something like that.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Lise, thank you so much.  What a treat.  That was so beautiful.  And look, what a momentous occasion.  This production of Der Rosenkavalier marks your debut as the Marschallin, and is this a role that you've always wanted to sing and can you tell us a little bit more about her?

LISE DAVIDSEN:  Yeah.  It's definitely a role I've wanted to sing since I came into the opera world.  It was the first opera I ever saw was Rosenkavalier.


LISE DAVIDSEN:  I didn't think I would sing it at the time, that it was too scary and too far away.  But when I came into my Fach, in a way, then I definitely knew or really, really wanted to do it and I was happy when Peter offered it to me.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Well, I have to say, after hearing that, I am so excited to hear you sing the whole role.  But the Marschallin is a famously deep and complex character.  I mean, what are the qualities that you've found in her that you can really connect with as you've learned the role and got to know her better?

LISE DAVIDSEN:  Well, I think, I mean, in Rosenkavalier, we talk a lot about time and it's all about time, and I think that's the most interesting part with this opera.  It's timeless.  It's these questions that she's asking herself.  Of course I hope I can sing this role for a long time and take age with me.  but I think the questions, they appear in all ages and all times of our lives.


LISE DAVIDSEN:  So when things are changing, we are with someone, we have to move away from it, and all those things I feel like I learn from her and also I feel like I can bring something from me, from my life, even if I'm not–

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  From you as you are now.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Absolutely.  Well, look, I mean, it's only been a few years now and you've already shot to stardom as one of the greatest interpreters of Wagner and Strauss.  But how does this role compare with other roles in your repertoire like Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos or Sieglinde, for example?

LISE DAVIDSEN:  Well, the Marschallin is in a way a lighter vocally, um, a bit, um, higher in the soprano.  I mean, I think Marschallin has been sung by a huge range of sopranos.


LISE DAVIDSEN:  And I think that's–that's why it's written in a different way than Sieglinde and Ariadne, so maybe a bit more mezzo-y.  So that's the challenge, number one, and then of course the Strauss text is this endless chat in the first act with Ochs.


LISA DAVIDSEN:  It's the best part and also the hardest part.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  I agree.  Strauss can be very challenging like that.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  But you've sort of touched upon it.  There's a huge amount of variety in Rosenkavalier, from romance to comedy to some very deeply serious themes.  But you've mentioned time.  I mean, is there anything else in this?  What's the most important theme for you in this opera?

LISE DAVIDSEN:  I find Marschallin to be very generous.  I'm not sure is the right English word.  But she steps aside.  She sort of zooms out on her life and she takes the right decisions, and I wish I could live my life that way, you know?  That you could zoom out at the right time.  It's always easy to say later I should have done that.  I feel the Marschallin, she does it at the right time, I think.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Yeah.  Well, it's a fantastic quality.  We're looking forward to you enormously in this role and also to see it in cinemas on April 15th.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And thank you for speaking with me.

LISE DAVIDSEN:  Thank you.  Thank you for coming here.

READ: Maltman throw to tape

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Along with Falstaff, Der Rosenkavalier is one of five more HD cinema presentations coming up this season.  Another production is in rehearsal today just down the hall.  While we make our way over there, here's a preview of what's coming up Live in HD.

READ: Maltman intro to Champion rehearsal

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Terence – last season, Terence Blanchard's Fire Shut Up in My Bones made a major impression when it opened the season and was later seen in cinemas.  Now Terence is back at the Met with Champion, his first opera about the boxer, Emile Griffith, who lived a closeted life and killed his friend and arch rival in the ring.  Ryan Speedo Green stars as young Emile, and Eric Owens as his older self, looking back on his life.  They're working with Met assistant conductor Katelin Chantarelle on Champagne Dreams, a duet in which the two Emiles are in conversation with each other about the younger man's desire to be somebody.

INTERVIEW: Maltman w/ Ryan Speedo Green & Eric Owens

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Speedo, Eric, what a fantastic scene.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Thank you for that.

ERIC OWENS:  Thanks, Chris.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Speedo, for Met audiences who don’t know Champion, who was Emile Griffith, and how is he depicted in this opera?

RYAN SPEEDO GREEN:  So Emile Griffith was a six-time welterweight champion of the world, and in this opera, we're talking not only about the thing that made him famous in the ring, which is he ended up killing a man in the ring, uh, Benny Perrett, and on their third fight together.  And it was life-changing for him.  And also there are aspects f this opera that deal with his out of the ring life that was very fantastical, literally like a movie.  So it's exciting to put those scenes and that life in an opera.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Wow.  Uh, I can't wait to see the piece, I have to say.  But Eric, Terence Blanchard's music is profound.  It's beautiful, and it's accessible.  But you also have the gift of having him here to work with.  I mean, how is that, to have a living composer on hand?

ERIC OWENS:  Well, that's always amazing because I can't tell you how many times when you're doing a composer that's been long passed, you know, how would it be to have that composer in the room–


ERIC OWENS:  –to say, what do you mean, and–and so we've got him right here, and it's just–it's a gift.  It's such a gift.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And I assume there's been a similar experience for you, Speedo.

RYAN SPEEDO GREEN:  Yeah.  I mean, this–this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform a brand new piece at the Met and to have the composer right there from the beginning.  I mean, even thinking about, uh, some parts of it that were written already, when I met with him and, uh, I suggested some things that I wanted to do different that would make it more personal for me and fit my voice, uh, in a better way, he was really open to it, and I think that's the beauty of having a living composer.  And, you know, the team that they put together, not only the production team, you know, James Robinson–


RYAN SPEEDO GREEN:  –Camille Brown, but having, like, the consultants, like Michael Bentt, who was a former, uh, heavyweight champion of the world–


RYAN SPEEDO GREEN:  –having him here, validating the work we're doing is pretty amazing.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And look, the Met has recently announced, you know, this push to place a greater emphasis on new and accessible operas, to build a younger and broader audience, which I assume is something we all want to see happen.  But how do you feel bearing the responsibility of that in this piece, Eric?

ERIC OWENS:  Well, I–I–I think it's very important to have these new works and–because all of the operas that are in the standard repertoire, once upon a time they were new works.


ERIC OWENS:  And for opera to remain vibrant and alive and–and–and reaching out to people and telling stories that people can relate to of, you know, of people who actually existed and people will come to the show who knew those people–

RYAN SPEEDO GREEN:  I mean, this is an amazing piece, you know, that Terence wrote, not just about, uh, you know, the aspect of this character, not just about his, uh, sexuality or what he did in the ring.


RYAN SPEEDO GREEN:  But it's–it's–it's just to show you that's not the only aspect that makes him an interesting character, and the music is interesting as well.

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Absolutely.  It can't be a museum piece.  And look, we're all eagerly anticipating this premier next month.  Thanks to you both.  Toi, toi, toi for the show and thank you for that wonderful segment.

ERIC OWENS:  Thank you.


ERIC OWENS:  Thanks so much, Chris.


CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  Sorry.  Thanks, guys.

READ: Throw to Act III

CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN:  And now let's return to the world of Lohengrin, light years away.  When we last saw our hero and Elsa, they were on their way to the altar, having withstood attacks from Ortrud and Telramund.  But as we shall witness in the final act, Elsa's willpower has been tested to its limits.  Here is the powerful and transporting conclusion of Lohengrin.