Weekly Guide: August 17–23
Featuring passionate romances, historical epics, a classic comedy, and one of the world’s most popular fairy tales, the next week of free Nightly Opera Streams has something for everyone. Read on and explore the full lineup.
Monday, August 17
In his classic potboiler, Puccini stirs together some of humanity’s strongest motivating forces—love and loyalty, fear and cruelty—to create an operatic thriller that sinks its teeth into the listener with the opening chords and never lets go. Taking place in Rome in 1800, the story concerns a fiery yet devoted diva, the painter/revolutionary she loves, and a sadistic police chief determined to crush political rebellion and claim Tosca for himself. All three are among opera’s most indelible characters.
Tuesday, August 18
Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini
The music of early–20th-century Italian composer Francesco Zandonai has largely been forgotten—with the exception of this expansive 1914 opera based on an episode from Dante’s Inferno. The melodramatic plot concerns an affair between the title character and the handsome brother of a cruel and disfigured warlord, to whom she is betrothed. Their dalliance leads to the predictable violent and tragic end, but not before Zandonai makes his case for increased recognition with a surfeit of sumptuous, luxuriously orchestrated music.
Wednesday, August 19
Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece exemplifies the dramatic sweep, complex characterization, and insight into human nature that define great Russian literature and music. The story comes from Pushkin, and provides one of opera’s most compelling heroines: Tatiana, an intelligent but naïve adolescent girl who is first rejected by an older, more worldly man, then blossoms into an elegant, rich, aristocratic woman and returns the favor when the two meet again. The score is a chiaroscuro tour-de-force, sensitively capturing the many shades of the characters’ turbulent, conflicted emotions.
Thursday, August 20
Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera
Verdi can always be counted on for passion, intrigue, and betrayal—and to make glorious music of it all. Un Ballo in Maschera, concerning a plot to murder King Gustavo III of Sweden, who also happens to be in love with his best friend and counselor’s wife, is no exception. With a principal cast featuring a powerful and dignified leading lady, a character role for soprano as young man, an otherworldly mezzo-soprano fortune-teller, a heroic tenor, and a suave and conflicted baritone, it’s Italian opera at its finest.
Friday, August 21
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra
The title ruler of Simon Boccanegra is one of the repertory’s most compelling characters, a 14th-century Doge of Genoa, beset on all sides, juggling political adversaries bent on murder with his love for his long-lost daughter Amelia. In addition to Boccanegra’s searing internal conflict between public duty and private grief, the story offers cloak-and-dagger intrigue, passionate young love, and noble sacrifice—set to an unfailingly dramatic, enveloping score that only Verdi could have created.
Saturday, August 22
Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
One of opera’s most beloved comedies, Rossini’s irreverent farce about a feisty young noblewoman with a mind of her own has delighted operagoers for more than two centuries. Its setting—rustic Seville—and zany storyline call for a cast of ace performers with dazzling stage presence, sizzling comic timing, and vocal agility to spare, making this the perfect playground for virtuoso singers as well as an ideal viewing experience for audiences of all ages.
Sunday, August 23
Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel
Originally conceived as a small-scale vocal entertainment for children, Hansel and Gretel resonates with audiences of all ages and has become one of the most successful fairy-tale operas ever created. Humperdinck’s adaptation of the Brothers Grimm acknowledges the darker features present in the source material yet presents them within a frame of grace and humor. The composer was a protégé of Richard Wagner, and the score is flavored with the sophisticated musical lessons that he learned from his idol while maintaining a charm and a light touch that were entirely Humperdinck’s own—resulting in a work that has garnered approval from such diverse and demanding critics as children and musicologists.