Opera Streams: Weekly Guide
Not sure where to start with this week’s Nightly Opera Streams? The guide below will introduce you to the productions featured in the upcoming days and get you ready to enjoy every minute of the operatic action. By Joel Rozen
Dialogues des Carmélites
Since its premiere in 1957, Poulenc’s shattering drama about a group of Carmelite nuns during the French Reign of Terror has maintained its ability to shock: Its blunt final scene is about as intense and gripping as opera gets. But the opera is also disarmingly tender, with scenes of great intimacy and sweetness, and a sensitive score well suited to its almost entirely female cast. The composer’s deep-seated fascination with spiritual music enabled him to craft an opera that brilliantly conveys the power of faith and loyalty, even during one of history’s darkest moments.
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.
Nixon in China
President Nixon’s controversial 1972 visit with Chairman Mao in Peking might seem an unlikely candidate for an operatic retelling, but in the inspired hands of composer John Adams, the meeting of politics and music not only works, it feels essential. The Met’s landmark staging brought together a host of modern luminaries, including director Peter Sellars and choreographer Mark Morris, who vividly capture the tense mood of the historical moment. A must-see for those who like their opera thought-provoking, sensational, and true to life.
With its inexhaustible bounty of arias, duets, quartets, and even a prison riot, this historical masterwork about the heir-apparent of King Philip II of Spain shows Verdi at his thrilling, imaginative best. The six singers at the helm must be steely and intrepid, capable of delivering 11th-hour high notes, steroidal emotions, and the narrative twists and turns of this titanic score.
Les Pêcheurs de Perles
After Carmen, this is Bizet’s “other” great masterpiece, an exotic romance well stocked with the kind of melting melodies that put the young composer—just 24 years old when the work premiered—on the 19th-century Parisian map. Set against the ruins of a Hindu temple in ancient Ceylon, the opera tells of two fisherman friends who lock horns over a demure yet vocally powerful priestess of Brahma—who is herself torn between piety and her own powerful desires. With such intrigue, it’s a wonder the work is so rarely performed, yet its lyrical centerpiece—a soul-stirring duet for the two men in the first act—remains one of opera’s greatest hits.
The plot may be focused on the eponymous Scottish king, but Verdi’s high-flying take on Shakespeare’s drama boasts three powerhouse arias for Lady Macbeth, making it a signature showpiece for divas at the very top of their game. Drawing equally on showstopping vocal virtuosity and deftly crafted drama, Verdi’s version of this tale of intrigue and power will keep you on the edge of your seat for all four razor-sharp acts.
Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece about a strong-willed druid priestess in love with a Roman official is a supreme vehicle for singers with a flair for high drama and seemingly limitless technique. The opera’s standout arias, full of filigreed passagework and florid runs, have put many daring singers to the test, but also perfectly capture the turbulent psychological states of the main characters as they endeavor to make sense of their conflicted emotions.