Opera Streams: Weekly Guide

This week of Nightly Opera Streams offers a diverse tasting of operatic flavors. The following guide will help prepare you for the entire menu. By Joel Rozen

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Boasting one of opera’s most popular and thrilling scores, Verdi’s immortal tragedy about a love triangle in ancient Egypt delivers passion, intrigue, and heartbreak in equal measures. The characters—including a celestially beautiful Ethiopian princess, the formidable daughter of the king of Egypt, and the dashing commander they both love—are larger than life, and the scenery is as grand as it gets.

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La Fanciulla del West
Though less familiar than Puccini’s greatest hits, this action-packed tribute to the American Wild West, which received its world premiere at the Met in 1910, is every bit as compelling. Its sweeping, evocative score deftly captures the feel of a Gold Rush–era mining camp—the perfect place for a sweet-talkin’ bandit to fall for a gun-totin’ bar owner with an enormous soprano voice and a heart of gold.

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Verdi finished his sublime final opera when he was almost 80 years old, capping a fruitful career with a bawdy adaptation of scenes from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. His classic operatic farce charts a knight’s gold-digging efforts to seduce two married women, leading to belly-flopping failure on both counts. The score, meanwhile, is a complete tour de force, demonstrating the old master’s still-youthful panache, as well as his profound insight into human nature.

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Wagner’s epic masterwork about a naïve young hero’s quest to restore the Holy Grail demands unparalleled stamina from singers, conductor, and audience alike. Yet the payoff is an operatic experience as profound as anything in the canon, with overwhelming music and compelling psychological portraits. The Met’s probing, post-apocalyptic setting established François Girard as one of the eminent Wagner directors of his generation—and tapped cutting-edge technology to keep a veritable swimming pool of stage blood heated and germ-free.

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Roméo et Juliette
Every bit as heartbreaking and kinetic as the Shakespearean original, Gounod’s ravishing opera features the most famous moments of the play dressed up in unforgettable musical finery. The star-crossed lovers at the center are assigned no fewer than four duets; Romeo’s swashbuckling friend Mercutio gets a first-act showstopper about Queen Mab; and Juliet’s vivacious entrance aria is a waltz so irresistible, anyone would be compelled to scale a balcony for her.

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Don Pasquale
A runaway success since its premiere in 1843, Donizetti’s boisterous comedy charts a buffoonish old man’s marriage to a clever young widow who outsmarts him at every turn. The opera, a touchstone of the bel canto style, showcases many of the composer’s most charming melodies, and has also become a particular favorite of bass singers, who are handed a deliciously hammy and expansive title role. 

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Così fan tutte
The last of Mozart’s legendary collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, this exuberant comedy of manners and morals tracks an ill-conceived bet about women’s fidelity and the darkly hilarious fall-out it produces. The master composer lines his score with stunning arias, ebullient ensembles, and frothy orchestral accompaniments, while Phelim McDermott’s staging relocates the hijinks to 1950s Coney Island, offering a fun and zany take on this comic masterpiece.

Joel Rozen is the Met's Staff Writer.