Weekly Guide: December 14–20

The next week of Nightly Opera Streams showcases the grandest of grand operas, with stirring epics by Wagner, Verdi, Berlioz, Mussorgsky, and more. Dive into the full lineup with this guide.

S_D_6466a 1600x685.jpgMonday, December 14
Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila
The biblical story of Samson and Delilah has resonated throughout the ages because it is universal—a tale of desire and passion, violence and revenge. In his operatic adaptation, Saint-Saëns intensifies these elemental human experiences with music of unsurpassed sensuality, music that caresses the ear and sets the heart pounding. Much is required of the title pair, a mezzo-soprano who must be both seductive and scathing, and a tenor who must transform from implacable to broken to reborn. When everything comes together, it is as exhilarating an opera as they come.

lohengrin 1600x685.jpgTuesday, December 15
Wagner’s Lohengrin
Due to the quirks of scheduling and some unanticipated technical challenges, Wagner’s lush, Romantic tale of a holy knight and the maiden who loves him has not seen the Met stage since 2006. This 1986 telecast performance makes the very most of Wagner’s glowing music, with the dashing Peter Hoffmann in the title role, Eva Marton as a deeply affecting Elsa, Lohengrin’s beloved, and the great Leonie Rysanek giving a thrillingly deranged portrayal of Ortrud, the sorceress who tries to tear the couple apart.

Les Troyens 1600x685.jpgWednesday, December 16
Berlioz’s Les Troyens
In the week’s second towering French masterpiece, the ever-daring Hector Berlioz takes on the aftermath of the Trojan War and Aeneas’s exploits in Carthage, by way of Virgil’s Aeneid, in a five-act magnum opus that stands as one of the most ambitious works in the operatic canon. Director Francesca Zambello rises to the challenge with a striking production that gets to the heart of the drama with sophisticated, symbolic visuals.

Francesca_ 1600x685.jpgThursday, December 17
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.

BORIS 1600x685.jpgFriday, December 18
Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov
Widely considered the composer’s masterpiece, yet subject to revision by more than one famous successor, Mussorgsky’s historical opera covers the turbulent interregnum period of early 17th-century Russia, when the title tsar, his son, and a Polish pretender to the throne were all jockeying for power. The resulting opera is nothing short of magnificent: a colossal vehicle for a star bass with King Lear-level acting chops, an exceptional ensemble cast, and a bejeweled, bell-heavy coronation.

Nabucco.1600x685.jpgSaturday, December 19
Verdi’s Nabucco
The breakthrough opera that launched Verdi from all but unknown to one of the most revered composers in history is a four-act biblical epic about an embattled Babylonian king driven mad by his blasphemous belief in his own divinity. The work features a wondrous roster of supporting characters, including a spitfire role for the soprano who portrays his scheming daughter, as well as some of the most stirring choral music ever written for the operatic stage.

Sunday, December 20
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung
The culmination of Wagner’s Ring, Götterdämmerung is also a complete and monumental theatrical journey of its own. In this grand finale, the musical and dramatic ideas set forth in the first three parts of the cycle find their full expression. The work also presents unique vocal and dramatic challenges for the lead tenor and soprano, reaching their climax in Brünnhilde’s cathartic Immolation Scene—which quite literally brings down the house.