Weekly Guide: May 10–16
Leading up to the 2021 National Council Auditions Grand Finals Concert on May 16, enjoy a week of free streams celebrating some of the extraordinary Met artists who have participated in the program over the past 60 years—as well as an exclusive screening of Susan Froemke’s documentary The Audition.
Monday, May 10
Puccini’s La Bohème
Starring Teresa Stratas as Mimì
A passionate, timeless, indelible story of young love in 19th-century Paris, La Bohème can easily stake its claim as the world’s most popular opera. It has a marvelous ability to both make a powerful first impression and to reveal previously unnoticed treasures after dozens of hearings. Throughout, Puccini perfectly captures the “small people” (as he called them) of the drama and explores the deep emotional significance hidden in the trivial things—a bonnet, an old overcoat, a chance meeting with a neighbor—that make up our everyday lives. In this 1982 performance, soprano Teresa Stratas, a 1959 National Council Auditions winner, gives a heartbreaking performance as the bohemian seamstress Mimì.
Tuesday, May 11
Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Starring Samuel Ramey in the title role and Carol Vaness as Donna Anna
A pair of National Council Auditions finalists from the 1970s—bass-baritone Samuel Ramey and soprano Carol Vaness—share the stage in this classic telecast of Don Giovanni. Imbuing the familiar Don Juan myth with a captivating combination of comedy, seductiveness, danger, and damnation, Mozart created an enduring masterpiece that has been a cornerstone of the repertory since its 1787 premiere. The opera offers a rare opportunity for two low-voiced men to star alongside one another as the title cad and his faithful yet conflicted servant, Leporello, as well as three memorable female roles—multifaceted women who both suffer the Don’s abuses. Yet for all his adversaries’ plans to enact their revenge, only an otherworldly force from beyond the grave can put a stop to Giovanni’s diabolical deeds.
Wednesday, May 12
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
Starring Ben Heppner as Tristan
Inspired by Wagner’s own tortured affair with the wife of his patron, this searing masterwork is based on Arthurian legend and tells of an illicit romance between a Breton nobleman and the Irish princess betrothed to his uncle and king. The composer’s larger-than-life sensibilities are on full display throughout the score: Along with intoxicating orchestral music that surges in tandem with the couple’s burgeoning passion and a chord left symbolically unresolved until the last moments of the opera, the opera also features one of the repertory’s most soaring and ecstatic final climaxes, as Isolde surrenders to a love so powerful that she transcends life itself. In this 1999 telecast, see tenor Ben Heppner—a 1988 National Council winner—take on the heroic role of Tristan.
Thursday, May 13
Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier
Starring Renee Fleming as the Marschallin and Susan Graham as Octavian
Winning the 1988 National Council Auditions alongside Heppner were a pair of artists destined for major international careers: soprano Renée Fleming and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. In this 2010 Live in HD transmission, see them share the stage in Strauss’s poignant comedy Der Rosenkavalier. After scandalizing the opera world with Salome and Elektra—a pair of stark, psychoanalytic portraits of biblical and ancient Greek heroines—the composer created this modern drawing-room farce to great popular acclaim. The work, which follows the sexual indiscretions and romantic entanglements of several aristocratic characters, presents love, desire, and nobility as distinctly double-sided coins: coming-of-age discovery vs. the wisdom of aging, and the thrill of pursuing new desires vs. noble self-sacrifice for the greater good. The score draws on a rich orchestral palette that would come to define the composer’s mature work.
Friday, May 14
Susan Froemke’s The Audition
A leader in the cinema verité style—where one does not script or narrate a film but rather lets the events themselves tell the story—Oscar-nominated documentarian Susan Froemke turned her eye to the Met’s storied National Council Auditions in 2007. The result was The Audition, which follows a dozen of opera’s brightest young stars as they prepare to compete in the Grand Finals Concert on the Met stage. Pulling back the curtain on one of the world’s most prestigious vocal competitions, the film offers its fair share of triumphs and tragedies and features a number of artists who would go on to have major international careers, including Angela Meade, Jamie Barton, Michael Fabiano, and Alek Shrader.
Saturday, May 15
Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Starring Lawrence Brownlee as Count Almaviva
Still one of the world’s most in-demand bel canto tenors two decades after winning the 2001 National Council Auditions, Lawrence Brownlee stars as Count Almaviva in this effervescent performance of 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, May 16
Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux
Starring Sondra Radvanovsky as Queen Elizabeth I
In 2015–16, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky—a 1995 National Council Auditions winner—pulled off a rare feat: tackling all three of Donizetti’s Tudor queens over the course of one season. The payoff was immense, as it gave operagoers a chance to experience the subtle trajectory of his character portraits—from the tragedy of circumstance facing the young Anne Boleyn to the touching inner turmoil of an aging Elizabeth I as she worked through her feelings for Robert Devereux, a much younger nobleman charged with treason, in the final opera of the trilogy.