Pack up some picnic vittles and a soft chair cushion.  It is once again time for the free—as in it costs no money—eleven nights of opera (nine operas, as “Tristan und Isolde” is presented in two parts, on successive evenings, and the series kicks off with an operatic film), The Met:  Live in HD, in the Plaza at Lincoln Center. The musical bounty starts Friday evening, August 25th, and ends September 4th, Labor Day.  It is one of the greatest gifts that residents of the Big Apple and tourists receive.  This is the ninth year that it is being staged, gathering increased critical mass annually, becoming more and more popular, even among people who have never sampled opera before, much less savored it.  (Last year more than 40,000 people attended; the seating in the Plaza accommodates 3,000, on a first-come, first-served basis.)

the Metropolitan Opera's Summer Live in HD Festival at the Lincoln Center Plaza, 2011
The Metropolitan Opera’s Summer Live in HD Festival on Lincoln Center Plaza–a scene from 2011. Photo: Richard Termine/Metropolitan Opera.

The Live in HD performances are affecting, intimate, and imminently accessible.  Presented in a larger-than-life fashion on the massive screen against the opera house’s facade, each opera is fully translated with subtitles, so no need to try to divine what is happening, which can be particularly vexing in some of opera’s more complicated, convoluted, logic-defying, plot-twisting libretti. The first evening is the 1975 film of “The Magic Flute” (“Die Zauberflöte”), as conceived by Ingmar Bergman, and it is presented as a joint venture of the Met and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  The Met has added a film for the first evening’s viewing each season for the past several years—last year, it was “West Side Story.”

Operatic superstars abound in these Live in HD productions—Diana Damrau, Peter Mattei, Piotr Beczała, Susanna Phillips, Eric Owens, Kristine Opolais, Juan Diego Flórez, Nına Stemme, Roberto Alagna, Anna Netrebko, Plácido Domingo, and Thomas Hampson, to name but a baker’s dozen of the many who comprise the star-studded roster.  So, come early, bring your dinner (and a cushion to put on the hard plastic chair seat), make new friends with those around you, and enjoy the fabuloso gift of The Met: Live in HD that is bestowed upon us. It is made possible by generous support from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, with additional funding provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation; the original transmissions of The Met: Live in HD are supported by a grant from its founding sponsor, The Neubauer Family Foundation, with global corporate sponsorship provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Curtain times vary, see the schedule below:

The Magic Flute

Friday, August 25, 8 pm
Director Ingmar Bergman was a lifelong fan of Mozart’s late operatic masterpiece “Die Zauberflöte” (“The Magic Flute”), having seen the work as a young boy. He went on to create a cinematic version of the opera, sung in his native Swedish, that blends 18th-century stagecraft with fairy-tale adventure. For the film, maestro Eric Ericson conducted the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and a cast that included a number of young Scandinavian artists, most notably baritone Håkan Hagegård—who sang nearly 90 performances for Met audiences—as the charming bird catcher Papageno.
Approximate running time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Piotr Beczala as the Duke in Verdi's 'Rigoletto'
Piotr Beczala as the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.


Saturday, August 26, 8 pm
Željko Lučić stars as the brooding title character in Michael Mayer’s neon-bedecked production, which updates the action to Las Vegas in 1960. (The Duke’s henchman are appropriately decked out in brocade tuxedos that speak to the era perfectly!) Diana Damrau is his impetuous daughter, Gilda, alongside Piotr Beczała as the licentious Duke. Original transmission: February 16, 2013
Approximate running time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Peter Mattei as Figaro, John Del Carlo as Doctor Bartolo and Joyce DiDonato as Rosina in Rossini's 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia'
Peter Mattei as Figaro, John Del Carlo as Doctor Bartolo and Joyce DiDonato as Rosina in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Sunday, August 27, 7:45 pm
Baritone Peter Mattei stars as Figaro (and for my money, he’s the best Figaro I have ever seen!), the title barber of Seville, in Bartlett Sher’s uproarious, joyous production. Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez complete the star-studded bel canto cast. Original transmission: March 24, 2007
Approximate running time: 2 hours 45 minutes

L’Amour de Loin

Monday, August 28, 8 pm
Susanna Phillips, Tamara Mumford, and Eric Owens star in the Met premiere production of Kaija Saariaho’s 21st-century masterpiece, brought to life in a spellbinding staging by Robert Lepage, who uses extraordinary LED lighting on the set. Susanna Mälkki conducts this mesmerizing score. Original transmission: December 10, 2016
Approximate running time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Manon Lescaut

Tuesday, August 29, 8 pm
Soprano Kristine Opolais gives an enthralling performance as the mercurial title character opposite tenor Roberto Alagna as her passionate young lover, the Chevalier des Grieux. Fabio Luisi (another one of my favorites) leads Puccini’s heartbreaking early masterpiece, updated to a more contemporary time. Original transmission: March 5, 2016
Approximate running time: 2 hours 10 minutes

a scene from Donizetti's 'Roberto Devereux'
A scene from Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux.” Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Roberto Devereux

Wednesday, August 30, 8 pm
Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky delivers a tour-de-force performance as Queen Elizabeth, the third queen of Donizetti’s perilous triplet-queen operas; “Maria Stuarda” and “Anna Bolena” are the other two operas. She performs alongside superstars Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecien. The production’s black and gold sets are breathtaking.  Original transmission: April 16, 2016
Approximate running time: 2 hours 30 minutes

a scene from Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde'
A scene from Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.” Photo by Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera.

Tristan und Isolde

Thursday, August 31, 8 pm (Act I) and
Friday, September 1, 8 pm (Acts II and III)
Sir Simon Rattle conducts Wagner’s meditation on transcendent love, with an acclaimed cast led by Nına Stemme and Stuart Skelton. Mariusz Treliński’s insightful production sets the timeless tale against a backdrop of modern-day warfare; the near-chiaroscuro set and costumes are elegant. Original transmission: October 8, 2016
Approximate running time for Act I: 1 hour 45 minutes
Approximate running time for Acts II–III: 2 hours 35 minutes

Anna Netrebko as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'
Anna Netrebko as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Eugene Onegin

Saturday, September 2, 8 pm
Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei deliver gripping performances in Tchaikovsky’s moving opera about unrequited love. Robin Ticciati conducts one of the composer’s most popular scores. Original transmission: April 22, 2017
Approximate running time: 2 hours 40 minutes


Sunday, September 3, 8 pm
As the title king of Babylon, Plácido Domingo adds another role to his historic Met career, joining forces once again with Music Director Emeritus James Levine. The Metropolitan Opera Chorus delivers a poignant performance of Verdi’s famous “Va, pensiero,” just about the only chorus (or aria, duet, trio, quartet, for that matter) that is encored at the Met, giving the sensational chorus its due. Original transmission: January 7, 2017
Approximate running time: 2 hours 25 minutes

a scene from Verdi's 'Nabucco'
A scene from Verdi’s “Nabucco.” Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

La Traviata

Monday, September 4, 8 pm
Verdi’s timeless tragedy stars Sonya Yoncheva as the conflicted courtesan who hopes that pure love can save her from self-destruction. Michael Fabiano is her beloved Alfredo and Thomas Hampson is the imperious father standing in the way of their happiness. This is a modern-day update and another one that is stark in its use of chiaroscuro, but brightened by the occasional bolt of vermillion and by a pair of bathrobes stitched from a veritable flower-bed of fabric); however, despite its interest, it has me hankering for the two older Zeffirelli, lush, traditional productions. Original transmission: March 11, 2017
Approximate running time: 2 hours 20 minutes

© Ruth J. Katz  2017 All rights reserved

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