On Sept. 25, 2017, the Metropolitan Opera opens its 2017-18 with one of the most famous diva showcases in opera, “Norma.” Sondra Radvanovsky will repeat her acclaimed portrayal she first brought to the Met in 2013 alongside an all-star cast that includes Joseph Calleja and Joyce DiDonato.
The opera marks the third Bel Canto work to open the Met Opera under general manager Peter Gelb. Gelb has taken a stab at making Bel Canto a priority adding numerous operas to the reperotire including “Armida,” “La Donna del Lago,” and “Le Comte Ory,” the Donizetti Tudor trilogy and reviving “Semiramide,” and “Guillaume Tell.” However, many of the signature works performed around the world are still being neglected. In celebration of opening night, OperaWire takes a look at some of the Bel canto works that either need revivals or premieres at the Met.
From Joan Sutherland, Leyla Gencer, Katia Ricciarelli, Monserrat Caballé to Edita Gruberova, Mariella Devia, Sondra Radvanovsky, Angela Meade, Renee Fleming and, recently, Krassimira Stoynova, “Lucrezia Borgia” has been a showcase for some of the greatest divas of our time. It has also been sung by tenors like Alfredo Kraus, Pavol Breslik, Juan Diego Flórez, Marcelo Alvarez, and José Carreras, among others. Yet it has only been performed once at the Met and that happened in 1904 with Enrico Caruso and Maria De Macchi in her Met debut. It’s questionable why this opera has been absent for so long considering a number of singers who have and continue to perform it. It is also unusual as this is considered one of Donizetti’s more mature works and showcases some of his more experimental passages and dramatic music.
I Capuleti e I Montecchi
Bellini’s early telling of “Romeo and Juliet” is a melodic masterpiece if not always the most dramatically accurate adaptation. However, it is a work that has been performed all over the world at the Royal Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, and San Francisco Opera among others. It has also been a vehicle for sopranos such as Anna Netrebko, Edita Gruberova, Renata Scotto, and Beverly Sills as well as for such mezzos as Elina Garanca, Joyce Didonato, Agnes Balsta, Vesselina Kasarova, and Fiorenza Cossotto. Yet the Met has never performed it in its history. This is a mystery given the popularity the work has obtained and the lush melodies that Bellini wrote for it. One hopes that with a new music director, the opera will obtain some consideration from the company.
Regarded as Donizetti’s “most personal opera” with the music being “some of the finest Donizetti was to compose,” the work has obtained quite a revival in past years with Beniamino Gigli and Maria Caniglia and Maria Callas and Franco Corelli among the firsts to champion it in the 20th century. Since then the opera has been a vehicle for José Carerras and Gregory Kunde and, most recently, Met star Michael Fabiano. It has also been sung by Ana María Martínez, Katia Ricciarelli, and Elizabeth Conell. Sondra Radvanovsky is slated to make her role debut in the work this season. Despite having such stars dominating the work around the world, it is also one of those operas that have yet to hit the Met stage and one that listeners need to discover live.
Another diva showcase that is considered among the most difficult by Bellini has also been absent altogether from the Met. Yet Renata Scotto, Edita Gruberova, Renée Fleming, Annick Massis, Monserrat Caballé, Elena Souliotis, Patrizia Ciofi, and, most recently, Marliss Petersen have taken on the challenging and virtuosic music and have created memorable portrayals. One hopes that the Met finds a moment to showcase a diva in this opera which was an instant hit at its premiere and which is still highly regarded.
Il Turco in Italia
The Met could always use more comedy and Rossini wrote many well-regarded works that are considered masterpieces. Among those are “Il Turco in Italia” which has been championed by such modern-day sopranos as Olga Peretyatko and Nino Machaidze, as well as by tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Moreover, the opera has many recordings by the likes of Beverly Sills, Maria Callas, Monserrat Caballé, Sumi Jo, Cecilia Bartoli, Ramón Vargas, and Samuel Ramey, among others. Yet with all the star power and love, it has received, the opera has not received a single performance at the Met.
Time to change that.