I have two more recommendations of classic operas, both for the excellence of the performances and the inventive stagings. Ironically, both female leads in the operas have the same name spelled almost identically. The first is Martin Kušej's anti-clerical staging of Verdi's La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny), which Kušej interprets as the force of patriarchal institutions like Catholicism and the family, hence the singer who plays the character of Leonora's father also plays the Father Superior. Leonora's mountain hermitage in the final scene is represented by a pile of crosses. The English libretto for this opera is available here. If you try to follow along with the libretto, be aware that sometimes scenes are presented out of order (e.g. Act III, sc. 4 is presented before Act III, sc. 3, in order to make the antagonism between Carlos and Don Alvaro the dramatic focus). The other is Claus Guth's production of Beethoven's Fidelio. Guth's productions are known for their stark settings and their focus on the interior psychological states of the characters. Tenor Jonas Kaufmann takes the lead in both productions, with soprano Anja Harteros as Verdi's Leonora, and Adrianne Pieczonka as Beethoven's Leonore. Each video below is part of the production. The English libretto is available here with the German original alongside (from a lolbertarian site, no less! ).
Finally, I have one modern opera to recommend. There's a video of this opera on DVD, but this is a purely audio recording of Hans Werner Henze's 15th opera, L'Upupa und der Triumph der Sohnesliebe (The Hoopoe and the Triumph of Filial Love). He intended it to be his last, but then he wrote two more operas before his death, Phaedra and Gisela!. This opera is based on Arab and Persian legends and has a fairy tale quality. While there is no libretto online, you can read the Wikipedia page on it for the synopsis. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x27gs7k_henze-l-upupa-und-der-triumph-der-sohnesliebe-amsterdam-march-17-2012_music
BBC Opera on 3 archives its broadcasts for the previous thirty days, and right now they've got five operas up. It was the fifth that led me to look for this archive, because it was a world premiere from one of my favorite contemporary composers, Georg Friedrich Haas. The ROH was premiering his opera, Morgen und Abend. I spaced on the time this morning, so I missed all but the last fifteen minutes, but that fifteen minutes made me want to listen to the rest. Other than that, their operas in reverse order of broadcast (oldest first) are: Händel's Orlando (only up for another day) Beethoven's Fidelio (only up for eight more days) Chausson's Le Roi Arthus (there it is again! - up for fifteen more days) Rossi's Orpheus (up for twenty-two more days).
Remember I kept on reminding you to listen to Ernest Chausson's Le roi Arthus (King Arthur)? Now you don't have to wait for it to be broadcast online, because there's a Youtube video of a recent production with Thomas Hampson as King Arthur, Roberto Alagna as Lancelot, and Sophie Koch as Guinevere. The conductor is Philippe Jordan and the production is by Graham Vick. And I've been listening to this sublime piece by the contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho called La Passion de Simone, an oratorio that sets texts by Simone Weil and links events in her life to the Stations of the Cross.
Yes, this Saturday's matinee is The Rake's Progress, so if you can get a personal day you can see the opera. If you feel energetic enough, you could even come back that evening for an excellent Un ballo in maschera (I listened to the matinee last Saturday). But if you have to miss it, there are still plenty of videos and audio recordings of the opera online.
I saw Cav and Pag with my great-aunt the week before last Saturday, and we both thought it was excellent. The staging is a little too static in the first opera, and the costumes have a monochrome palette, while there's a huge amount of stage business and technicolor costumes in the second opera, so it may be that the director was trying for the greatest possible visual contrast between the two pieces. The acting and singing in both operas is excellent, however, so you'll still be getting your money's worth.
For the next three weeks, I'd recommend any of the following operas:
Tuesday, April 21st at 7:30 p.m.: Cavalleria Rusticana (known to many aficionados as "Cav & Pag") by Pietro Masacgni and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. A very traditional double-bill that is an old favorite for a reason.
I strongly recommend Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi, based on the Schiller play you read, on Saturday April 25th at 7:00 p.m.
I enjoyed the HD broadcast of The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar, which they brought back (but with different singers) for Monday, April 27th at 7:30 p.m.
However, if it has to be a choice, Verdi's Un ballo in maschera is the more musically and dramatically substantial work, which will be on Tuesday, April 28th at 7:30 p.m. It's about the assassination of the Swedish King Gustav III.
Heading into May, there are two more Monday and Tuesday night performances. The first is the Monday, May 4th performance of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress at 7:30 p.m. It's sung in English to a libretto by W. H. Auden and is inspired by a series of paintings and engravings by William Hogarth.
Then on Tuesday, May 5th at 7:30 p.m., they have another performance of Cav & Pag.
I should also mention that Cav & Pag, Un ballo in maschera, and The Rake's Progress, respectively, are all going to be broadcast in the Saturday matinees for the next three weeks, so even if you can't attend live, you can hear the live performances. Cav & Pag is also going to be given an HD movie theater broadcast by the Met next Saturday.
Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa, which is his first masterwork, written all the way back in 1904 but too modern for its time. It could only be premiered with a revised orchestration, and wasn't given its original orchestration until Charles Mackerras worked on it in the 1970s.
And Alban Berg's Lulu, another work that coincidentally was only fully realized in the 1970s. It was left incomplete when Alban Berg died in 1935, but with its third act completely sketched in short score format. Helene, Berg's widow, forbade completion of the work, so the completed version wasn't premiered until after she died, in a version by his fellow Austrian, Friedrich Cerha. The first complete performance starred Teresa Stratas in the title role and was conducted by Pierre Boulez (also a noted composer) in 1979. This version is a later performance by Christine Schäfer that many people consider the definitive version.
It looks like we may not have links that resolve as Youtube playable videos anymore, so I'll post these works as direct links. There's one opera and one orchestral work.
The opera is the 2011-2 production of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson*, which is the one I saw when it toured in Los Angeles.
*Wilson is the designer, but he deserves to be given co-creator credit with Glass for reasons that will be evident when you watch the video.
And if you want some background on the opera, there's a really good blog post about it here:
The other piece is Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie, which is written for orchestra plus featured performers on the piano and an electronic instrument called the ondes Martinot. The featured performers in this piece are Joanna MacGregor and Cynthia Millar, respectively, and the orchestra is the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain under the baton of Vasily Petrenko. I've heard many versions of this amazing work and this performance outstrips them all.
And just to show that I don't always listen to modernist or postmodernist works, how about this wonderful example of unjustly neglected turn-of-the-century Romanticism? Charles Villiers Stanford's Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor, which sounds a lot like Rachmaninoff. If you want to listen to this work, I recommend listening to it and Messaien back-to-back—but this work first—because they complement each other beautifully.
Since today is Holy Week, there are predictably a lot of Passion oratorios by various composers, including the Bach family (not just Johann Sebastian). Of the actual operas that are going on, there are lots to recommend.
The first one I'll recommend is the one I'll be listening to, the most recent opera by the Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans, Au monde, which will be broadcast by Klara at 2 p.m. I've heard loads of Boesmans' operas (including Julie after Strindberg's play, Wintermärchen (The Winter's Tale) after Shakespeare, and Reigen after Schnitzler) and they've all been brilliant.
At noon and with several later broadcasts (check the page) is the Metropolitan Opera production of Strauss' Arabella, which I can also recommend. Since the Met broadcast overlaps with Boesmans' opera, I'll probably listen to one of the later broadcasts, or hear it on the classical station in Fairbanks tomorrow.
Also at noon is Wagner's Siegfried, the third opera of the Ring Cycle, on Latvia Radio Klasika. There's another Wagner opera on at 1:00 p.m.: Parsifal broadcast on Český rozhlas 3 - Vltava.
Jules Massenet gets a couple of nods today: Manon on NPR's World of Opera, broadcast at 1:30 p.m. on KBIA2 and WABE Classical and on WDAV at 6:00 p.m., and a double bill of Thérèse and La Navarraise on Espace 2 at 2:00 p.m.
Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) is being broadcast in two different productions on NRK P2 at 1:00 p.m. and at 2:05 on HR2 Kultur.
Berlioz's Les Troyens is being broadcast on Musiq3 at 2:00 p.m. if you want to relive the experience of it.
A rarity from Domenico Cimarosa, Le astuzie femminili, is being broadcast at 11:00 a.m. on RAI FD5 Auditorium, but that may be too early for you.
Another opera that might be too early for you is Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt) on Český rozhlas D-Dur at the bizarre start time of 12:14 p.m., but it's his most popular opera so there will be full versions on Youtube.
Verdi's La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny) will be broadcast on Radio 4 Netherlands at 1:45 p.m., and this is what I'd be listening to if I weren't listening to Boesmans. His Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), satirized in the film A Night at the Opera, will be broadcast on Radio Tre at 2:00 p.m.
Last but not least, Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice will be broadcast on Dwojka Polske Radio at 2:30 p.m.
As always, all the links can be found here: http://operacast.com/thissat.htm
It's a modern opera day at the Swiss Internet Radio Service, including the still-unheard-by-you opera, Kniefall in Warschau, and if you still haven't heard it by May I'm going to make sure that you listen to my CD of it. Of the stuff that is coming up, there's Werner Egk's Der Revisor (The Inspector General, after Gogol) at 10:30 a.m. (this can also be heard on Youtube), Ernst Krenek's jazz-inflected Jonny spielt auf at 12:30 p.m., Gottfried von Einem's Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady at 2:30 p.m., after Friedrich Dürrenmatt), and finally Kniefall in Warschau by Gerhard Rosenfeld at 4:30 p.m. I'd recommend any of these very highly. Don't forget that the times are only approximate and that very often they run late. (They're already running late for Der Revisor.)
Another modern opera that I'd recommend is Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District on KLARA from Brussels at 2:00 p.m, but this can also be found on Youtube.
Pelleas et Melisande by Claude Debussy will be on LRT Klassica from Vilnius at 11:00 a.m.
Two Wagner operas will be on today: Tannhauser at 10:00 a.m. on RBB Kulturradio and Lohengrin at 1:30 p.m. on Radio Oesterreich International.
There's a 19th century rarity being aired at 1:00 p.m. on NRK P2: Sigurd by Ernest Reyer, a French operatic treatment of the same subject as Wagner's Siegfried.
Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, his opera about Vasco de Gama, is being aired at 1:30 p.m. by KBIA2, KTTZ, and WABE Classical, and at 6:00 p.m. by WDAV.
Other than that, the main recommendations I'd make are for the Baroque operas by Domenico Mazzocchi (La catena d'Adone on BR Klassik at 1:05 p.m.), Francesco Cavalli (La Calisto on Deutschlandradio Kultur at 1:05 p.m.), and Jean-Philippe Rameau (Platée on France Musique at 1:00 p.m.). Amazingly, all of these works, including Mazzocchi's, which I've never heard of before, are all available on Youtube.
Pretty conservative offerings today, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The only modern opera on today, aside from a rebroadcast of the Wozzeck you saw, is Walter Braunfels' Der Traum, ein Leben at 1:05 p.m on Deutschlandradio Kultur. I like Braunfels' music so I might listen to this one. Otherwise, I'll probably be listening to Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande at 1:00 p.m. on France Musique. Two are also two Puccini operas, La bohème and La fanciulla del West, the former being broadcast practically everywhere via the Met (I use KUSC or the Met's own live feed) at 1 p.m. and the latter via BBC Radio 3 at 2:15 p.m. I definitely won't be listening to Bohème because I'll be seeing it in the Met HD broadcast, but don't let that stop you. Two different performances of Mozart's Don Giovanni (IMO, his greatest opera, although Le Nozze di Figaro is my sentimental favorite), one on NRK P2 out of Norway at 1:00 p.m. and the other on Radio Oesterreich International at 1:30 p.m. And Verdi is featured several times today: Rigoletto on Latvia Radio Klasika at 1:10 p.m., Macbeth on DR P2 Klassisk out of Copenhagen, and the rarely performed I due Foscari (same opera as last week) is being presented on Česke rozhlas 3 - Vltava at 2:00 p.m.
Tomorrow, aside from multiple stations broadcasting the Met's performance of Bellini's La sonnambula (1:00 p.m. EDT), which has nice music but one of the stupider libretti, tomorrow is a Verdi and Richard Strauss day.
Verdi's early I due Foscari (based on a play by Byron) is being presented tomorrow on Dwojka Polske Radio at 2:00 p.m. EDT, his opera Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) is being presented on Espace 2 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, and his first opera, Oberto, is being presented at the same time on Radio Stephansdom.
Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten will be broadcast at 1:50 p.m. on BBC Radio 3, his first opera, Guntram, will be broadcast at 2:05 p.m. on Deutschlandradio Kultur, and his Der Rosenkavalier will be broadcast on France Musqiue at 2:00 p.m.
HR2 Kultur will be broadcasting a rarity, Ruggiero Leoncavallo's La bohème (Puccini's is much more frequently presented), at 3:05 p.m.
If you base your decisions about what to listen to on whether you can otherwise find it on Youtube, as I do, then the obvious choice is Guntram, which hasn't been put online yet. Otherwise, I can recommend any of the ones I've listed, but especially Leoncavallo's Bohème and Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.
The Metropolitan Opera's weekly radio season is about to begin with a performance of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi at 12:30 EST (1730 GMT).
As always, you can catch the productions at Operacast.com or stream them live via the Met's own website.
And this month, my opera recommendations for are as follows:
Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi on December 9th and December 30, both at 7:30.
Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss on December 10th at 7:00.
Tosca by Giacomo Puccini on December 17th at 8:00 and December 23rd at 7:30.
Here's another puzzle. I was playing chess against the Chess.com computer and arrived at this position. The obvious move is a promotion, but I wasn't happy because the computer automatically promoted my pawn to a queen, despite the fact that I wanted a different piece. What was that other piece and why?
Edited to add: Here's a nice tactical game I played after this one.