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Friday, January 17, 2014

Opera Made (very) Easy

The Met's current slate is ideal for the opera novice.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Cio-Cio San (Amanda Echalaz) meets Pinkerton (Bryan Hymel) in Madama Butterfly.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2014 The Metropolitan Opera.
The month of January is the crux of the season at the Metropolitan Opera, when the company experiments with unusual repertory or quietly opens new productions that take familar works and redo them in an experimental manner (last year's Rigoletto).

However, the Met's current slate of productions features four shows, currently running that are great for those coming to the opera for the first time. So if you're a novice looking to experience their first opera, or the veteran who wants to see a classic work for the first time in years, we've got you covered.

The current offerings are:

La bohème
This is the Met's flagship production, a massive Franco Zeffirelli production with scale recreations of Parisian landscapes. But everyone waits for the stunning second act, when the Met chorus and supernumeraries recreate the happy chaos of Paris' Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve. The current cast features the star tenor Josef Calleja as the ardent Rodolfo.

L'Elisir d'Amore
The story of a country bumpkin who finds true love through the flter of a bottle of wine, Elisir stands next  Barber of Seville among the greatest and most long-running opera buffa comedies. This production bowed last year, and offers pastorale visions of rural Italy with hints of the gun-running and politics of the Risorgimento. This is currently an in-demand ticket, as the show features superstar soprano Anna Netrebko, recovered from her brief illness and singing the role of Adina.

Madama Butterfly
This was the first new production of Peter Gelb's administration as Met general manager and the first to get a Live in HD broadcast. It is also utterly distinctive, with the late Anthony Minghella offering a charged and highly symbolic take on this very personal tragedy. The current cast features tenor Bryan Hymel and the Butterfly of soprano Amanda Echalaz.

Die Fledermaus
Even if Viennese waltzes and bad jokes may not be to your taste, there's much to like about the Met's new take on Fledermaus. There's a game cast, beautiful turn of the century sets, and a quick sensibility to the new libretto. As an operetta (performed in English) Fledermaus is a bright, bubbly way to get introduced to the world of opera.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.