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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jump, They Say

Anna Netrebko to sing Tosca at the Met.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Anna Netrebko (right) on the roof of the Castel Sant'Angelo,
practicing for her 2017-18 run as Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera.
Well, not really. It's a photo job by the author.
Although the Metropolitan Opera season is winding down this week, those planning to attend the 2017-18 season have a hot ticket to look forward to: Anna Netrebko's first Tosca.

Last week, the Russian diva made headlines when she pulled out of performances of Bellini's Norma at the Met and the Royal Opera of Covent Garden, citing that her voice was no longer right for that grueling role. Today, the Met press office told the New York Times that the singer will now appear in the company's eagerly anticipated new production of Tosca, scheduled to bow on Dec. 31, 2017. She will split performances with soprano Kristine Opolais, and also add a couple of performances as Leonora in Il Trovatore, a role she sung at the Met earlier this season.

Puccini's Tosca remains one of the most popular operas of the 20th century, the story of an opera singer pushed to her mental and physical limit by the arrest of her lover Cavaradossi and the depradations of a very corrupt police chief, Baron Scarpia. At the work's climax, the singer hurls herself screaming to her death from the top of the Castel Sant'Angelo. This an actual location in Rome with a long history as the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian, a Papal residence and finally a city prison.

The old Met staging of Tosca by Franco Zeffirelli was a lavish affair that attempted to re-create the real locations of Rome on the company's big stage: the Sant'Andrea della Valle, the Palazzo Farnese, and the Castel battlement with its winged statue of Michael the Archangel by Belgian sculptor Peter NAnton von Verschaffeit. The Luc Bondy production from 2009 replaced these locations with drab sets that looked like a cross between a concentration camp and a brewery. Reviled by critics and loathed by the Met audience, it will not be missed.

The Times article by Michael Cooper also reveals that Ms. Netrebko's replacement as Norma at the Met's 2017 opening night will be soprano Sondra Radvanovsky.  She will split the role with sopranos Angela Meade, (who appears this week at the Opera Orchestra of New York) and Marina Rebeka. All three sopranos will appear opposite mezzo Joyce DiDonato as Adalgisa and tenor Joseph Calleja as Pollione. In the Covent Garden performances, Norma will be sung by Sonya Yoncheva, who drew good notices appearing as Desdemona in the Met's unspectacular new Bart Sher production of Otello.

Not much is known about the new Tosca, although it is rumored that David McVicar may direct. Mr. McVicar is a frequent presence at the Met these days. The British director is responsible for directing Ms. Netrebko, Ms. DiDonato and Ms. Radvanovsky in the Donizetti "three queens" trilogy, a version of British history that was heavily promoted this season, and he is also penciled in to helm the Met's new Norma. It may be a coincidence, but the aforementioned Il Trovatore production is also his work.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats