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James Levine’s 25th Anniversary Metropolitan Opera Gala
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Don Giovanni ‘Di molte faci il lume…Sola, in buio loco’ Renée Fleming (Donna Anna), Kiri Te Kanawa (Donna Elvira), Hei-Kyung Hong (Zerlina), Jerry Hadley (Don Ottavio), Bryn Terfel (Leporello) and Julien Robbins (Massetto); ‘In quali eccessi , o numi…Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata’ Kiri Te Kanawa (Donna Elvira) Le Nozze di Figaro – ‘esito dunque…Nemico della patria’ Sherrill Milnes (Gerard); Cosi fan tutte – ‘Sorella, cosa dici?...Prendero quell brunettino’ Carol Vaness (Fiordiligi) and Susanne Mentzer (Dorabella)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carlo - ‘Restarte!...O Signor, di fiandra arrivo’ Thomas Hampson (Rodrigo) and Roberto Scandiuzzi (Filippo II); ‘Ah, più non vedrò…O don fatale’ Dolora Zajick (Eboli); Luisa Miller - ‘O! Fede negar potessi agl’occhi miei!…Quando lesere al placido’ Carlo Bergonzi (Rodolfo); Un ballo in maschera - ‘Ahime! S’appressa alcun’ Ghena Dimitrova (Amelia), Franco Farina (Riccardo) and Juan Pons (Renato); ‘Morrò, ma prima in grazia’ Aprile Millo (Amelia) Ernani – ‘Cessaro I suoni’ Deborah Voight (Elvira), Placido Domingo (Ernani) and Roberto Scandiuzzi (Silva) I Lombardi – ‘Qui pos ail fianco…Qual voluttà trascorrere’ June Anderson (Giselda), Carlo Bergonzi (Oronte), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Pagano) and Raymond Gniewek (violin solo)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Rienzi Overture; Tannhäuser – ‘Dich, teure Halle’ Deborah Voigt (Elisabeth); Tristan und Isolde – ‘Wie lachend sie mir Lieder singen’ Waltraud Meier (Isolde); Götterdämmerung – ‘Starke Scheite schchtet mir dort’ – Jane Eaglen (Brünnhilde); Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – ‘Wach auf!’ Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

La Périchole – ‘Ah! Quelle diner je viens de faire’ Frederica Von Stade (Périchole); Les Contes d’Hoffmann – ‘Hélas, mon coeur s’égare encore’ Florence Quivar (Giulietta), Rosalind Elias (Niklausse), Alfredo Krauss (Hoffmann), Charles Anthony (Pitichinaccio), James Courtney (Schlémil), Paul Plishka (Dapartutto) and The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin ‘O! Kalk mnye tyazhelo!’ (Final Scene) Catherine Malfitano (Tatyana) and Dwayne Croft (Onegin).
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Der Rosenkavalier ‘Hab mir’s gelobt’ Renée Fleming (Marschallin), Anne Sofie Von Otter (Octavian) and Heidi Grant Murphy (Sophie).
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)

Die Fledermaus ‘ Dieser Anstand, so manierlich’ Karita Mattila (Rosalinde) and Håkan Hagegård (Eisenstein)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Samson et Dalila – ‘Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ Grace Bumbry (Dalila).
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Roméo et Juliette – ‘Je veux vivre dans ce rêve’ Ruth Ann Swenson (Juliette); Faust – Mais ce Dieu, que peut-il pour moi?) Plácido Domingo (Faust) and Samuel Ramey (Méphistophélès)
Gustav CHARPENTIER (1860-1956)

Louise ‘Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée’ Renée Fleming (Louise)
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

L’Amico Fritz – ‘Suzel, buon di’ Angela Gheorghiu (Suzel) and Roberto Alagna (Fritz)
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)

Giuditta – ‘Ich weiss es selber nicht…Meine Lippen, sie küsseen so heiss’ Ileana Cotrubas (Giuditta);
Georges BIZET (1838-1893)

Les Pêcheurs de perles – ‘Au fond du temple saint’ Roberto Alagna (Nadir) and Bryn Terfel (Zurga)
John CORIGLIANO (b. 1936)
The Ghosts of Versailles – ‘Cherubino…’ ‘Now we go back in time’ Hei-Kyung Hong (Rosina), Wendy White (Cherubino), Christine Goerke (Marie Antoinette) and Håkan Hagegård (Beaumarchais);
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

Rusalka – ‘Song to the moon’
Gabriella Benačková (Rusalka),

Gaetano DONIZETTI

Don Pasquale – ‘Don Pasquale?...Cheti, cheti immantiente’ Mark Oswald (Malatesta) and Paul Plishka (Pasquale);
Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)

Andrea Chénier – ‘Esito dunque?...Nemico della patria’ Sherrill Milnes (Gérard)
PLUS: a Tribute to James Levine by Birgit Nilsson
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/James Levine
Bonuses: Picture gallery and an interview with James Levine
Rec. live from the Metropolitan Opera House, New York , 27 April 1996
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00440 073 2319 [2 DVDs: 142:20 + 151:38]

This Gala of Galas was held on 27 April 1996 to celebrate James Levine’s 25th Anniversary with the Metropolitan. He made his début with a matinee performance of Tosca on 5 June 1971 when Grace Bumbry sang the title role; Franco Corelli was Cavaradossi and Peter Glossop, in his debut at the Metropolitan, sang Scarpia. Appropriately Grace Bumbry makes an appearance here as a wildly seductive Dalila in the Saint-Saëns opera. Another veteran of The Met, Birgit Nilsson - who made her New York debut as Isolde under Karl Böhm - delivers a witty and moving, spoken tribute to the Maestro towards the end of the Gala and shows, in a brief snatch of aria. that she still has power and range.

Quoting from the DVD booklet, "In the course of 25 years, having risen from Principal Conductor (1973) to Music Director (1976) and Artistic Director (1986), Levine had conducted a repertoire ranging from Mozart to Berg and Weill, with all the great Verdis and Wagners in between, and overseen the Met débuts of many of the stars who came along to sing at this Gala, from Cotrubas to Terfel, Mattila to Meier. The statistics at the time of the Gala were astonishing enough – over 1,500 performances of 68 operas ..."

The prodigious programme, cast across two very full DVDs, is set out in full in the above lengthy heading. No doubt this DVD will sell according to buyers’ tastes. Not surprisingly all of the excerpts are sung not in operatic costume but in modern evening dress against a number of shared ‘classical’ backdrops of colonnades, balconies, platforms, drapes, tapestries and banks of flowers.

Clearly it would be tedious for me to cover every track in this collection. However the stellar cast plus the enthusiastic and committed playing of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and, where appropriate, the singing of the Met Choir make this Gala an outstanding operatic experience to treasure. I will cover some excerpts that particularly impressed me.

The Wagner excerpts are the most substantial and, for me, the most impressive. The audience were very fulsome in their applause for Waltraud Meier as Isolde. Meier is all fire and outrage as she curses Tristan when she discovers he had killed her fiancée Morold and has delivered her like a chattel to his uncle, King Marke. Jane Eaglen is no less powerful, heroic and vengeful of the Valhalla Gods in the long and demanding closing aria of Götterdämmerung. The Met Orchestra’s brass ring out thrillingly in the Rienzi Overture that opens the Gala. The Met Choir’s ‘Wach auf!’ from Meistersinger forms a moving and fitting close to the evening.

It was wonderful to hear the firm confident tenor voice of Carlo Bergonzi, who first appeared at the Met as long ago as 1956, in the aria from Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Another Verdi highlight is the highly dramatic Ernani excerpt with a glowering and unforgiving Roberto Scandiuzzi as Silva and Placido Domingo as the hapless, deranged Ernani (Don Juan) and Deborah Voigt as his unfortunate lover Elvira.

I must mention Domingo who impresses as Faust in the Gounod excerpt with Samuel Ramey as Méphistophélès.

Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna had married at New York’s City Hall during a Met engagement. They are deliciously romantically united in the Mascagni duet from L’amico Fritz.

Renée Fleming shines in another lovely romantic aria from Gustav Charpentier’s Louise. Another gorgeous highlight, again starring Renée Fleming is the final trio from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier with Fleming (as the Marschallin) joined by two other remarkable sopranos: Anne Sophie Von Otter (Octavian) and Heidi Grant Murphy (as Sophie).

Finally I must mention another Met veteran Sherrill Milnes. His commanding presence lifts the Andrea Chénier aria; and Kiri Te Kanawa is equally compelling in her anguished aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni in which she laments that her tormented heart still feels pity for the man who betrayed her.

A Gala of Galas. A host of operatic stars celebrate 25 years of Levine at the Met in grand style.

Ian Lace

 

 



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