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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the International Citizen
Michael Volle as Scarpia and Anna Netrebko in the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca.”

From Riccardo Muti Music

On demand Operatic fashionistas have been known to dismiss Riccardo Muti’s theatrical sensibility as reactionary, but his interpretive powers as a musician crush such criticism to powder. As attuned to microscopic textual detail as to overarching epic sweep, Muti keeps faith with quintessential dramatic values name-brand directors all too eagerly betray—and nowhere more so than in Verdi. Seven years ago, at Rome’s Teatro dell’ Opera, Muti shone his light on three of the master’s obscurer titles: Nabucco, the Biblical spectacular that put him on the map; Ernani, that Spanish-themed fever dream of love and honor to the death; and Simon Boccanegra, a gloomy family saga played out against the tumultuous backdrop of 14th-century Mediterranean politics. All three may be streamed free on Muti’s website—with Italian subtitles only, so read up in advance. Clicking through to the tab “Piano Opera Lessons,” you’ll find Muti’s authoritative yet unpretentious introductions to each of the works, delivered extempore to the packed Rome opera house. Unlike the performances, the commentaries will cost you about ten clams a pop, but they’re worth every penny. In Italian, but with English subtitles that (miracle of miracles) are accurate, idiomatic, and impeccably synchronized.

From Opera Philadelphia

On demand In recent seasons, Opera Philadelphia has been reaching for the stars with commissions for ambitious original work. Now the company’s Digital Festival O offers viewers everywhere a chance to catch the broadcast premieres of their most newsworthy successes. In 2016, Missy Mazzoli’s blisteringly erotic Breaking the Waves, adapted from the film by Lars van Trier, made the biggest, most lasting splash. In 2017, Daniel Bernard Roumain weighed in with We Shall Not Be Moved, harkening back to tragic events of the civil-rights era. In 2018, Lembit Beecher’s chamber opera Sky on Swings examined the ravages of Alzheimer’s. For comic relief, this online retrospective also features Rossini’s Barber of Seville as staged by Michael Shell in the spirit of Pedro Almodóvar, native son of tiny Calzada de Calatrava, a stone’s throw (make that 200 miles) from the busybody Sevillian stylist’s razors, pomades, and curling irons.

From the Metropolitan Opera

Sunday, May 31 Karita Mattila, stage animal supreme, bares all in the title role of Salome, the princess whose price for a dance is the head of a prophet. But skin, however lustrous, is just the most obvious of her revelations. Smoking.

Monday, June 1 Warbling like a nightingale, the mad Elvira oozed to the footlights, lay supine at the lip of the stage, and hung her head into the orchestra pit to warble some more. Was it then that Met fans decided Anna Netrebko could do no wrong? Relive the moment with this free stream broadcast of Bellini’s I Puritani.

Thursday, June 4 Tragic grandeur, innate majesty, a mercurial temperament touched with kittenish innocence—all this plus her smoldering vocalism: these were qualities Shirley Verrett, herself a diva to her fingertips, brought to the title role of Puccini’s Tosca, a diva undone by the very gifts that make men adore her. The youthful Luciano Pavarotti sings the smitten Cavaradossi, with Cornell MacNeil as Scarpia, Rome’s predatory chief of police. James Conlon conducts.

Friday, June 5 In 1962, film buffs scratched their heads at Luis Buñuel’s surrealist allegory The Exterminating Angel. In 2016, international opera fans were little the wiser when Thomas Adès unveiled his spooky adaptation, but it was unquestionably an event. Much interest attached to Audrey Luna, who in the part of an opera singer inscribed herself in the Met annals for emitting a stratospheric A above high C, the highest note from a human voice ever documented in the house.

From the Dutch National Opera

Through Thursday, June 4 Fans wept when Amsterdam retired Pierre Audi’s audacious wide-angle staging of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, conducted by Hartmut Haenchen. Now it’s back, briefly, streaming free. For a sense of the spectacle, think Frank Gehry meets Cirque du Soleil in a fire-singed realm of Kabuki (costumes by the late fashion icon Eiko Ishioka). All four operas of the cycle remain on view through June 4. Then they begin to vanish, one per day, closing with Götterdämmerung on June 7.

From the Minnesota Opera

Through Monday, June 22 Is he or isn’t he? In Doubt: A Parable, a hawk-eyed Catholic nun will stop at nothing to discover the truth about the charismatic priest she suspects of pedophilia. John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama was spoken-word chamber music for a tight cast of four. Reworking the material as a libretto, Shanley added the altar boy never seen in the play as well as a congregation of believers tormented by doubts of their own, opening ample symphonic and choral dimensions for the talents of the composer Douglas C. Cuomo.

From the San Francisco Opera

Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31 Know thy guest list. In the blistering melodrama by Donizetti that bears her name, Lucrezia Borgia, grand mistress of the toxic, mistakenly slips her secret love child a dose of the bad stuff. Happily, she has the antidote up her sleeve, but wouldn’t you know it? The lad refuses to take it. Child dead, the victim of a homicidal parent’s murder plot gone wrong—just like in Verdi’s Rigoletto, which, like Lucrezia Borgia, derives from a play by Victor (Les Miz) Hugo. Bel canto cascades aplenty from an incandescent Renée Fleming and Michael Fabiano, bristling with macho as the headstrong Gennaro.


From La Scala

On demand The Mandarin modernist’s darling György Kurtág’s spare yet luminous Fin de partie, after Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Sung in dictation-grade French, with Italian titles.


From Heartbeat Opera

Monday, May 11 – Saturday, June 6 Rub elbows, Zoom-style, with the creatives of Lady M (an online fantasia of Verdi’s Macbeth). Orchestration much reduced, instrumental techniques much expanded. Each “virtual soirée” is its own mosaic of chat, live performance, and finished video. Reservations required. $20.

Have we flattened the curve? In the ongoing absence of live opera, international sources are still supplying us with the canned variety, in bewildering profusion, and thank you very much. This week, the Paris Opera announced encores of live video that has been in rotation since mid March. If Claus Guth’s fly-me-to-the moon read of Puccini’s La Bohème (complete with space suits) passed you by, don’t fret. From June 8 to 14, you’ve got another shot. And for a heavier intellectual lift, try Schoenberg’s abstruse Moses und Aron, staged by Romeo Castellucci in a mystic pea-soup fog that paradoxically tunes the ear to the rare transparency the company’s music director Philippe Jordan brings to the score (July 13 to 19).

Elsewhere, though, the tide might be going out. Since March, the Metropolitan Opera (metopera.org), the Vienna State Opera (staatsoperlive.com), and St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre (mariinsky.tv) have compensated for live performances with free daily streams mostly of opera, occasionally relieved by a ballet or concert. But will the programing continue into summer, traditionally the companies’ dark season? The crystal ball is cloudy.

Happily, OperaVision (operavision.eu) shows no signs of going away. Headquartered in Belgium, this highly addictive portal links to recent full-length live performances from institutions around the world. Alongside lots of standard repertory, all sorts of intriguing rarities beckon. Current temptations include the Rimsky-Korsakov’s Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, known to some as “the Russian Parsifal” and seldom attempted abroad; the young Erich Korngold’s delirious post-romantic Violanta; from Latvia, the phantasmagorical contemporary classic I Played, I Danced; from Finland, Autumn Sonata, starring Anne Sofie von Otter as the concert pianist originally played by Ingrid Bergman in her final movie, an Ingmar Bergman classic. Typically, each title remains available for several months, with subtitles in many languages. And if there’s a plunge you’re not sure you’re ready for, you can test the waters with supplemental trailers, excerpts, and featurettes.

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