Press Room

Metropolitan Opera Guild news: August 2010

In its upcoming August issue, Opera News celebrates the glorious music and musicians of France.The cover story investigates new music director Philippe Jordan’s plans for the Paris Opera, while additional features profile two great French opera composers, Meyerbeer and Massenet; the adventurous repertoire choices of coloratura soprano Patricia Petibon; and the controversial views of French composer/conductor/author Frédéric Chaslin.  The August issue also boasts profiles of sopranos Erin Morley, Renée Doria, and Régine Crespin; a consideration of Italian operas in French translation; and an attempt to name the top ten French operas of all time.

In 2007, Swiss-born conductor Philippe Jordan became the youngest artist to be named music director at the Opéra National de Paris.  The 35-year-old maestro has just completed his first full season in that capacity, collaborating with Opéra National Director Nicolas Joel on repertoire and casting, and overseeing the orchestra of 174 musicians and chorus of 104 singers who perform at the company’s two houses, the ornate 19th-century Palais Garnier and the modernist Opéra-Bastille.  In “The French New Wave,” Jordan shares his plans with cultural commentator Matthew Gurewitsch for the coming seasons in Paris.

Composer Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864) was the first great exponent of grand opéra, achieving mega-stardom with such blockbusters as Les Huguenots (1836), which was the first work to receive 1,000 performances at the Paris Opera. At his peak in the 1830s and ’40s, Meyerbeer was the most famous and successful opera composer in Europe, yet his operas are rarely performed today.  In “Whatever happened to Meyerbeer?” regular contributor William R. Braun explains the reasons for the composer’s fall from grace – and argues that his works are ripe for revival.

Another celebrated Gallic composer whose star has fallen is Jules Massenet (1842–1912), one of the greatest melodists of his era. Richard Bonynge, long a devotee of the composer, unearthed and championed Esclarmonde after discovering Massenet’s own belief that the opera represented his “best achievement.” After Maestro Bonynge persuaded his wife, Joan Sutherland, to take on the title role, the San Francisco and Metropolitan Opera premieres of the forgotten masterpiece soon followed.  Bonynge explains his passion for Massenet’s neglected oeuvre to Canadian musicologist Sylvia L’Écuyer in “Lyric Impulse.”

Lyric coloratura soprano Patricia Petibon made her name in French Baroque repertoire, with distinguished interpretations of such masters as Lully, Charpentier, Rameau, Landi, and Couperin.  Yet the colorature française refuses to be pigeonholed.  Defying boundaries in her search for emotional truth, Petibon has extended her range to include the music of Berg, Bernstein, and Barber, and forged musical partnerships with such unlikely collaborators as avant-garde playwright Robert Wilson and French hip-hop outfit Futuristiq.  Jessica Duchen interviews the charismatic and free spirited soprano, in “French Expressionist.”

Paris-born Frédéric Chaslin begins a three-year tenure as Santa Fe Opera’s chief conductor this coming October. Chaslin is also a composer, pianist, and author, not to mention something of a polemicist. Despite having once been Pierre Boulez’s assistant at the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Chaslin believes that 20th-century classical music went off the rails with serialism and atonality, for “music should always engage the audience.” Chaslin’s book, Music in Every Sense (available in French and German, and soon to appear in English), takes modern music to task and has already raised more than a few eyebrows, as David J. Baker discovers in “Agent Provocateur.”

Those who think italianità is the essential ingredient in the operas of Verdi and the bel cantists are advised to think again.  Verdi himself set Don Carlos to a French-language libretto, after all, and Donizetti’s Lucie de Lammermoor only postdates his Italian original by four short years.  Verdi specialist Patrick Dillon revels in the esoteric appeal of Italian opera à la francaise, in “Conversion Experience.”

In August’s “Sound Bites” column, Managing Editor Oussama Zahr profiles coloratura soprano Erin Morley, an alumna of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, who will sing Woglinde in the Met’s season-opening Das Rheingold, the first installment in the Met’s new Robert Lepage Ring cycle, on September 27.

Also under the spotlight are Renée Doria (b. 1921), once one of France’s leading lyric coloratura sopranos, who joins Stephen J. Mudge for “Reunion,” and the great Régine Crespin (1927-2007), who inspires a very personal reminiscence from the New York Times’s G. S. Bourdain in this month’s “Coda.”

Finally, Hugh MacDonald, general editor of Hector Berlioz: New Edition of the Complete Works, offers his surprising picks for the ten quintessential works of the French repertoire, in “Top Ten.” 

As ever, there are special extras exclusively for subscribers and Met patrons at the recently redesigned Opera News web site, including an interview with Jean-Christophe Spinosi, founder and conductor of the stylish French Baroque band Ensemble Matheus, and an audio survey of excerpts from uncommon French operas, as well as sung-in-translation curiosities.

Lectures: Live in HD!

This innovative series of spirited pre-screening presentations curates the Met’s Summer HD festival, with ten consecutive evening conversations to preview the plaza-casts. All events will be held in the Opera Learning Center from 6:00–7:00 PM unless otherwise indicated.

Tickets are $10 each ($5 for Guild Members), including a premium reserved seat at the evening’s HD screening on the Lincoln Center Plaza. (Reserved-seat passes will be available for pick-up following the lecture.) In case of changes to the schedule or inclement weather, lecture dates will conform with Met screening dates; for up-to-date schedule information, visit (Tickets will be refunded if the HD screening is canceled due to bad weather.)

To purchase tickets, call 212-769-7028 or visit

Saturday Aug 28: Tenors of Tosca
Sunday Aug 29: Finding New Magic in The Magic Flute
Monday Aug 30: Der Rosenkavalier: Meeting the Marschallin (5:00–6:00 PM)
Tuesday Aug 31: The Energy of Doctor Atomic
Wednesday Sept 1: Les Contes d’Hoffmann and the Muses of Music
Thursday Sept 2: Zoom in on Zeffirelli with La Bohème
Friday Sept 3: The Witch’s World of Hansel and Gretel
Saturday Sept 4: Turandot: Calaf’s Cultural References
Sunday Sept 5: Aida: The Grandeur of Grand Opera
Monday Sept 6: Classic Carmens


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© 21C Media Group, July 2010

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