Posts Tagged ‘metropolitan opera’

Getting out of an Arrest, Opera Style

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Carmen, one of the most famous “bad girls” of opera, loves who she wants, smokes ‘em if she’s got ‘em, and has a penchant for knife fights. As you’d imagine, her run-ins with the law are far from infrequent. Of course, her charms are legion, so it’s not too hard for Carmen (Rinat Shaham) to convince Corporal Don José (Neil Shicoff) that she really doesn’t need to spend another night in prison after all. For translation of the aria Près des remparts de Séville (outside the walls of Seville), click here.

Well, that’s one way to negotiate…if you’d like to see more of Carmen, join us this December for Shining Stars at the Met, where you’ll see their sultry new production with acclaimed mezzo-soprano Elîna Garança. With our orchestra prime seats, you might even get a whiff of Carmen’s perfume…and her cigarette smoke, of course!

Who’s your favorite “bad girl” from opera, theater, literature, or film? Please share!

The Magic of La Bohème

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Puccni’s opera La Bohème first debuted in 1896 and has become one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide. Set in Paris in 1830, the opera follows the lives of four starving artists, the poet Rodolfo, painter Marcello, musician Schaunard, and philosopher Colline. Mimì, a seamstress who lives in a garret above the artists’ apartment, meets Roldolfo by chance when looking for someone to light her candle, which has gone out. They quickly fall in love, but as often happens in opera, Rodolfo becomes jealous for no reason, breaks Mimì’s heart, and then realizes his folly. But it’s too late—Mimi has become ill with consumption and dies at the conclusion of the drama.

Here, watch Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sing the tender aria Sì, mi chiamano Mimì–”Yes, they call me Mimì,” as she introduces herself to her new neighbor, Rodolfo, during Act I of La Bohème.

Fallen in love with Mimi yet? We have, so we’ve set a date with her this December during our Shining Stars at the Met experience. The best part? You can come too! Click here for more.

What’s your favorite opera? Please share.

A few words with Study Leader Arthur Kaplan

Monday, October 26th, 2009
 Arthur Kaplan has more than 20 years of experience in the opera field, lecturing for major opera companies in this country and leading groups of opera fans to France, Italy, and across the US. Arthur has served as editor of the San Francisco Opera Magazine, written numerous scholarly articles on opera, and interviewed various opera personalities. Here, we sit down with him to learn more about his love of the art. 

Musicians perform at the Santa Fe Opera.

Musicians perform onstage at the Santa Fe Opera.


Smithsonian Journeys: When and how did you first become interested in opera?

Arthur Kaplan: Although I was born and brought up in New York City, my family was not much interested in classical music. We went to Broadway musicals, but not to symphony concerts, ballet or opera. As a teenager, I developed a taste for classical music but thought opera was for a high society elite in tuxedos and evening gowns. Little did I know! As a first-year graduate student at the University of California in Berkeley, I decided on a whim to attend a free matinee performance of Aida. At least I had heard of the opera and thought that if I didn’t like the performance, I could enjoy an few hours basking under the autumnal sunny bay area skies. Well, I was bowled over! Not only did I thrill to Verdi’s sublime score, but the star-crossed lovers were sung magnificently by Leontyne Price and Jon Vickers. How’s that for a beginning!

SJ: How did your taste for opera develop?

AK: After the Aida performance, I began listening to friends’ opera recordings and a bit later to subscribe to the San Francisco Opera. Since my academic studies were in Romance languages and literatures, I had an ideal non-musical foundation for the dramatic and linguistic basis of many of opera’s most popular offerings. As I became more and more psssionate about this most all-encompassing of art forms, I left my job as a French professor for a position as writer in the PR department of the San Francisco Opera. There I was able to witness firsthand the workings of an opera company, interview many famous singers and directors, and watch the amazing process of how an opera production evolves from the beginning of the rehearsal period until opening night.

SJ:  Do you have a favorite composer and why?

AK:  My favorite composer is Giuseppe Verdi. Not only did he continue to develop interestingly and dramatically during a career spanning more than 50 years, his operas are filled with a deep sense of humanity for man’s foibles and triumphs. There is a touching inscription near Verdi’s tomb at the Casa di Riposo, the home for indigent musicians which he established in Milan, that sums it up beautifully: “Pianse ed amò per tutti,” “He cried and loved for everyone.”

SJ:  The two main venues for Smithsonian Journeys for opera in the United States in 2010 are the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and the Santa Fe Opera Festival in New Mexico. How do these venues differ?

AK:  The Met is arguably the leading opera venue in the world with a seasonal repertory of over 25 opera a year in lavish productions, cast with the world’s leading singers. In the imposing red plush interior with its magnificent acoustics, a fascinating variety of production styles can be experienced. The opera house in Santa Fe, majestically set on a hill seven miles from the center of New Mexico’s enchanting capital, is unique in its indoor/outdoor design. During the festival, America’s prime summer opera venue, the company presents five challenging works with stellar casts featuring exciting young singers often on the brink of important international careers. Some productions have as a backdrop the starry sky and hills of New Mexico.

SJ:  What gives you the greatest satisfaction as Study Leader for Smithsonian Journeys opera tours?

AK:  The possibility of kindling the flame of interest and enthusiasm for an art form which I dearly love among newcomers to opera and, secondly, of broadening the horizons and knowledge about that art form in those already interested in opera.

What’s your favorite opera and why? Share below.

Click for all of our upcoming opera tours.

Q & A: Study Leader Fred Plotkin on Opera

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Study Leader Fred Plotkin is an expert on music, food, and wine, and everything related to Italy. Opera is his great love—he has worked for Milan’s La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera—and he’s passionate about sharing opera with others. Fred is the author of Opera 101, Classical Music 101, as well as six books on Italy, and can be heard regularly on NPR. Here, he sits down with us to talk about his first love. Click here for more information on Fred and traveling with him.

Performers Take the Stage at La Traviata. Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

Performers take the stage during La Traviata. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

Smithsonian Journeys:  What is it that continues to captivate you about opera?

Fred Plotkin: Opera is the greatest of all art forms in that it encompasses so many others: vocal and orchestral music, drama, dance, visual arts, lighting, costume design and even, on occasion, film. It is the way that these elements combine that make each opera—and each new production of that opera—unique. An opera lover always has something exciting to look forward to. The ability to sit for three hours and be bathed in gorgeous music that helps us examine what it means to be human is an incomparable gift.

SJ:  How did your passion for Italy develop?

FP: Very early on I was captivated by the idea of the Renaissance man and all that entails. While most people I knew sought narrow specializations, I came to cherish the interconnectivity of different arts and sciences and the way politics, religion, and philosophy had impact on them. Opera, which was born in the late Renaissance, was an effort to bring all of these elements together in one art form. We see the Italian ideal carried everywhere in the world: rational architecture, humanism, respect for nature’s gifts, and a keen desire to understand the mysteries of the world and the soul.

SJ: What do you enjoy most about traveling with Smithsonian?

FP: I love the sense of enthusiasm and informal discussions prompted by the operas and my lectures. Also, the opportunity to meet some of the key individuals involved in the presentation of the operas gives a broader sense of what goes on to make every production a success.

SJ:  You are also known for your love of food and wine. How will Smithsonian Journeys travelers also benefit from this expertise?

FP: When I am not doing opera work, I write about food and wine.  For a past Smithsonian journey to the Met, I took part in the selection of the restaurants, menus, and wines we enjoyed at the opening and closing meals of our stay. I work with Journeys to create an itinerary organized to give you time to rest and reflect while you are immersed in the opera, and also affords you the chance to sample many of the rich cultural treasures and restaurants in your leisure time.

For 2010, Fred will be joining us on our Music Cruise in the Classical World and Opera Lovers’ Italy.

Photo: Hoffman at the Met

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Hoffman takes a dangerous psychological journey through Offenbach's opera.

Hoffman takes a dangerous psychological journey through Offenbach’s opera. Photo: Micaela Rossato/Metropolitan Opera

Jacques Offenbach never saw the premiere of The Tales of Hoffman; he died just four months before its opening in 1881. Hoffman is one take on the life and love affairs of German writer E.T.A. Hoffman, each act telling a different story from the author’s life. The opera explores the destruction of three of Hoffman’s lovers, each of whom dies after Hoffman becomes entangled in their lives, and Hoffman’s ultimate rejection of earthly love for the love of poetry and his muse.

This year, Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific) directs a new Hoffman production. Music Director James Levine conducts Joseph Calleja the in title role. Anna Netrebko is Antonia and Alan Held sings the demonic four villains.

Get your opera fix with us this year — join us this December for Hoffman, Figaro, Il Trittico, and Elektra.