One night in London in 1734, two opera stars ended up on the same stage. Senesino played the part of an angry tyrant, Farinelli a hero in chains. The two were bitter rivals, but, so the story goes, when Farinelli sang his melting opening aria, “he so softened the obdurate heart of his oppressor that Senesino, quite forgetting his stage character, ran to Farinelli and embraced him, much to the surprise of the audience.”
Senesino, we would say, broke character.
Opera has never lacked for soprano showcases, but Anna Bolena has diva running especially deep in its DNA.
Donizetti wrote the work in the fall of 1830 in Como, Italy, at a villa owned by the great singer Giuditta Pasta, who was to star as Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife. It may have been Pasta’s epic presence—we are told that “no language could convey an idea of the beauty, the intensity, the sublimity of her acting”—or Felice Romani’s deep, humane libretto or Donizetti’s readiness to bring his artistry to a new level. Whatever the explanation, the result was a triumph: one of the great operas of all time and one of the great roles, a test of both vocal display and vocal control that culminates in a brilliant final scene in which the queen, unjustly accused of adultery, prepares to be executed.
But by the late 19th century it had mostly vanished from the repertory, and it had never been done at the Metropolitan Opera before Monday evening, when it opened the company’s 128th season as a vehicle for the Met’s star soprano, Anna Netrebko.
Operagoers got a flashback to 1998 at the Metropolitan Opera last Thursday. It was the beginning of the second act of the Met’s new production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, directed by Bartlett Sher. The curtain rose on an almost bare stage. Against a background of rich, dark blue, a white panel slowly began to Read More
Anna Netrebko is a very good, very famous singer. It feels almost heretical to ask her about the way in which her dazzling career might, at some point, wind down. But at the pinnacle of success, still young at 38, she has already given the matter some thought.
“What would I like to do Read More
You don’t spend 16 years giving orders to the biggest stars in opera without having an opera-size personality of your own. All that the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, Joseph Volpe, who retires at the end of the current season, lacks as a rival to Luciano Pavarotti is a voice capable of bringing an audience to Read More
You don’t spend 16 years giving orders to the biggest stars in opera without having an opera-size personality of your own. All that the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, Joseph Volpe, who retires at the end of the current season, lacks as a rival to Luciano Pavarotti is a voice capable of bringing an audience Read More