Figaro, Figaro, Figaro! Oldies Get Updates, Stars Are Born

The Metropolitan Opera just opened its season with a splashy new production of Tosca, and that’s getting all the attention. But the night after opening night was the first of the new staging of Le Nozze de Figaro, with a young, beautiful and talented cast that included Danielle De Niese, John Relyea and, in her Metropolitan debut, the well-reviewed British soprano Emma Bell. Wait for the reviews if you must—or just book tickets now: Whether the performance is a success or not, it marks the Met’s next move on its most reliable old classics. There won’t be a better sample of Peter Gelb’s mission for the institution.

Downscaling a bit, the West Village venue (Le) Poisson Rouge is fast becoming an indispensable location for seeing the world’s most engaged musicians in an intimate setting where they’re not afraid to experiment: Take the Sept. 29 performance of violinist duo (and married couple) Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony, for instance.

The evening celebrates the release of their new album, Sarasate: Virtuoso Violin Works, and completes a number of concert performances here and abroad indulging their obsession with the 19th-century Romantic violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate of Spain.

The venue also plays host to the Gotham Early Music Scene’s curatorial efforts from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2: Clarion Music Society, one of the first period instrument orchestras, playing what the group calls “unknown repertoire from the court of Catherine the Great”; and Brooklyn Baroque, the popular trio specializing in Bach and contemporaries. It’s dinner theater! Each of the three nights is a triple bill.

When Joyce DiDonato sang The Barber of Seville at Covent Garden in July, she broke her leg doing a tricky move … and went on with the show. In fact, she finished the run in a wheelchair! With that kind of dedication, the Metropolitan Opera’s staging, Oct. 3, promises to be well worth seeing.

Completing our transit between the Met and Poisson Rouge, three nights later, on Oct. 6, comes soprano Danielle de Niese’s performance at the nightspot, where she will celebrate the release earlier this fall of her second solo recording effort for Decca, The Mozart Album. She’ll sing selections as pianist Cameron Stowe accompanies in this uniquely intimate opportunity to hear her celebrated voice.

For those enthusiasts of Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas, Oct. 25 is a big day, as German violinist Christian Tetzlaff performs the entire canon at the 92nd Street Y.

But Nov. 7 marks one of the biggest weekends of the season: the opening weekend for New York City Opera. Things kick off with a combination of the atonal opera Esther by Hugo Weisgall, which will demonstrate that director George Steel isn’t shy about avant-garde presentations, and a new production of Don Giovanni, to show that young, talented singers still can make their way up the ladder to diva-hood by singing mainstream repertory stuff. These back-to-back evenings will give a good sense of the company’s artistic health.

Back at Carnegie Hall, the celebrated Berlin Philharmonic will offer three nights of work focusing on Brahms and Schoenberg, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, starting Nov. 11, which should spike the season with a little more of the traditional.

When the Opera Orchestra of New York canceled the Medea in which Aprile Millo was supposed to star because of the recession, we were a little depressed. Consolation is offered in the form of a one-night recital from Ms. Millo at Rose Hall on Nov. 17. In some ways, this may be better: a more intimate setting in which to catch one of the last of the great old-school divas.

Met Gets Up to Speed on Czech

The Metropolitan Opera has always done a great job with Czech composer Leoš Janácek’s work—Jenufa, Kat’a Kabanova, The Makropoulos Case—so it was about time they would attempt the dark, beautiful opera From the House of the Dead. Back in 2007, this staging of the show, with director Patrice Chéreau and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, was voted Europe’s best. It’s also arguably about time for this director and conductor’s Metropolitan debut: Patrice Chéreau’s centennial presentation of the Ring cycle at Bayreuth was a world-historical event, and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the young London Philharmonic conductor whose career took off there more than two decades ago when, at short notice, he replaced an indisposed conductor to run a Mahler score he’d never studied before.

The New York Times’ Alan Riding was not unreserved in his praise of the European production—“Freshening Up a Dark, Obscure Opera With 75 Onstage and a Dead Eagle” was his headline—but take it from us, this tale from a Siberian prison camp is going to be a great evening at the opera (Nov. 12).

Old and New Asia Explored in Massive Festival Organized by Carnegie Hall

This year Carnegie Hall is presenting three weeks of programming featuring Chinese musicians (including pipa player Wu Man, Lang Lang, Tan Dun and Long Yu) playing traditional and new work from China as well as the West.

It all opens Oct. 21 with the Fujian Province’s Quanzhou Marionette Theater practicing an ancient regional form of Peking opera at Zankel Hall—and on the other end of the spectrum you’ll find new music by Chinese composers Chen Qigang and Angel Lam.

Everyone is getting in on the act, from local venues where Carnegie Hall has coordinated free neighborhood events to exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum, the Paley Media Center, Juilliard and lots of trendy downtown galleries, all presenting shows and events tied to the celebration of Chinese culture.

A sampling: Tan Dun leads the Juilliard Orchestra in a performance of his own work at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall; the Joyce Theater presents the Han Tang Yuefu dance ensemble’s interpretation of a Tang Dynasty legend at the Joyce Theater.

The festival ends with a bang: The last of several performances during the festival by pianist Lang Lang will feature the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra with music director Long Yu and featuring Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Chen Qigang’s Iris dévoilée, a suite for orchestra, female voices and the traditional Chinese instruments pipa, erhu and zheng.

It’s a sprawling schedule packed into those three weeks; go to carnegiehall.org/chinafestival to get all the details.

  Figaro, Figaro, Figaro! Oldies Get Updates, Stars Are Born