Even I am a little stunned by how exciting, original - and abundant - the classical concerts are in Iowa this weekend. Here's a list (and please let me know if I've missed something! I'll add it - bsherman at iowapublicradio.org):
Richard Strauss scored "Die Frau ohne Schatten" for, count 'em, 164 instruments; the percussion alone include "glass harmonica, 4 timpani, 5 Chinese gongs, cymbals, snare drum, rute, sleigh bells, bass drum, tenor drum, big field drum, triangle, tambourine, 2 castanets, tamtam, whip (slapstick), xylophone, glockenspiel, bells, 2 celestas." Budgets alone would make performance rare, as do scenery challenges (like a golden waterfall and, we're not making this up, children singing out of a frying pan).
How do you top a Super Bowl triumph? Renee Fleming does it by returning to a signature role - the love-struck sprite Rusalka in Dvorak's beautiful opera. Saturday at noon you can hear it live from the Metropolitan Opera on IPR - OR watch it live in HD video in theaters in Ames, Cedar Falls, Davenport, Dubuque, Des Moines, Grinnell, and Iowa City.
Anthony Minghella, after directing "The English Patient" and "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," turned his talents to Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" - that "cross-cultural tragedy" of "devotion and irresponsibility and misunderstandings willful and innocent." Few operas are as difficult to bring off and Minghella's spare production made it "take wing." Hear it from the Met today at noon.
Flu kept Russian mega-diva Anna Netrebko from opening the Met's "Elixir of Love" earlier this month - but she's back, and, says the New York Times, she's "right in the zone, singing with plushness, brilliance and spontaneity. She truly inhabited the role of Adina." And Netrebko's ex, bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, "stole every scene he was in" as the quack doctor who tries to peddle snake oil in her little town.
Join us Saturday at noon to hear the Met production everyone's talking about: a Klimt-inspired update of Johann Strauss Jr.'s screwball farce "Die Fledermaus." A new English translation features jokey rhymes and topical swipes, and Broadway's Danny Burstein brings on the shtick as Frosch, the tipsy jailer. This being the Met, you can count on glorious voices and, from the orchestra, a "honeyed tone" (New York Times).
Tune in Saturday at noon as Julie Taymor's innovative production of "The Magic Flute" returns to the Met - conducted by master Mozartian Jane Glover in her Met debut. (She is only the third woman to conduct there.)
Join us at noon for a live broadcast of "Tosca" from the Met. The production was booed when it premiered in 2011, but reworking has turned it into a success - largely because of Sondra Radvanovsky, whose "luminous performance breathed life" into the production, according to the New York Times. It called her Floria Tosca a "multidimensional, fiercely individual portrayal, grounded in her voice [which is] elegant and blooming." It also praised conductor Marco Armiliato for "shaping a dramatically animated and expressive performance."
Tune in at noon to hear how Verdi improves on Shakespeare in the comic masterpiece Falstaff, premiered when the composer was 80. James Levine conducts Falstaff better than anyone else, and Robert Carsen's new Met production (updating the action to postwar England) is winning raves, as is Ambrogio Maestri - the 6' 5" Italian baritone who, says, the New York Times, "simply owns the role of Falstaff."
Saturday at noon hear the Metropolitan Opera return to IPR with Verdi's Rigoletto. Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, says the New York Times, brings "tragic stature" to the "oppressed" title character; he "claims this role on his own terms, infusing phrases with dusky richness and shaping melodic lines with elegance." As his daughter, Irina Lungu conveys "restlessness and sensual yearning" with a voice of "bloom and warmth." Matthew Polenzani is the Duke, and the 35-year-old Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado makes what the Times calls "an auspicious Met d
Francis Poulenc's "Dialogue of the Carmelites," one of the Met's most acclaimed productions, airs live today starting at 12 noon. Poulenc tells the story of Carmelite nuns martyred in the French Revolution with what the New York Times calls "eloquent music that hardly calls attention to itself yet lingers with you." Patricia Racette, Erin Morley, Isabel Leonard, and Felicity Palmer head the cast; Louis Langree conducts.
Siegfried, the third part of Wagner's epic "Ring" cycle, airs live from the Metropolitan Opera starting at 10 AM Saturday on IPR Classical. Jay Hunter Morris reprises his acclaimed portrayal of the title hero, and Deborah Voigt returns as Brunnhilde.
Hear Part II of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle, Die Walkure, live from the Metropolitan Opera this Saturday beginning at 10 AM. In this second opera, the focus of the story shifts from the realm of the gods to the human world. Deborah Voigt returns with her acclaimed Brunnhilde, and on the podium is the Met's Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi.