Aired Sunday April 6th, 2008 at 1:00 pm
Spend your Sunday afternoons watching KUED, beginning April 6 at 1 p.m., with GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET.
All the world loves lovers - and it loves Romeo and Juliet best of all. Whether masquerading as Tony and Maria in West Side Story or heating up a Peggy Lee lyric ("Julie, baby, you're my flame; thou giveth fever!"), Shakespeare's star-cross'd pair continues to enchant both swooning adolescents and their teary-eyed parents.
The tragic tale of lovers thwarted by their warring families has long served opera composers, few rendering it more faithfully than French composer Charles Gounod (1818-93). On Sunday, April 6, at 1 p.m., that interpretation comes thrillingly alive in high definition and 5.1 digital surround sound on KUED-Channel 7 when Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna ignite "Roméo et Juliette" on GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET.
Wrote The New York Times of the production's pairing of the Russian soprano and French tenor: "You are not going to hear much better singing than this today." Associated Press called Netrebko's Juliette "Striking ... sparkling on her high notes ... and rising to great heights of dramatic interpretation." "Ardent and ultimately winning," was AP's assessment of Alagna's Roméo, one of his most acclaimed signature roles.
Plácido Domingo, who himself sang the role of Roméo at the Met in 1974, leads the orchestra and chorus; Donald Palumbo is chorus master. "Roméo et Juliette" is sung in French with English subtitles.
Also airing this month on KUED as part of the 2008 GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET season are "Macbeth" (Sunday, April 13, at 1 p.m.) and "Manon Lescaut" (Sunday, April 27, at 1 p.m.)
Forget Juan and Evita; forget Ferdinand and Imelda. The original power couple, Lord and Lady Macbeth (no first names, please), are the real deal, the murderous Scot and his ruthless wife who will stop at nothing to reach their bloody goal - in this case, the throne. If they didn't write the book on the subject, they at least inspired the play that ranks among Shakespeare's most chilling and dramatically compressed. Unstoppable, some 250 years later they again inspired another great artist: Giuseppe Verdi. He made their tragedy sing.
James Levine conducts the new production, conceived and directed by Adrian Noble, former leader of Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company. Reset by Noble in a bleak, post-World War II ravaged landscape, the proceedings present a major twist on the play's three witches, here expanding them into an enormous coven of modern-day bag ladies, twirling purses and uttering prophesies. A "grimly effective, intriguingly playful production," assessed The New York Times, with special praise for Guleghina's performance as Lady Macbeth as "chillingly powerful."
Also set to music by two of France's most famous composers, Daniel Auber (1856) and Jules Massenet (1884), "Manon Lescaut" is the tale of a simple country girl torn between her great passion for the dashing des Grieux and the rich men who provide the luxuries she craves. Her young life is soon cut short on a "vast plain on the borders of New Orleans" as she dies in her lover's arms - alone, forgotten, abandoned. "Manon Lescaut" is sung in Italian with English subtitles.
The opera is conducted by Met music director James Levine and topped with Italian tenor Marcello Giordani's ardent performance as Manon's headstrong young lover, Chevalier des Grieux.
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