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The MET Celebrates 125th Anniversary with Gala Performance 3/15

The Metropolitan Opera celebrates its 125th anniversary year with a unique gala performance on March 15, 2009 at 6:00 p.m., featuring Met stars in recreations of historic classic productions and high points in the company's past. Music Director James Levine conducts the evening of 26 staged scenes that, with the use of projections, and scenic and costume recreations, will evoke the Met's illustrious history.

The gala also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the debut of Plácido Domingo, who will be a featured performer. He will be joined by Met stars including Roberto Alagna, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Kim Begley, Stephanie Blythe, Joseph Calleja, Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Juan Diego Flórez, Angela Gheorghiu, Marcello Giordani, Maria Guleghina, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Maija Kovalevska, Mariusz Kwiecien, Waltraud Meier, Susanne Mentzer, James Morris, René Pape, Sondra Radvanovsky, John Relyea, and Deborah Voigt.

Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, the creators of last season's hit production of Satyagraha, have conceived the sets, stage direction, and projections to integrate historic, archival elements into a unique theatrical experience. Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer of Fifty Nine Productions are designing the elaborate projections as they did for both Satyagraha and the recent Met premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic (with sets by Julian Crouch). The projections will include such retrospective elements as the proscenium of the old Met Opera House, playbills, archival photos, original set designs, and pieces of scenery, as well as colorful animation. Catherine Zuber, who designed the costumes for the Met's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Doctor Atomic, is in charge of costumes for the production, guiding both the recreations and creating new designs where needed. Peter Mumford, lighting designer for the Met productions of Madama Butterfly and Peter Grimes, designs the lighting for this gala as well.

Met General Manager Peter Gelb said, "We would like this to be a celebration of both the music and the rich theatrical history of the old and new Met, which is why we are going beyond the traditional gala format. This will be more than the typical gala parade of singers."

James Levine said, "This is going to be one of the most engaging and enjoyable galas that we have ever done, both for the performers and the audience. Joined by some of the great artists of today, we will pay tribute to the Met's glorious history, touching on legendary moments we all wish we had heard, and reliving some whose memory we treasure. It's sure to be fascinating."

The gala program also affords a preview of future casts with many stars singers performing arias or ensembles from works they are scheduled to sing in upcoming Met seasons, many in new productions. Examples include René Pape singing the Death Scene from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Stephanie Blythe as Amneris in a duet from Aida, Mariusz Kwiecien in an aria from Don Giovanni, Plácido Domingo singing the title role in a duet from Simon Boccanegra, Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner in the Siegfried final scene, and Natalie Dessay in the title role of La Traviata.

Highlights include four excerpts from Faust, the opera that opened the Met on October 22, 1883, performed in costumes based on that production; an aria from Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, which had its world premiere at the Met in 1910 with Enrico Caruso in the tenor lead, with the staging and costumes evoking a well-known photograph from the original performance; the conclusion of Parsifal, which had its first (unauthorized) presentation outside of Bayreuth at the Met in 1903 with costumes based on that production; the final duet from Carmen with a recreation of Rosa Ponselle's famous costume designed by Valentina for the 1935 revival; the overture from Die Zauberflöte using animation to bring the renowned 1967 production designed by Marc Chagall to life; the finales of both Das Rheingold and Siegfried, in homage to the first Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle given in America at the Met in 1889; and three tenor arias from Puccini operas saluting the productions of Franco Zeffirelli.

Yves Saint Laurent sponsors the 125th Anniversary Gala benefit. The French fashion house sponsored last season's new production gala event for La Fille du Régiment at the Met.

The Program

James Levine, conductor


Charles Gounod: Faust

"Vin ou bière" chorus from Act II: Metropolitan Opera Chorus

"Le veau d'or": James Morris (Méphistophélès)

Jewel song "Ah, je ris de me voir": Angela Gheorghiu (Marguerite)

Trio from Act V "Alerte, alerte": Sondra Radvanovsky (Marguerite), Roberto Alagna (Faust), John Relyea (Méphistophélès)

Giacomo Puccini: La Fanciulla del West

"Ch'ella mi creda": Plácido Domingo (Dick Johnson)

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Duet "Silenzio! Aida verso noi s'avanza": Maria Guleghina (Aida), Stephanie Blythe (Amneris) *

Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

Boris's Death Scene: René Pape (Boris) *

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

"Va, pensiero": Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Georges Bizet: Carmen

Final duet "C'est toi...c'est moi": Waltraud Meier (Carmen), Roberto Alagna (Don José)

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

"La donna è mobile": Juan Diego Flórez

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo

"Ella giammai m'amò": James Morris (King Philip)

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

Trio "Habt mir's gelobt": Natalie Dessay (Sophie), Deborah Voigt (the Marschallin), Susanne Mentzer (Octavian)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni

"Finch'han dal vino": Mariusz Kwiecien *

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

Final scene "Ja, Wehe! Wehe!": Plácido Domingo (Parsifal), Thomas Hampson (Amfortas)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte


Giacomo Puccini: Gianni Schicchi

"O mio babbino caro": Maija Kovalevska (Lauretta)

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Queen of Spades

Yeletsky's aria "Ya vas lyublyu": Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Giuseppe Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Duet "Figlia, a tal nome io palpito": Angela Gheorghiu (Amelia), Plácido Domingo (Simon)*

Richard Wagner: Siegfried

Final scene "Ewig war ich": Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde)*, Ben Heppner (Siegfried)*

Giacomo Puccini - Three Tenor Arias

La Bohème - "Che gelida manina": Joseph Calleja (Rodolfo)

Tosca - "E lucevan le stelle": Aleksandrs Antonenko (Cavaradossi)

Turandot - "Nessun dorma": Marcello Giordani (Calaf)

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

"È forse lui...Sempre libera": Natalie Dessay (Violetta)*

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello

Final scene "Niun mi tema": Plácido Domingo (Otello)

Erich Korngold: Die Tote Stadt

Marietta's lied: Renée Fleming (Marietta)

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold

Final scene: Yvonne Naef (Fricka), Kim Begley (Loge), Garrett Sorenson (Froh), René Pape (Wotan), Lisette Oropesa, Kate Lindsey, and Tamara Mumford (Rhinemaidens)

* Indicates a role that this singer is scheduled to sing in a future Met season.

Gala tickets are available at the Met Box Office, by telephone at 212-362-6000, or at the Met's web site

About the Met

Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company's repertory. The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.

The Metropolitan Opera's 2008-09 season pays tribute to the company's extraordinary history on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, while also emphasizing the Met's renewed commitment to advancing the art form. The season features six new productions, 18 revivals, the final performances of Otto Schenk's production of Wagner's Ring cycle conducted by Levine, and two gala celebrations; the galas include the season-opening performance featuring Renée Fleming as well as a 125th anniversary celebration on March 15. New productions include the company premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic as well as the Met's first staged production of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust since 1906, Massenet's Thaïs, Puccini's La Rondine, Verdi's Il Trovatore, and Bellini's La Sonnambula. Future seasons include new presentations of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles (2009-10) and Thomas Adès's The Tempest (2011-12).

Building on its 77-year-old radio broadcast history - currently heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network - the Met now uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world.

The Emmy Award-winning series, The Met: Live in HD, reached more than 935,000 people in the 2007-08 season, more than the number of people who saw performances in the opera house. These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and eight of these HD performances are now available on DVD, on the EMI and Universal labels. In the 2008-09 season, the HD series expands to feature 11 live transmissions, starting with the Met's Opening Night Gala and spanning the entire season. The HD productions are seen this season in over 850 theaters in 28 countries around the world. Five new productions are featured, including the Met premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic. The Opening Night transmission was seen in the Americas only; the remaining ten high-definition productions are shown live worldwide on Saturdays through May 9 with encores scheduled at various times.

Live in HD in Schools, the Met's new program offering free opera transmissions to New York City schools in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, reached more than 7,000 public school students and teachers during the 2007-08 season. This season, Live in HD in Schools expands to reach schools in 18 cities and communities nationwide.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera introduces Met Player, a new subscription service that will make its extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public for the first time online, and in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. Beginning on October 22, 2008, 120 historic audio recordings and 50 full-length opera videos will be available during the first month of the new service, including over a dozen of the company's acclaimed The Met: Live in HD transmissions, known for their extraordinary sound and picture quality. New content, including HD productions and archival broadcasts, will be added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 is a subscription-based audio entertainment service broadcasting both an unprecedented number of live performances each week throughout the Met's entire season, as well as rare historical performances, newly restored and remastered, spanning the Met's 77-year broadcast history.

In addition to providing audio recordings through the new Met on Rhapsody on-demand service, the Met also presents free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season with support from RealNetworks®.

The company's groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York's Lincoln Center Theater (LCT), provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The Met's partnership with LCT is part of the company's larger initiative to commission new operas from contemporary composers, present modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, and provide a venue for artists to nurture their work.

The Met has launched several audience development initiatives such as the company's Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; two are planned for the 2008-09 season with operas and dates to be announced. Just prior to beginning the current season, the Met presented a free performance of the Verdi Requiem on September 18, in tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti. Other company initiatives include the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program which provides deeply discounted orchestra seats two hours before curtain time; and an annual Holiday Series presentation for families. This season's special Holiday Presentation is Julie Taymor's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, an abridged, English-language version of the opera which is given four special matinee performances and one holiday evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.


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