Renee Fleming Reprises Her Role In RUSALKA 3/9
Renée Fleming reprises one of her most renowned portrayals when she sings the title role of Dvořák's fairy-tale opera Rusalka, which opens March 9. Stephanie Blythe sings the role of the witch Je?ibaba for the first time at the Met. Rusalka's beloved Prince will be played by tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko, in his Met debut. Christine Goerke returns to the company for the first time in four years, adding the role of the Foreign Princess to her Met repertory. Kristinn Sigmundsson sings Rusalka's father, the Water Gnome, also a Met role debut. Noted Czech conductor Jiří Belohlávek leads Dvořák's best-known opera for the first time at the Met. The production is by Otto Schenk; Günther Schneider-Siemssen designed the sets; Sylvia Strahammer created the costumes; the lighting design is by Gil Wechsler, and the choreographer is Carmen de Lavallade. Laurie Feldman directs this revival, which runs through March 21.
Soprano Renée Fleming calls Rusalka one of her favorite roles, and the famous "Song to the Moon" was one of two arias she sang at the Met's National Council Auditions which she won in 1988. When she sang Rusalka at the Met in 2004, the New York Times critic wrote, "The role demands wistful lyricism, creamy-toned beauty and fragile expressivity, all qualities that ideally suit Ms. Fleming's voice and temperament." She made her fifth Opening Night appearance this season at a gala in which she sang staged scenes from three operas: La Traviata, Manon, and Capriccio, and in December she starred in a new production of Massenet's Thaïs, both of which were transmitted live as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Among her many Met roles, Fleming has sung in the world premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles (1991) and in three operas new to the company: Susannah (1999), Il Pirata (2002), and Rodelinda (2004). She sang the Countess in Jonathan Miller's new production of Le Nozze di Figaro (1998) and Tatiana in The Met: Live in HD transmission of Eugene Onegin (2007), a performance now available on a Decca DVD. In the Met's 2009-10 season, Fleming will sing the title role in Rossini's Armida, another Met premiere, and return to another of her best-known portrayals: the Marschallin in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.
With Je?ibaba, Stephanie Blythe adds another role to her already extensive Met repertoire. When she sang Orfeo for the first time ever this season, the Associated Press reported: "She is, quite simply, an Orfeo for the ages. From the moment her first cry of ‘Euridice' echoed through the vast auditorium, Blythe served notice that she had taken total ownership of this touchstone role." The American mezzo-soprano, a former member of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, made her company debut in 1995 and has since sung more than 20 roles here, including Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera and Fricka in Die Walküre last season. She has appeared in two Met premieres, The Makropoulos Case (1996) and Rodelinda (2004), and was named the 2009 vocalist of the year by Musical America. In 2007, she sang three roles in the new production of Puccini's Il Trittico (transmitted live as part of The Met: Live in HD series), a feat she will repeat in the 2009-10 season.
Christine Goerke, another alumna of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, makes her role debut as the Foreign Princess. Her most recent performance at the Met was as Donna Elvira in the new production of Don Giovanni (2004). The New York Times reported, "She won bravos galore for navigating the leaps and bounds of the vocal lines with fearless confidence and singing the lyrical outpourings with tenderness and, more importantly, nobility, lending the character the dignity that is often missing." The American soprano has appeared with such major companies as Royal Opera, Covent Garden; New York City Opera; San Francisco Opera, and Washington National Opera. Earlier this season she gave an acclaimed performance of the title role of Fidelio with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko makes his Met debut as the Prince. He joined the chorus of the Latvian National Opera in 1997, and only months later made his solo debut there as Oberto in Alcina. Antonenko sings throughout Europe; his repertoire includes Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut (Stockholm's Royal Opera, the Norwegian Opera), Ismaele in Nabucco (Bavarian State Opera in Munich), and the title role of Otello (Salzburg Festival).
Kristinn Sigmundsson, who makes his company role debut as the Water Sprite, appeared in three roles at the Met last season: Lodovico in Otello, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette. The Icelandic bass returns to the Met next season for Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, a role he has performed recently with the San Francisco Opera. Other recent roles have been King Marke in Tristan und Isolde in San Francisco, Mustafà in L'Italiana in Algeri in Vienna, and Méphisotophélès in Faust in Dresden.
This winter, Jiří Bĕlohlávek conducted his first performances of Eugene Onegin at the Met "with great feeling for the lyric beauty of the score," the Associated Press said. With Rusalka, the maestro returns to opera in his native language; the other two operas he has led at the Met are the Janáček masterpieces Jenůfa and Káťa Kabanová. Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony since 2006, Belohlávek is also founder and music director laureate of the Prague Philharmonia. This season, he conducted Káťa Kabanová at Madrid's Teatro Real and The Bartered Bride at the Paris Opera. Next summer he will lead a new production of Rusalka at Britain's Glyndebourne Festival.
Live broadcasts around the world
Rusalka is being heard by millions of people around the world this season on the radio and via the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.
The Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM channel 78 is broadcasting the premiere on March 9 as well as performances on March 14 (matinee) and 17. The March 9 premiere will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming at the Met's web site, www.metopera.org. In addition, the Saturday matinee performance on March 14 will be heard live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.