Dessay And Florez Star In LA SONNAMBULA Opening 3/2

Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez, who created a sensation last season in La Fille du Régiment, star in a new production of Bellini's La Sonnambula opening March 2, directed by Mary Zimmerman and conducted by Evelino Pidò. Dessay takes the role of the sleepwalker Amina, with Flórez as her betrothed Elvino, and Michele Pertusi as the Count who almost ruins their wedding. Performances run through April 3, with Barry Banks singing Elvino at the final performance. Zimmerman returns with the creative team that collaborated on her hit production of Lucia di Lammermoor, which opened the 2007-08 season: Daniel Ostling, set designer; Mara Blumenfeld, costume designer; T.J. Gerckens, lighting designer; and Daniel Pelzig, choreographer.

The performance on March 21 will be transmitted live in high definition to over 35 countries around the world as part to The Met: Live in HD series. Renée Fleming will serve as host for the transmission.

Zimmerman sets the action in a modern-day rehearsal room, where a company of singers is rehearsing La Sonnambula ("The Sleepwalker"). Her theatrical conception mirrors the act of sleepwalking. "The rehearsal room and the stage are places of willful suspension," explains the Tony Award-winning director, "a kind of waking dream...the sleepwalker and the theatrical performer have one foot in a very real material world and one foot in the imaginative world."

Last heard at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972, La Sonnambula has appeared only intermittently in the company's repertory, but always to feature great coloratura sopranos, such as Marcella Sembrich, Maria Barrientos, Lily Pons, Joan Sutherland, and Renata Scotto. The role of Elvino has been sung by tenor luminaries as well, such as Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, and Nicolai Gedda.

Following her triumphs last season in the title roles of two Donizetti operas, Lucia di Lammermoor and La Fille du Régiment, Natalie Dessay adds the title role of La Sonnambula to her Met repertory. This production reunites her with two collaborators from last season: Mary Zimmerman directed her in Lucia di Lammermoor and Juan Diego Flórez partnered her in La Fille du Régiment. The New York Times critic wrote of her performance in the latter, "Not only does Ms. Dessay sing beautifully, but she also gives us something to look at every moment, acting out coloratura passages in detail...Ms. Dessay puts on quite a show." Following her 1999 Met debut as the Fiakermilli in Richard Strauss's Arabella, the French soprano sang the same composer's Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, before turning to her native repertory with Olympia in Les Contes d'Hoffmann and Juliette in a 2005 new production of Roméo et Juliette. In the Met's 2009-10 season, Dessay will sing Ophélie in a new production of Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, the first performances of that work at the Met since 1897.

For the first time at the Met, Juan Diego Flórez sings the role of Elvino, which he has sung in numerous productions elsewhere. Of his tumultuous success in last season's La Fille du Régiment, The New York Times said, "Juan Diego Flórez as Tonio, the aspiring lover from the mountains, delivered his famous string of high C's in Act I and then, repeating the whole thing, nailed them again. The crowd, as they say, went wild." A specialist in the high-lying bel canto roles, particularly those by Rossini, he sang Almaviva in the Met's 2006 hit new production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. (Both Il Barbiere di Siviglia and La Fille du Régiment were featured as part of The Met: Live in HD series.) The Peruvian tenor's Met debut in 2002 as Almaviva was followed by two more Rossini roles: Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola and Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri. He also sang Ernesto in the new production premiere of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in 2006. Next season, Flórez returns to the role of Tonio in La Fille du Régiment, this time opposite Diana Damrau.

Michele Pertusi adds the role of Count Rodolfo in La Sonnambula to his Met repertory this season. Last season at the Met he sang Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, the role which also served as his company debut in 1997. He has also appeared at the Met as Figaro in Mozart's opera, as well as Alidoro in a 1997 new production of Rossini's La Cenerentola, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, and Leporello in Don Giovanni. Pertusi has sung in most of the world's major opera houses including Paris, Vienna, Berlin, La Scala in Milan, and many others. Earlier this season he sang Verdi's I Lombardi at the Teatro Regio in his native Parma.

Conductor Evelino Pidò collaborated with Natalie Dessay on performances of La Sonnambula in Lausanne and Lyon, and has recorded the opera with her in the title role. Maestro Pidò has conducted in the world's major opera houses including the Paris Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Rome Opera, and the Teatro Regio in his native city of Turin. He also regularly conducts symphony orchestras such as the London Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestra of Santa Cecilia in Rome, RAI Orchestra, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, among others. He made his American debut in 1993 in Santa Fe and his Met debut conducting L'Elisir d'Amore in 1999.


About the production team

Mary Zimmerman made her Met debut with last season's opening night new production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. The Associated Press writer praised both Zimmerman and Dessay who, "have given the Met a Lucia di Lammermoor worth keeping, one that's handsomely traditional and imaginatively provocative at the same time." Zimmerman received a 2002 Tony Award for Best Direction for her original adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses and was the 1998 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She is a prolific adaptor-director whose works, such as The Odyssey, Arabian Nights, and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, have been seen in theaters throughout the country and abroad. In addition to her distinguished work in theater, her opera experience includes productions of Philip Glass's Akhnaten (in Strasbourg and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where she is an Artistic Associate), the 2002 world premiere of Glass's Galileo Galilei, for which she also co-wrote the libretto (Goodman Theatre, London's Barbican Centre, Brooklyn Academy of Music), and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (Chicago Opera Theatre). The American director returns to the Met next season for another bel canto rarity, Rossini's Armida, in a new production featuring Renée Fleming in the title role.

Daniel Ostling made his Met debut collaborating with Mary Zimmerman as set designer for Lucia di Lammermoor in 2007. He received a Tony nomination for his set designs for Metamorphoses, and he also collaborated with Zimmerman on Galileo Galilei, Measure for Measure at the New York Shakespeare Festival, and Trojan Women at the Goodman Theatre, among many other productions. His work in musical theater and opera includes Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi for the San Francisco Opera Center, Sondheim's Pacific Overtures for Chicago Shakespeare Theater and its Olivier Award-winning revival in London, and Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar at Tanglewood. Ostling is an ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago where he designs sets this season for The Brothers Karamazov. His other assignments for the season include Eurydice at Chicago's Victory Gardens, War Music for ACT in San Francisco, and UP for the Steppenwolf Theater.

Mara Blumenfeld is also an ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre, where her costume designs for Lookingglass Alice earned her a 2007 Drama Desk nomination. Her many collaborations with Zimmerman include her Met debut in 2007 for Lucia di Lammermoor, as well as Metamorphoses, Galileo Galilei, Akhnaten, Measure for Measure, Trojan Women, and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Her work has been seen frequently at the Goodman and Steppenwolf theater companies, both in Chicago, as well as at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (including Kushner's Homebody/Kabul), and the Berkeley Rep. This season she designs costumes for The Brothers Karamazov and Arabian Nights at Lookingglass and for Kafka on the Shore and UP at Steppenwolf.

T. J. Gerckens' lighting designs have won him numerous honors, including a Drama Desk Award (Metamorphoses) and nomination (The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci). He also designed the lighting for Zimmerman's productions of Lucia di Lammermoor (his Met debut in 2007), Galileo Galilei, Measure for Measure, The Odyssey, and Arabian Nights, among others. Since 1998, he has been Production Manager for the Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO) in Ohio.

Choreographer Daniel Pelzig made his Met debut working with Mary Zimmerman and the rest of the production team on Lucia di Lammermoor last season. He was resident choreographer at Santa Fe Opera for three years and at Boston Ballet for four years. His opera credits include work at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and New York City Opera, as well as Strasbourg's Opéra du Rhin, where he collaborated with Mary Zimmerman on a production of Philip Glass's Akhnaten. This season he is also working on 33 Variations on Broadway, several works at Washington's Shakespeare Theater, and staging operas for the Boston Lyric Opera and Valencia's Palau de les Artes.


Open Dress Rehearsal

The final dress rehearsal of La Sonnambula on Friday, February 27 at 11:00 am is open to the public, one of three open rehearsals this season supported by Agnes Varis, a managing director of the Met's Board of Directors, and her husband, Karl Leichtman. Three thousand free tickets will be available (2 tickets per person) on a first-come, first-served basis at the Met box office, beginning at 11:00 am on Sunday, February 22.

Live broadcasts around the world

La Sonnambula is being seen and heard by millions of people around the world this season in movie theaters, on the radio and via the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.

The March 21 matinee will be transmitted live in high definition to movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series, which has now sold over one million tickets for this season's series of 11 transmissions.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM Radio channel 79 is broadcasting the premiere on March 2 as well as performances on March 11, 21 matinee, and 24. The March 2 premiere will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming at the Met's web site, In addition, the Saturday matinee performance on February 21 will be heard live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

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.

The Met's recently announced 2009-10 season will feature eight new productions, four of which are Met premieres. Opening night will be a new production of Tosca starring Karita Mattila, conducted by Levine and directed by Luc Bondy. The four Met premieres are: Janáček's From the House of the Dead, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Patrice Chéreau, both in Met debuts; Verdi's Attila, conducted by Riccardo Muti in his Met debut; Shostakovich's The Nose, conducted by Valery Gergiev and directed and designed by William Kentridge in his Met debut; and Rossini's Armida with Renée Fleming, directed by Mary Zimmerman. Other new productions are Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, conducted by Levine and directed by Bartlett Sher; Carmen with Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and directed by Richard Eyre, both in Met debuts; and Thomas's Hamlet with Natalie Dessay and Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Louis Langrée.

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 The Met: Live in HD series 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 nine of these HD performances are now available on DVD. The most recent, The Magic Flute, was released by the Met and is available at the newly renovated Met Opera Shop. The other eight are on the EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, and Decca labels. In the 2008-09 season, the HD series expanded 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 31 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 expanded to reach schools in 18 cities and communities nationwide.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera recently introduced Met Player, a new subscription service that makes 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. The new service currently offers 140 historic audio recordings, and more than 50 full-length opera videos are available, 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, are added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Radio 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. This season's first was for La Damnation de Faust on November 4, and the remaining one is for La Sonnambula on February 27. 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 new $25 Weekend Tickets program; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program; and an annual Holiday Series presentation for families. This season's special Holiday Presentation was Julie Taymor's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, an abridged, English-language version of the opera which received four special matinee performances and one holiday evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.


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