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Met Presents New Year's Eve Premiere of Puccini's LA RONDINE

After an absence of 82 years, Puccini's bittersweet romance La Rondine returns to the Met in a new production with a gala premiere performance on New Year's Eve. La Rondine stars Angela Gheorghiu as Magda, the Parisian socialite, and Roberto Alagna as Ruggero, her lover. Lisette Oropesa, Marius Brenciu, in his Met debut, and Samuel Ramey are the other principal singers. Marco Armiliato conducts. The Art Deco production by Nicolas Joël originated at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 2004. The sets are by Ezio Frigerio; Franca Squarciapino designed the costumes, and the lighting designer is Duane Schuler. The Met performances are staged by Stephen Barlow and run through February 26, 2009.

La Rondine will be transmitted into movie theaters throughout the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series on Saturday, January 10. It is the sixth high definition transmission of this season.

La Rondine has only been staged in four prior Met seasons. The company premiere in 1927-28 featured two legendary singers in the lead roles: soprano Lucrezia Bori and tenor Beniamino Gigli, who also sang the work in the following two seasons. A revival in 1935-36 again starred Bori, with Nino Martini singing Ruggero.

Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna sang a special concert of arias and songs with the Met Orchestra and Chorus to a record-breaking crowd of 50,000 in Brooklyn's Prospect Park last June. "Ms. Gheorghiu and Mr. Alagna delivered urgent, stirring and emotional performances that earned them ovation after ovation," said The New York Times of that concert. They have sung La Rondine together at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and have recorded the opera for EMI.

Gheorghiu also sang in this production last year in San Francisco, where the San Francisco Chronicle critic wrote, "Her tone was strong and tender, with an irresistible blend of earthiness and purity." The Romanian soprano follows her appearances as Magda with Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore at the Met in March and April. Last season, Gheorghiu was Mimì in La Bohème, which was transmitted in The Met: Live in HD series. Mimì was also the role of her Met debut in 1993. The roles Gheorghiu has sung at the Met include Violetta in La Traviata, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Liù in Turandot, Micaela in Franco Zeffirelli's new production of Carmen (1996), and Act II of Tosca, the title role, in the season opening gala in 2005. She has starred opposite Alagna at the Met in La Bohème, Roméo et Juliette (Juliette), and Faust (Marguerite).

In 1996, Roberto Alagna made his Met debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème just two weeks before marrying his Mimì, Angela Gheorghiu-a wedding that Joseph Volpe, General Manager at the time, announced to a delighted Met audience. La Rondine marks the fourth opera the French tenor and his wife have sung together at the Met. Later this season, Alagna takes on the daunting task of singing two starring roles in one evening: Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Pagliacci. Last season, he sang the title role in Roméo et Juliette, which was transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD series. As a last-minute substitute for a colleague, he triumphed as Radamès in Aida, and added the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly to his Met repertory. When he played the title role of Faust at the Vienna State Opera earlier this season, the Associated Press praised his "full and lovely lyric tenor."

Lisette Oropesa, a 24-year-old member of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, unexpectedly hit the spotlight at the Met last season when she stepped into the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Oropesa, who was a National Council Auditions finalist in 2005, also played the First Princess in the new production of Iphigénie en Tauride last season. She has appeared in three operas that were transmitted in The Met: Live in HD series: as the Dew Fairy in the new production of Hansel and Gretel, as a Lay Sister in the new production of Suor Angelica, and as a Madrigalist in Manon Lescaut.

The 2001 Cardiff Singer of the World winner, Marius Brenciu, makes his Met debut as Prunier. This season the Romanian tenor sings Rodolfo in La Bohème at the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv and in a new production at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, and plays Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra at the Hamburg State Opera.

Since his debut as Argante in the Met premiere of Handel's Rinaldo in 1984, the acclaimed bass Samuel Ramey, a Kansas native, has sung 279 performances with the company. Last season he was Kutuzov in War and Peace, which he originally performed at the work's Met premiere in 2002. His repertoire is vast, and he has sung in many new productions, including the title roles of Bluebeard's Castle, Don Giovanni, and Mefistofele; Olin Blitch in the Met's first-ever production of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah; Pagano in the Met premiere of I Lombardi; Zaccaria in Nabucco; Assur in Semiramide; Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress, and Don Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. On opening night in 1992, he played all four villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann.

This season Marco Armiliato conducted Act III of Manon at the Opening Night Gala, which was transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD, as well as performances of Lucia di Lammermoor. In February, he will be on the podium for Adriana Lecouvreur. Last season, he conducted the new production of La Fille du Régiment, which was a Live in HD transmission, as well as La Traviata. Among the operas he has conducted at the Met are the company premiere of Wolf-Ferrari's Sly and the United States premiere of Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac. The Italian conductor has worked with such companies as the Vienna State Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and Venice's La Fenice. He led two performances of the famed Three Tenors concerts.

Nicolas Joël, who has been the Director of the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse for more than 15 years, will take over as General Director of the Paris Opera next season. While still in his teens, he began working with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle; within a few years, he was also working with Patrice Chéreau in Bayreuth. Joël has mounted productions for companies throughout the world, including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and San Francisco Opera. La Rondine is the third opera that Joël has directed at the Met. He made his debut in 1996 with a new production of Andrea Chénier, starring Luciano Pavarotti, and later directed a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Ezio Frigerio began his career in his native Italy, working with the late director Giorgio Strehler at Milan's Piccolo Teatro. Frigerio made his Met debut in 1984, creating the sets for a new production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini starring Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo. Later he designed the sets for a new production of Il Trovatore with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti, as well those for a new Lucia di Lammermoor directed by Nicolas Joël. Frigerio is active in opera, theater, and film. He served as art director for such well-known films as Vittorio De Sica's Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, and Jean-Paul Rappenau's Cyrano de Bergerac, for which Frigerio received an Academy Award nomination.

Costume designer Franca Squarciapino, who has worked at such international companies as the Zurich Opera and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, is also well known in the film, theater, and dance worlds. She won an Academy Award for her costumes for the 1990 film version of Cyrano de Bergerac and was a Tony nominee for her Can-Can costume designs. She has worked at the Met on three previous occasions, all with her partner, set designer Ezio Frigerio, with whom she also collaborated on the legendary Swan Lake that Rudolph Nureyev choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet.

Duane Schuler has created lighting designs for 22 new productions at the Met, most recently Thaïs, which opened in December. He was the lighting designer for two world premieres at the Met, The Great Gatsby (1999) and The First Emperor (2006), as well as for four operas that had not previously been seen here: Susannah, Sly, Il Pirata, and A View from the Bridge. Schuler has worked with opera, ballet, and theater companies around the world and is a partner in the theater and lighting consulting firm Schuler Shook.

La Rondine will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season on the radio and the Internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners. The January 10 matinee will be transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Renée Fleming hosts the transmission, which is being sent to Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia. Brian Large is the HD director for La Rondine.

The opening-night performance on December 31 will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM Radio channel 79, as will the matinee on January 10 and evening performances on January 13, February 11, 19 and 23.

The performances on December 31 and January 13 will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming at the Met's web site,

The Saturday matinee performance on January 10 will be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.
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.

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 is released by the Met and will be available at the newly renovated Met Shop in the opera house lobby in mid-December. The other eight are on the EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, and Decca 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 has 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 120 historic audio recordings and 50 full-length opera videos, 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 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. Two are planned for the 2008-09 season: La Damnation de Faust on November 4 and 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 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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