Renee Fleming Stars in the Met's New Production of THE MERRY WIDOW, Beginning Tonight
Renée Fleming will add a new role to her extensive repertory when she sings her first-ever performances of Hanna Glawari, the title role in Lehár's The Merry Widow, at the Met this season. Four-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman makes her Met debut as director and choreographer of a new production of the comic operetta, in which a wealthy widow's countrymen launch a romantic plot to keep her -- and her tax dollars -- within their borders.
Highlights of the score include the familiar "Vilja Song" for the title character as well as a climactic song-and-dance set piece featuring a chorus line of grisettes at the legendary Parisian restaurant Maxim's. Sir Andrew Davis conducts a cast that also includes Broadway star Kelli O'Hara in her Met debut in the comic role of Valencienne, Nathan Gunn as the handsome Danilo, Alek Shrader as Camille, and Thomas Allen as Baron Zeta. The Merry Widow will be performed in a new English translation by Jeremy Sams and will feature set design by Julian Crouch, costume design by William Ivey Long in his Met debut, and lighting design by Paule Constable. The January 17 matinee performance will be transmitted worldwide as part of the Met's Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 1,900 movie theaters in 69 countries around the world.
Hanna Glawari will be Renée Fleming's 22nd role at the Met, where she has given more than 230 performances in a wide-ranging repertory. Her most recent appearances with the company have been as the title characters in Dvo?ák's Rusalka, Handel's Rodelinda, Rossini's Armida, and Massenet's Thais; Desdemona in Verdi's Otello; and two Richard Strauss roles, the Countess in Capriccio and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. These will be Fleming's first-ever staged performances of The Merry Widow. In 2010, she sang excerpts from the operetta in concert at the Dresden Semperoper.
Susan Stroman is the director and choreographer of nine Broadway musicals, most recently Bullets Over Broadway, Big Fish, The Scottsboro Boys, Young Frankenstein, and The Frogs. She is the winner of four Tony Awards, including one each as director and choreographer for her work on the 2001 hit The Producers, and has been nominated an additional 12 times, for directing or choreographing a variety of productions including The Music Man, Steel Pier, Show Boat, Contact, and Crazy For You.
Nathan Gunn's Met repertory of 15 roles includes Clyde Griffiths in the world premiere of Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy, the title role in Britten's Billy Budd, Schaunard in Puccini's La Bohème, Raimbaud in Rossini's Le Comte Ory, Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte, Mercutio in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, and Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, a role he has performed more than 30 times with the company.
Kelli O'Hara has appeared in nine Broadway musicals, earning Tony nominations for her last five starring roles: Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County, Billie Bendix in Nice Work If You Can Get It, Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Babe Williams in The Pajama Game, and Clara Johnson in The Light in the Piazza. She recently played Mrs. Darling in NBC's live broadcast of Peter Pan, and later this season will star as Anna Leonowens in a Lincoln Center Theater revival of The King and I.
Alek Shrader was among the winners of the Met's 2007 National Council Auditions, a process documented in the film The Audition. He made his Met debut in 2012 as Ferdinand in the company premiere of Thomas Adès's The Tempest and originated the role of Count Almaviva in the Met's abridged, English-language presentation of The Barber of Seville later that season. He returned last season to sing Tamino in the Met's holiday presentation of Mozart's The Magic Flute.
Thomas Allen made his Met debut in 1981 as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte and has since sung nine additional roles with the company, including the title characters in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Britten's Billy Budd; Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte; Eisenstein in Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus; Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro; and Beckmesser in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Sir Andrew Davis conducted the Met premiere of The Merry Widow in 2000. He made his Met debut in 1981 leading Richard Strauss's Salome and has conducted a total of ten operas with the company, including Don Giovanni; Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, which he also conducts at the Met this season; and both the Met premiere and 2011 revival of Capriccio. Davis is the Music Director at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The Merry Widow will feature a new English translation by Jeremy Sams, who devised and wrote The Enchanted Island for his Met debut in 2011 and returned last season as lyricist and director for a new production of Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus. The set designer is Julian Crouch, whose previous Met credits include The Enchanted Island, Philip Glass's Satyagraha, John Adams's Doctor Atomic, and the Met's 125th Anniversary Gala. Six-time Tony Award winner William Ivey Long makes his Met debut as costume designer; his many notable credits include Nine, Guys and Dolls, Smokey Joe's Café, Chicago, Cabaret, Contact, The Producers, Hairspray, Grey Gardens, Cinderella, and Bullets Over Broadway. Paule Constable's previous lighting designs for the Met include Satyagraha, Don Giovanni, Anna Bolena, and this season's new production of Le Nozze di Figaro.
In April, a new cast will take on the leading roles in The Merry Widow. Susan Graham will reprise her acclaimed interpretation of the title role, with Rod Gilfry as Danilo, Danielle de Niese as Valencienne, Stephen Costello as Camille, and Alan Opie as Baron Zeta. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads the performances.
Susan Graham made her company role debut as Hanna Glawari in the Met's 2003-04 season. She has sung more than 150 Met performances of a wide variety of roles, including Sondra Finchley in the world premiere of An American Tragedy and Jordan Baker in the world premiere of The Great Gatsby; the Composer in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos; Marguerite in Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust; Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni; Sycorax in the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island; the title character in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride; Dido in Berlioz's Les Troyens; Charlotte in Massenet's Werther; and Octavian in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.
Rod Gilfry made his Met debut as Demetrius in the 1996 company premiere of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. His other roles with the Met have included Marcello in La Bohème and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. He recently sang the Lawyer Stern in Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole at both New York City Opera and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
Danielle de Niese made her Met debut at age 19 as Barbarina in the 1998 new production premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro, the opera in which she currently stars as Susanna. Her other recent Met performances have included Despina in Così fan tutte, Ariel in the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island, Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, and Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare.
Stephen Costello made his Met debut on opening night of the 2007-08 season, when he sang Arturo in a new production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. He returned in 2011-12 for another season-opening production, the Met premiere of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, in which he sang Riccardo Percy. This season, he also sings his first Met performances of Alfredo in Verdi's La Traviata.
Alan Opie recently sang the title role in the Met premiere of John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer, a role he also performed in the co-production's premiere at English National Opera. He has sung four previous roles at the Met, including Balstrode in Britten's Peter Grimes, which he sang for his debut in 1994 and reprised in 1998; Sharpless in Puccini's Madama Butterfly; Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier; and Fieramosca in the 2003 Met premiere of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini.
Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi has led a varied repertory of 25 operas with the Met, including complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen and five concerts with the MET Orchestra. His most recent performances have been Rossini's La Cenerentola, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and, earlier this season, Verdi's Macbeth. This April, he will return to the Met to conduct a new production of the popular verismo double-bill, Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.
The Merry Widow Live in HD and Radio Broadcasts
The January 17 matinee performance of The Merry Widow will be transmitted live around the world at 12:55 p.m. ET as part of the Met's Live in HD series. The transmission, hosted by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, will be seen in more than 2,000 movie theaters in 69 countries around the world.
The December 31 opening performance will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Channel 74, as will the performances on January 6, 13, and 17, April 28, and May 7. The December 31 and May 7 performances will also be streamed live on the Met's Web site, www.metopera.org.
The January 17 performance will be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.
For more information on The Merry Widow, including casting by date, click here.
Pictured: Renée Fleming as Hanna in Lehár's "The Merry Widow." Susan Stroman's new production opens on December 31, 2014. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe/Metropolitan Opera.