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Verdi Singers To Be Showcased In The MET'S IL Trovatore

A cast of internationally most acclaimed Verdi singers is showcased in the Met's new production of the Italian master's melodic tour de force, Il Trovatore, which opens February 16. Renowned director David McVicar makes his Met debut, and Gianandrea Noseda conducts a cast that includes Marcelo Álvarez in his first Met performances of the heroic title role, and three singers who are celebrated interpreters of their parts: Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora, Dolora Zajick as Azucena, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count di Luna. Kwangchul Youn makes his Met role debut as Ferrando. In later performances, Marco Berti is Manrico; Hasmik Papian is Leonora; Luciana D'Intino is Azucena, ?eljko Lučić is di Luna, and Burak Bilgili is Ferrando, conducted by Riccardo Frizza. Performances run through May 8.

When this staging premiered in Chicago, The Globe and Mail said it was "packed with drama...ripping good theater." McVicar's new production, featuring sets by Charles Edwards and costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel in their Met debuts, is inspired by the work of Francisco Goya - particularly his famous prints "The Disasters of War," with their haunting depictions of that time, and his nightmarish "Black Paintings." The sets are designed on a turntable to minimize scene change breaks. Jennifer Tipton returns to the Met to create the lighting design. This Il Trovatore is a co-production with the San Francisco Opera, where it will open in September, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Marcelo Álvarez, described by a Financial Times critic as "a classic tenore di grazia who sculpts his lines with taste," makes his Met role debut as Manrico in the new Il Trovatore. Next season, he adds the role of Cavaradossi to his company repertoire, when he sings in the new production premiere of Tosca on Opening Night, opposite Karita Mattila in the title role. Manrico is the Argentinean tenor's third major Verdi role at the Met; he made his debut as Alfredo in Franco Zeffirelli's new production of La Traviata in 1998 and has also sung the Duke in Rigoletto. His diverse Met repertoire also includes Don José in Carmen, which he performed last season, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Des Grieux in Manon, Rodolfo in La Bohème, and the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier. He has sung Don José with many companies, including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse; Alfredo at the Zurich Opera, and Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Later this season he sings Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur at Turin's Teatro Regio.

Sondra Radvanovsky has sung some of Verdi's most demanding soprano roles at the Met, including Elvira in Ernani, Elena in I Vespri Siciliani, Elisabeth in Don Carlo, the title role in Luisa Miller, and Leonora in Il Trovatore, which she first sang here in 1999. Radvanovksy is a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and her repertoire with the company also includes Musetta in La Bohème, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Roxane in Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac, a role she sang in the work's United States premiere in 2005. Though she focuses on Verdi, this season the American soprano earned raves for her performance in the title role of Puccini's Suor Angelica at the Los Angeles Opera and for her Washington National Opera debut in the title role of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia.

As Azucena, Dolora Zajick "ruled the stage more like a force of nature than a mezzo-soprano playing a part," the Chicago Tribune critic wrote in 2006. The American singer has a large repertoire, and is especially renowned for the dramatic Verdi parts. Azucena was the role of her Met debut in 1988; she last sang it here in 2001. She is equally well-known as Amneris in Aida (a role she has sung an astonishing 62 times at the Met and which she returns to sing next season), Eboli in Don Carlo, and Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera. Last season, she returned to the role of Adalgisa in Norma, which she had sung at the production's premiere in 2001. Zajick appeared in the Met premiere of Rusalka (1993) and the world premiere of An American Tragedy (2005). Among her performances elsewhere this season were Don Carlo at La Scala's opening night and Cavalleria Rusticana at the Houston Grand Opera and Chicago's Lyric Opera.

In addition to repertory from his native Russia, Dmitri Hvorostovsky has made a specialty of Verdi's lyric baritone roles, with his Met repertoire including Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera, which he sang last season, Germont in La Traviata, and Rodrigo in Don Carlo. He made his Met debut in The Queen of Spades, in 1995, and has also performed the Russian parts of Andrei Bolkonsky in the Met premiere of War and Peace, and the title role of Eugene Onegin, which was transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD in 2007. He has also sung the title role of Mozart's Don Giovanni, Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore, and Valentin in Faust at the Met, as well as the song cycles, Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée with the MET Orchestra, conducted by James Levine. This season he appears in Simon Boccanegra at the San Francisco Opera and in Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in concerts worldwide, including a tour with pianist Evgeny Kissin.

Kwangchul Youn makes his role debut as Ferrando, capping a busy season at the Met, where he has already appeared as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni and King Marke in Tristan und Isolde. The Korean bass made his Met debut in 2004 as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte and has also sung Ramfis in Aida, Hermann in Tannhäuser, and the Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila with the company. Earlier this season he sang Méphistophélès in a new production of Faust at the Vienna State Opera.

Conductor Gianandrea Noseda made his Met debut in 2002 conducting Prokofiev's War and Peace and returned to lead Verdi's La Forza del Destino in 2006 and Un Ballo in Maschera last season. The Italian conductor holds the titles of music director of Turin's Teatro Regio, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, and artistic director of the Stresa Festival on Lake Maggiore. After winning Spain's Cadaqués Orchestra International Conducting Competition in 1994, he became the orchestra's principal conductor. Three years later, he became the first foreigner to be named principal guest conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre (Kirov Opera) in St. Petersburg, where he has led, among many other operas, the company's first-ever performance of La Sonnambula. This season the maestro conducts Thaïs and The Queen of Spades at the Teatro Regio and later this year will lead performances with the Israel Philharmonic, the Swedish Radio Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Italian tenor Marco Berti makes his Met role debut as Manrico, following his appearances last season in another Verdi role, Radamès in Aida. He made his company debut in 2004 as Pinkerton and later sang Don José in Carmen. Elsewhere this season, his schedule includes Cavaradossi in Tosca and Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera at the Vienna State Opera, Don José at the Bavarian State Opera and Bilbao Opera, and Dick Johnson in La Fanciulla del West in Seville. In September, Berti opens the San Francisco Opera season in this production of Il Trovatore.

Hasmik Papian adds the role of Leonora in Il Trovatore to her Met repertoire this season. She made her company debut in 1999 in the title role of Aida, a role she repeats in the 2009-10 season, and last season sang two of the most challenging roles in the soprano repertory: the title role of Bellini's Norma and Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth. This season she stars in La Forza del Destino at the Vienna State Opera, sings Norma with the Monte Carlo Opera, and in her debut at the Dallas Opera takes on the bel canto role of Elizabeth in Roberto Devereux.

"It was hard to resist such robust and dramatic singing," The New York Times critic wrote in 2005, when Italian mezzo-soprano Luciana D'Intino made her Met debut as Eboli in Don Carlo. With Azucena, she adds a third Verdi role to her Met repertoire, which also includes Amneris in Aida. D'Intino has appeared with such major companies as the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Parma's Teatro Regio. This season both La Scala and the Vienna State Opera hear her Amneris, and she also brings her Azucena to the Zurich Opera.

When ?eljko Lučić played the title role in last season's new production of Macbeth, which was transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD, the New York Times praised his "affecting performance of an intimidating role," as well as his "elegant legato and burnished sound." The Serbian-born baritone adds the role of Count di Luna to his Met repertory this season, and next season returns for his first performances with the company of Michele in Puccini's Il Tabarro. He made his Met debut in 2006 as Barnaba in La Gioconda. Elsewhere this season, he appears in Macbeth, La Traviata, and Luisa Miller with the Bavarian State Opera; Don Carlo at the Frankfurt Opera, and Rigoletto at Madrid's Teatro Real.

Burak Bilgili made his Met debut in 2004 as Leporello in Don Giovanni. The young Turkish bass made his professional operatic debut at La Scala as Alfonso in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia in the 2002-03 season. He has since sung with leading opera companies in Europe and America, including the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Teatre Liceu in Barcelona, Rome Opera, New York City Opera, Canadian Opera, and Vancouver Opera, among others.

Conductor Riccardo Frizza made his Met debut last month with Rigoletto, winning praise from The New York Times for the "lively and full-bodied" performance he drew from the orchestra. After adding Il Trovatore to his Met repertory with this production, he returns next season to conduct the new production of Rossini's rarely performed Armida, starring Renée Fleming in the title role. From 1994 to 2000, he was a young staff conductor with the symphony of Brescia. He has worked with major orchestras and opera companies around the world, and his future engagements include Simon Boccanegra with the Hamburg State Opera and Falstaff at the Seattle Opera.

David McVicar makes his Metropolitan Opera debut directing Il Trovatore. Last month, he staged Siegfried at the Opéra du Rhin in Strasbourg, the third production in a projected full cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen there. Among his numerous acclaimed opera productions are Rigoletto (Olivier Award nomination), Le Nozze di Figaro, Faust, and Die Zauberflöte at Covent Garden (all televised); The Rape of Lucretia (Olivier Award nomination) with the Aldeburgh Festival; La Clemenza di Tito (Olivier Award Nominations) and Tosca with English National Opera. McVicar won the South Bank Show Award for his production of Giulio Cesare at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2005. Known for his innovative and sometimes controversial style, he has staged opera throughout the world, including productions in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Lille, Paris, Brussels, St. Petersburg, New Zealand, Dallas, Houston, and Berlin.

British designer Charles Edwards's designs have appeared everywhere from the New Israeli Opera (Werther) to the Royal Danish Opera (La Forza del Destino), the Houston Grand Opera (Jenufa), and Chicago's Lyric Opera (Billy Budd). Since 2001, when he made his Mid-Wales Opera debut with Così fan tutte, he has also worked as a director.

Costume designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel often collaborates with David McVicar and Charles Edwards. She has worked with such companies as Britain's Opera North (Rigoletto, Macbeth) and English National Opera (Boris Godunov, David Alden's production of Peter Grimes) and Chicago's Lyric Opera (Giulio Cesare, La Traviata).

Last year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded one of its coveted "genius grants" to lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, praising her for "pushing the visible boundaries of her art form with painterly lighting that evokes mood and sculpts movement in dance, drama, and opera." The two-time Tony Award winner (The Cherry Orchard, Jerome Robbins' Broadway) created the lighting for a new production of Hansel and Gretel at the Met last season. She made her Met debut with Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in 1997.

Choreographer Leah Hausman is active as a choreographer and director in Europe and the United States. She has worked with such opera companies as the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, London's Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the San Francisco Opera. Her numerous theater credits include Pedro the Magnificent (Royal Shakespeare Company) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Manchester Royal Exchange).

Il Trovatore 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 channel 78 and XM Radio channel 79 is broadcasting the premiere on February 16 as well as performances on February 24 and 28 (matinee), March 10 and 16, and the final live broadcast of the season, May 8. The February 16 premiere will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming at the Met's web site, In addition, the Saturday matinee performance on February 28 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.

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 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 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. The new service currently offers almost 200 historic audio recordings and 50 full-length opera videos will be 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, 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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