[Met Concert/Gala] CID:352565
Opening Night Gala. Metropolitan Opera House: 09/22/2008., Sirius Broadcast live
Transmitted live in HD to movie theaters in North and South America
Streamed at metopera.org
Telecast/Times Squarecast/Campuscast/Broadcast/Simulcast

(Opening Night {124}
Peter Gelb, General Manager
Debut: Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano
HD Simulcast/Streamed/Times Squarecast/Plazacast
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
September 22, 2008

HD Transmission/Simulcast/Streamed/Times Squarecast/Plazacast

Opening Night {124}

Peter Gelb, General Manager


OPENING NIGHT GALA
The 125th Anniversary Season


LA TRAVIATA: Act II

Violetta................Renée Fleming
Alfredo.................Ramón Vargas
Germont.................Thomas Hampson
Flora...................Theodora Hanslowe
Gastone.................Tony Stevenson
Baron Douphol...........John Hancock
Marquis d'Obigny........Louis Otey
Doctor Grenvil..........Paul Plishka
Annina..................Kathryn Day
Giuseppe................Juhwan Lee
Messenger...............John Shelhart
Dancer..................Sara Erde
Dancer..................Christine McMillan
Dancer..................Griff Braun

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Set Designer............Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Designer........Raimonda Gaetani
Lighting Designer.......Duane Schuler
Choreographer...........Maria Benitez
Stage Director..........Kristine McIntyre
TV Director.............Gary Halvorson

Costume Designer for Renée Fleming: Christian Lacroix [Debut]

The revival a gift of The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund


MANON: Act III

Manon...................Renée Fleming
Des Grieux..............Ramón Vargas
Lescaut.................Dwayne Croft
Count Des Grieux........Robert Lloyd
Guillot.................Bernard Fitch
De Brétigny.............John Hancock
Pousette................Monica Yunus
Javotte.................Reveka Evangelia Mavrovitis
Rosette.................Ginger Costa-Jackson [First appearance]
Porter..................Jason Hendrix

Conductor...............Marco Armiliato

Production..............Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Designer................Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Stage Director..........Peter McClintock
TV Director.............Gary Halvorson

Costume Designer for Renée Fleming: Karl Lagerfeld [Debut] for Chanel


CAPRICCIO: Final Scene

Countess................Renée Fleming
Major-Domo..............Michael Devlin

Conductor...............Patrick Summers

Production..............John Cox
Set Designer............Mauro Pagano
Interior Decor..........Robert Perdziola
Lighting Designer.......Duane Schuler
Stage Director..........Peter McClintock
TV Director.............Gary Halvorson

Costume Designer for Renée Fleming: John Galliano [Debut]


Live transmissions to Times Square and Fordham University's Lincoln Center Campus in cooperation with the City of New York

Leadership support provided by Mercedes and Sid Bass and the Metropolitan Opera Guild

Funding also provided by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

The Met: Live in HD series is supported by the Neubauer Family Foundation

Transmitted live in HD to movie theaters in North and South America
Transmitted live to screens at Fordham University's Lincoln Center Campus and Times Square
Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed at metopera.org
Available for streaming at Met Opera on Demand

*Due to construction in Lincoln Center's campus, the Plazacast was shown on a screen at Fordham University's Lincoln Center Campus

Opening Night gala photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times

Opening Night Gala With Diva Dazzle

The Metropolitan Opera opened its 125th-anniversary season on Monday evening with a gala Renée Fleming showcase. Everything about the three-part evening was fashioned, quite literally, for Ms. Fleming.

She was featured in three favorite roles: Violetta in Act II of Verdi's "Traviata"; Manon in Act III of Massenet's "Manon"; and the Countess in the final scene of Strauss's "Capriccio," conducted by Patrick Summers. To lend an extra touch of diva dazzle to the evening, the Met commissioned three renowned fashion designers to create Ms. Fleming's costumes: Christian Lacroix for "Traviata," Karl Lagerfeld for "Manon" and John Galliano for "Capriccio."

For weeks waggish opera bloggers had been calling the evening "The Renee Fleming Fashion Show," "The Renaissance" and such. And in a way the gala was, as Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said recently on "Charlie Rose," a "kind of retro affair."

Mr. Gelb had been critical of the Met's penchant, under his predecessors, for presenting an opening-night gala as a showcase for a star, or a pair of stars, in sundry acts from existing productions. A major opera company, he argued, should open its season with a major statement, meaning an ambitious new production, as he did during his first two seasons with Anthony Minghella's cinematic production of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" in 2006 and Mary Zimmerman's updated staging of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" in 2007.

But Ms. Fleming had been promised a chance to anchor an entire opening night before Mr. Gelb's arrival. She is one of the Met's most valuable and popular stars, so naturally Mr. Gelb honored that promise.

There were the typically glittery trappings to this opening night. Celebrities and dignitaries could be spotted arriving on the red carpet and wandering the aisles, including Helen Mirren, Barbara Cook, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Henry and Nancy Kissinger. But to give the populist reach to the gala, the performance was broadcast live to a network of high-definition movie houses in some 500 theaters in North America and Argentina. Hundreds more saw the performance on simulcast screens set up in nearby Fordham Plaza (since Lincoln Center Plaza is closed for reconstruction) and in Times Square.

Miss Fleming had clearly wanted her special night and hoped to make it enjoyably luxurious. Still, she had serious artistic goals.

Hearing her in three works of such contrasting styles did not make for the most cogent operatic experience. But it was a challenging feat to bring off. She gave her all and, for the most part, sang beautifully.

In Act II of "La Traviata," when we find Violetta living in an airy country home near Paris with her smitten lover, Alfredo, Ms. Fleming, from her first phrases, sang with supple phrasing and found a distinctive vocal coloring - earthy, tremulous, clarion - to match the dramatic and musical moment. As is her way, she took a boldly expressive approach to dynamics, which is not to all tastes. Still, I have seldom heard the music sung with such rhythmic honesty.

The tenor Ramon Vargas was an impassioned Alfredo. But the baritone Thomas Hampson was disappointing as Alfredo's patriarchal father, Germont. His singing, though powerful and burnished, was too often blunt and bellowed. He made a stiff-backed father, so determined to extricate his son from this scandalous affair that he seemed impervious to the personal dignity of Ms. Fleming's vulnerable Violetta.

In the second scene of Act II, when the story moves to the soiree at the Paris home of the wealthy Flora, another Met audience was made to endure Franco Zeffirelli's garish sets, exceeded in their tasteless extravagance only by the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Still, James Levine conducted a taut, exciting performance, so nimble and bracing that it reminded me of the classic Toscanini recording.

Marco Armiliato conducted Act III of "Manon," in the highly stylized, handsome production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. The act begins at an outdoor fair in Paris, a scene crowded with festive people: vendors, acrobats and more. As the coquettish and fatally superficial young Manon, Ms. Fleming played things to the hilt, tossing off the florid and coyly alluring melodies, soaking up the adulation of the crowd. But she was at her best in the second scene. Learning that the disconsolate lover she abandoned, the Chevalier des Grieux, is about to take vows as a priest, she tracks him down at the Chapel St. Sulpice and lures him back during an intense and unrelenting duet. Mr. Vargas, as des Grieux, was again in ardent form.

But the highlight of the program was the final 20-minute scene, nearly a soliloquy, from Strauss's final opera, "Capriccio." This opera is a breezy yet profound dialectical drama that explores an aesthetic question: Is the music more important than the words in song?

The debate is embodied in the opera's love triangle, with a composer and a poet competing for the affection of the widowed Countess, who in this final scene must decide how the opera her suitors are jointly writing should end: in effect, choosing between them.

As the Countess facing the question, Ms. Fleming lovingly shaped the arching, infectious phrases and showed this keenly perceptive character going through bouts of confusion, girlish ardor, flattered vanity and world-weary resignation.

She looked glamorous in the black dress and Art Deco-styled cape that Mr. Galliano designed for her. At least I think the style was Art Deco. Fashion is not my thing. You can see for yourself from a lavish spread in the current issue of "Vogue," with Ms. Fleming modeling all her designer costumes.



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