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August 6, 2012

Maryland Public Television offers Opera Week featuring Met performances

As everyone knows around here, Maryland Public Television (MPT) can be a little, well, exasperating.

Many's the week when it's hard to find any programming, given all the fundraising. And many's the PBS show that MPT ignores or delays, while stations all over the place are making them available to viewers.

But, hey, no station is perfect.

OK, so the shilling gets tiresome. But no one does the pleading for dollars better than MPT's ever-charming Rhea Feikin.

There's also something to be said (by us irredeemable Anglophiles, at least) for a station that has a weekday lineup called "Afternoon Tea" with golden-oldie Britcoms.

And the station does come through from time to time with some very enticing lineups, like "Opera Week," which starts Monday.

For five nights in a row, MPT is offering encore broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera's popular HD simulcasts, all with starry casts. Of course, a lot of you will have seen these performances on the big screen at your favorite cineplex, but they should still register nicely on a TV set.

There will be three ...

great works from the standard repertoire; one of Verdi's powerful, less frequently encountered early pieces; and a novelty from last season.

Each of the operas will be shown at 8 p.m., with a repeat at 12 a.m., so that gives you, or your DVR, two good chances at it.

First up is Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier," the sad-comic tale of young and not-so-young love, propelled by some of the most exquisite music ever penned. (I think the trio in the last act is way beyond divine.) The Met production, conducted by James Levine, features Renee Fleming (who will the guest artist at the Baltimore Symphony's gala concert next month) and Susan Graham.

Tuesday's opera is "Ernani." It's very much worth hearing, even if the tragic plot has some implausibilities to rival those of "Trovatore." The cast includes Angela Meade, the much touted soprano who has the makings of a major artist. She is joined in this staging by the extraordinary baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

The Wednesday slot is reserved for "Don Giovanni," starring Mariusz Kwiecien, who has made the title role a highly admired calling card. The production also features Barbara Frittoli and Ramon Vargas. Fabio Luisi, the Met's principal conductor, will be on the podium.

You can set sail for "The Enchanted Isle" on Thursday. This is the pastiche created for the Met out of music by the likes of Vivaldi, Handel and Rameau, with a story that combines bits of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest." The big cast has room for David Daniels, Joyce DiDonato and Danielle de Niese, among others, not to mention a cameo by the indefatigable Placido Domingo.

Opera Week wraps up on Friday with "Faust" in an updated staging directed by Des ("Jersey Boys") McAnuff and showcasing the vocal artistry of two of the hottest singers in the business today -- Jonas Kaufmann and Rene Pape. The Philadelphia Orchestra's dynamic new music director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, conducts.

Note that the complete "Ring" Cycle form the Met is scheduled for an MPT airing the week of Sept. 10. So for opera fans, the station really does have a lot of TV worth watching in the days ahead.

To get you in the mood for MPT's Opera Week, here's that Trio from "Rosenkavalier" -- a concert version from several years back with Fleming, Frederica von Stade and Kathleen Battle, conducted by Claudio Abbado. The sound quality is icky, but, Lawdy, what a magical performance.


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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