Three of the opera world’s leading stars—Jonas Kaufmann, Marina Poplavskaya, and René Pape—sing the principal roles in a new production of Gounod’s Faust, directed by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff in his Met debut. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts his first Met performances of the opera, which airs on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances at the Met Sunday, May 13 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). In New York, THIRTEEN will premiere the program Thursday, May 10 at 8:30 p.m. with an encore presentation Sunday, May 13 at 12:30 p.m.
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The program was originally seen live in movie theaters on December 10 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 1700 movie theaters and performing arts centers in 54 countries around the world.
Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local arts programming to the New York community.
Kaufmann makes his Met role debut as the title character, and Poplavskaya makes hers as Faust’s love interest and eventual victim, Marguerite; Pape returns to one of his greatest Met roles, the wicked tempter Méphistophélès. French-Canadian mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier makes her house role debut as the student Siébel and Russell Braun makes his in the role of Marguerite’s soldier brother, Valentin.
McAnuff is a Tony Award winner for Big River and The Who’s Tommy and the Artistic Director of Canada’s prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival. His production of Faust, a co-production with the English National Opera, where it premiered last season, sets the action in the mid-20th century, with Faust as a nuclear scientist who sees the terrible effects of his life’s work and longs to return to a simpler time. The main part of the opera takes place in a flashback to an earlier part of the 20th century, with the plot unfolding in the moments before Faust dies from drinking a fatal potion.
Gounod’s opera has been a staple of the Met’s repertory since 1883, when it was the first opera ever presented at the old Metropolitan Opera House.
When this production premiered last November, Associated Press enthused: “Exceptional work by a fine cast of singing actors led by tenor Jonas Kaufmann, soprano Marina Poplavskaya and bass René Pape…their performances, sharply directed by Des McAnuff, guaranteed that Gounod’s opera came across as serious and even gripping theater. And rarely has the score sounded more captivating than in the rhapsodic account by the Met orchestra under the guidance of the young conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.”
Nézet-Séguin, the Music Director Designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, had two previous Met engagements: the new productions of Bizet’s Carmen (2009) and Verdi’s Don Carlo (2010), both broadcast on Great Performances at the Met. Kaufmann is currently one of the world’s most in-demand tenors, starring in a varied repertory that has included Met performances of Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre (2011 new production), Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca, Don José in Carmen, Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata, and Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. In October, he became the first Met artist since Luciano Pavarotti (in 1984) to sing a solo recital from the Met stage, and this spring, he will reprise his Siegmund in complete Ring cycles.
Last season, Poplavskaya received critical praise for her singing and acting in two Met role debuts. She sang Elisabeth de Valois in the new production of Don Carlo, also seen on Great Performances at the Met, and she also starred as Violetta in Willy Decker’s staging of La Traviata. Pape, whose last Met engagement was as King Philip to Poplavskaya’s Elisabeth on the Japan tour, sang Méphistophélès in the Met’s 2004-05 season. Last season, he starred in the title role of a new production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (seen on Great Performances at the Met).
McAnuff’s design team for Faust includes two Tony nominees in their Met debuts: scenic designer Robert Brill and costume designer Paul Tazewell. Peter Mumford, whose work at the Met includes Madama Butterfly, Carmen, and Peter Grimes, designed the lighting for the production. Choreographer Kelly Devine and video designer Sean Nieuwenhuis also made their Met debuts with this production.
Mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato hosts. Barbara Willis Sweete directs the telecast.
Major funding for the telecast is provided by M. Beverly and Robert G. Bartner. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®. This Great Performances presentation is funded by the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation.
For the Met, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.