About the Opera

Baritone Simon Keenlyside, whose performance as Hamlet received rave reviews when this production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser was introduced at the Metropolitan Opera, commands the stage in the opera’s premiere on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances at the Met, in primetime on Thursday, July 15 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN and on Sunday, July 18 at 12 noon on PBS (check local listings). Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

“Elegant and wrenching, intelligent and fitful,” wrote The New York Times of Keenlyside’s unforgettable performance. “You could not take your eyes off him.” Joining the baritone is German soprano Marlis Petersen as Hamlet’s heart-broken lover Ophélie. Louis Langrée conducts this performance that also features Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude, Toby Spence as Laërte and James Morris as Claudius.

When Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet had its premiere in 1868, the opera featured considerable departures from the original storyline of Shakespeare’s play, most notably a Hamlet who lives and is crowned king after killing Claudius. For the opera’s London premiere, Thomas rewrote the opera to provide a tragic ending that was more in line with the original play. This production first premiered in 1996 in Geneva and went on to London and Barcelona, using the original ending. For the Met, the directors and conductor devised a tragic finale that combines the original version with the revised ending composed later by Thomas. The opera was last performed at the Met in 1897 and is known for Ophélie’s famous mad scene.

Great Performances at the Met: Hamlet is directed for television by Brian Large and hosted by Renée Fleming. Jay David Saks is the audio producer. Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser make Met Opera debuts directing the production, as does set designer Christian Fenouillat, costume designer Agostino Cavalca, and lighting designer Christophe Forey. Hamlet is the ninth of 10 productions airing during the 2009-2010 season of Great Performances at the Met. The performance is sung in French with English surtitles.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home-builder®. Additional funding for Great Performances at the Met: Hamlet provided The Andrew W. Mellon 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.