There are galas and then there’s The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala Starring Renée Fleming, premiering this March on Great Performances at the Met on PBS HD, premiering March 14th at 8pm. (in New York, the premier will be for SundayArts March 15th at noon. See more on the SundayArts Web site.) Recorded last September to mark the opening of the Met’s 125th anniversary season, the once-in-a-lifetime occasion showcases the soprano in three of her favorite roles: Violetta in Act II of Verdi’s La Traviata, Manon in Act III of Massenet’s Manon, and the Countess in the final scene of Strauss’ Capriccio.
Adding special glamour: Vogue-worthy costumes for the star created for each of the scenes by designers John Galliano, Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.
“Much diva dazzle,” raved The New York Times. “It was a challenging feat to bring off. She gave her all and sang beautifully.” Added The Oregonian, “Fleming looked and sounded magnificent.”
The telecast, presented by THIRTEEN in 5.1 digital surround sound, opens with Act II of La Traviata, and continues with Act III of Manon and the final scene of the one act Capriccio. Met Music Director James Levine conducts Traviata, which has two scenes in Act II: the first at Violetta’s country house and the second at a grand Parisian mansion as elaborately staged by legendary director Franco Zeffirelli. Ramón Vargas sings the role of Alfredo Germont, and Thomas Hampson that of his father, Giorgio. Christian Lacroix designed two costumes for Fleming, one for each scene.
The Manon act is also in two parts: the first is the spectacular “Cours-la-Reine” scene featuring the heroine’s famous “Gavotte,” followed by the searingly dramatic scene in the church of St. Sulpice. Ramón Vargas is Manon’s lover, the Chevalier des Grieux; Dwayne Croft her cousin, Lescaut, and Robert Lloyd the Chevalier’s father, the Comte des Grieux. Marco Armiliato conducts. Fleming’s costume for scene one and an additional cloak for the second scene are by Karl Lagerfeld.
The musically transcendent finale of Capriccio, conducted by Patrick Summers, Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera, concludes the evening, with Fleming stunning in black as dressed by John Galliano.
The fourth of 11 Great Performances at the Met broadcasts this season, The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala Starring Renée Fleming is sung in Italian, French and German, with English surtitles. It was recorded September 22, 2008, as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Gary Halvorson directs, with Susan Graham and Deborah Voigt as hosts and Jay Saks as audio producer.
Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers. Additional funding for this telecast was provided by The Charles E. Culpeper Foundation. Visit Great Performances Online at pbs.org/gperf for additional information on this and other Great Performances programs.
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.