Great Performances at the Met: The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala Starring Renée Fleming

Sun, 03/15/2009 - 8:00pm

Fleming (middle) appears in the title role of Massenet’s Manon

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

There are galas and then there’s The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala Starring Renée Fleming, premiering on Great Performances at the Met Sunday, March 15 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).  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.
The telecast opens with Act II of La Traviata, 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.

Also tune in to WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1) for more Great Performances at the Met broadcasts on Sunday, March 22 at 2 p.m. for La Damnation de Faust and Sunday, March 29 at 1:30 p.m. for Thaïs.