The December issue of Opera News celebrates two current Metropolitan Opera productions: the centennial revival of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, starring "cover girl" Deborah Voigt, and Nicholas Hytner's staging of Don Carlo, Verdi's most ambitious opera.In December and January, the Met honors the centennial of Puccini's Gold Rush extravaganza, La Fanciulla del West (the first opera to have its world premiere at the Met), with a run of nine performances conducted by San Francisco Opera music director Nicola Luisotti. Metropolitan Opera favorite Deborah Voigt makes her house role debut as Minnie, Puccini's pistol-packing, poker-playing New World heroine; in December's cover story, "That Girl," Voigt joins Fred Cohn to discuss the opera and listen to some golden Minnie portrayals from the past.Although La Fanciulla is one of Puccini's mature operas, it is one of his least frequently performed - and least appreciated. Conductor Steven Mercurio mines the musicAl Gold in the composer's impeccably crafted score, in "How the West Was Won."Before their reincarnation as Puccini operas, both The Girl of the Golden West and Madame Butterfly started life as stage plays from the pen of visionary manager, director, dramatist, and producer, David Belasco. Helen Sheehy savors Belasco's outrageous life and incomparable showmanship in "The Great Belasco."Nicholas Hytner's staging of Don Carlo - a work the Tony Award-winning director calls "the quintessentiAl Verdi opera" - makes its much-anticipated Met debut this season, after proving a popular success in London. Glamorous Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, who made her Met debut in 2007 as Natasha in War and Peace, joins the Met's stellar Don Carlo cast as Elisabetta di Valois. David Belcher charts Poplavskaya's fast rise to international acclaim in "Independent Streak."As debate continues to rage over the extent to which the First Amendment imposes the separation of church and state, Don Carlo's famous Grand Inquisitor scene remains as potent and pertinent as ever; Patrick Dillon investigates, in "Church and State."Australian dramatic coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, who died on October 10, contributed to the renaissance of bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s to the 1980s. One of the most remarkable female opera singers of the 20th century, she was dubbed "La Stupenda" and, by Luciano Pavarotti, the "Voice of the Century." Features Editor Brian Kellow bids the legendary singer farewell, in "Joan Sutherland: 1926-2010."In this month's regular "Sound Bites" column, Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll turns the spotlight on young Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman, who returns to the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Yum-Yum in The Mikado. At the most recent Spoleto Festival USA, "Andriana Chuchman proved suitably charming of voice and mien" (New York Times) in the title role of the English ballad-opera Flora.As ever, there are special extras exclusively for subscribers and Met patrons at the recently redesigned OperaNews.com, including a chat with Lee Hoiby, whose opera of Summer and Smoke plays this month at Manhattan School of Music; video interviews with Mariusz Kwiecien and the ladies of the Met's Così Fan Tutte in Opera News's new online series "Singers' Studio"; and "Sutherland reheard," an audio survey of the late soprano's recorded highlights.The Metropolitan Opera Guild celebrates its diamond anniversary with a Gala Luncheon on Tuesday, December 7 in the Grand Ballroom of New York's Waldorf=Astoria. The stars will be out in force to help the Guild observe this important milestone, with live performances, rare video footage, tributes, and surprises! The celebration will include musical tributes to the Guild by Marcello Giordani, Nathan Gunn, Hei-Kyung Hong, Brandon Jovanovich and Susanna Phillips, spoken tributes by Susan Graham and Deborah Voigt, and videos about the history of the Guild and its fascinating founder, Eleanor Robson Belmont. Among the other opera luminaries who have promised to attend are Licia Albanese, Martina Arroyo, Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell, Mignon Dunn, Rosalind Elias, Denyce Graves, Evelyn Lear, Catherine Malfitano, Aprile Millo, Patrice Munsel, John Relyea, Regina Resnik and Carol Vaness.To support current Metropolitan Opera presentations, the Guild also offers a wealth of lectures and public events in December, including three events inspired by the opening of La Fanciulla del West on December 6. On opening night, Desirée Mays presents a pre-performance lecture entitled "The Bargirl, the Bandit, and the Sheriff"; on December 8, F. Paul Driscoll engages Deborah Voigt in "Singers' Studio" about singing the role of Minnie; and, on December 14, Joseph Colaneri examines the opera's history and reflects on its recorded past. Details of these and many more upcoming events follow below.Upcoming lectures and public events from the Metropolitan Opera GuildSaturday, December 4 at 2pm - 3:15pmOPERA EXPLORERSMaking Flute MagicYoung children (aged 5-8) discover the operatic arts with their families through these innovative and interactive workshops, tied to the Met's abridgEd English-language production of Mozart's Magic Flute. By combining hands-on experiential learning with physical and vocal activity, workshop participants learn to follow a complex operatic plot, and understand the power of music, acting, and design to tell a story. As this is a family workshop, at least one adult and one child aged 5-8 must be in each party.Price: $15 Monday, December 6 at 6pm - 7:15pmOPERA OUTLOOKS: PRE-PERFORMANCE LECTURESLa Fanciulla del West: The Bargirl, the Bandit, and the SheriffPresented by Desirée MaysMighty Minnie, the Golden Girl of Puccini's opera, lived a rough-and-tumble life among the miners during the California gold rush of 1849. Desirée Mays details the pleasures and perils of life in the Wild West as described through real-life letters and Puccini's American drama.Price: $16; $20 at doorTuesday, December 7 at 12:15pmMETROPOLITAN OPERA GUILD: GALA LUNCHEONGrand Ballroom, The Waldorf=Astoria, NYCCelebrating the Guild's 75th AnniversaryThe stars will be out in force to help the Guild celebrate this milestone.Tickets from $250Wednesday, December 8 at 6pm - 7:15pmTHE SINGERS' STUDIO: CANDID AND CASUAL CONVERSATIONIn Studio: Deborah VoigtPresented by F. Paul DriscollDeborah Voigt, today's foremost dramatic soprano, chats with Editor in Chief F. Paul Driscoll about her Met season, including her role debut as Brünnhilde and her first performances with the company of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West.SOLD OUTSaturday, December 11 at 2pm - 3:15pmOPERA EXPLORERSMaking Flute MagicSee details for December 4.Price: $60; $75 at the doorSunday, December 12 at 4pm - 6pmMasterly SingingThe Vocal Coach: A Singer's Personal TrainerPresented by Mark TrawkaThese workshops and master classes probe areas of performance and preparation vital to the development of young performers, while showcasing opera's most valuable assets - the directors, coaches, conductors, and singers of our stage. Stretching, warm-ups, workout, cool-down: each of these pieces is as essential to a professional singer as to a professional athlete. In this interactive coaching session, see and hear about the ongoing progress and professional development singers make while working with a vocal coach.Price: $20; $25 at doorMonday, December 13 at 6pm - 7pmMet Talks: New Productions of the 2010-11 SeasonLa TraviataPresented by Peter Gelb at the Metropolitan Opera HouseWilly Decker's strikingly beautiful production of this Verdi favorite, a hit when it premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2005, arrives at the Met. General Manager Peter Gelb hosts this conversation with its stars.Price: $20; Met subscribers: $15; Guild members: $10Tuesday, December 14 at 6pm - 7:15pmOPERA OUTLOOKS: PRE-PERFORMANCE LECTURESGolden Girls and Gunslingers in Fanciulla's Fabulous PastPresented by Joseph ColaneriIn the one hundred years since its World Premiere at the Met, Giacomo Puccini's La Fanciulla del West has had many memorable performances. Joseph Colaneri celebrates the centennial of this superb score by examining its history and by reflecting on its recorded past.Price: $16; $20 at doorThursday, December 16 at 6pm - 8pmMasterly SingingGetting the Gig: A Mock Audition PanelEach summer, when major opera houses close up shop, regional companies and festivals provide audiences the opportunity to hear famed voices and up-and-comers alike. The casts for these productions and concerts are largely determined during an intensive audition period in early December. Come hear these singers as they prime their performances in the interest of getting those summer gigs.Price: $20; $25 at doorWeekdays at 3:30pm and most Sundays at 10:30am and 1:30pmBACKSTAGE TOURSGo behind the scenes for an exclusive look at what it takes to make onstage magic at the Met!Tours begin and end in the Met lobby during the Met performance season. Backstage Tours offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the Met, and visit the expansive scenic and carpentry shops, where sets are built and painted; the costume, wardrobe, make-up, and wig departments that prep and primp today's star singers for the stage; rehearsal rooms where productions first take shape; the massive stage complex where the action comes to life; and the crown jewel auditorium.Price: $16; $20 at door; Guild members: $14; Students: $10All events will be held in the Metropolitan Opera Guild's Opera Learning Center on the 6th floor of the Samuel B. & David Rose building at Lincoln Center, unless otherwise noted.www.OperaNews.com
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