Dynamic tenor José Cura sings the title role of Verdi's rarely performed Stiffelio, the composer's daring opera about faith, jealousy, and redemption. The production, hailed by New York Magazine as "the best production the work has ever received," returns to the Met on January 11 for the first time in twelve years. Acclaimed Verdi soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who won accolades for her Leonora in the new production of Il Trovatore last season, joins him as Lina. Having sung the title role of Stiffelio at opera houses around the world, Plácido Domingo takes the Met podium to conduct Verdi's sixteenth opera. The cast includes Andrzej Dobber as Stankar, Philip Ens as Jorg, and Michael Fabiano in his Met debut as Raffaele. Julianna di Giacomo makes her Met role debut as Lina in later performances. The production is by Giancarlo del Monaco. Sets and costumes are designed by Michael Scott, and Gil Wechsler is the lighting designer. Stage direction is by David Kneuss. Performances run through January 30.
At the time Verdi composed it, Stiffelio was considered to be an opera of scandalous subject matter. He based the opera on the play Le Pasteur by Souvestre and Bourgeois, which had only recently been completed when the composer set to work. The alarming story of a wife's betrayal of her Protestant husband sent the Imperial Austrian censors at Trieste to work and shocked the audiences of its 1850 premiere, all of which caused the opera to virtually disappear from the stage for nearly one hundred years. Following the failure, Verdi revised the opera and retitled it Aroldo, which had its premiere in 1857. In the 1960's, Stiffelio returned to the stages of the world's opera houses, with audiences more appreciative of its musical richness and dramatic force. The opera had its Met premiere in 1993 in the current production with Plácido Domingo in the title role and James Levine conducting.
About the Performers
José Cura makes his Met role debut as Stiffelio. "Stiffelio is one of those roles like Otello," Cura said in a 2007 interview. "Age and experience of life changes your approach to the part, to the meaning of a word, to the psychology of the character." With a voice that has been hailed by the New York Times for its "clarion power and burnished colorings," Cura made his Met debut in 1999 as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and reprised the role last season, adding the role of Canio in Pagliacci. The Argentine tenor's Met repertoire also includes Samson in Samson et Dalila and Cavaradossi in Tosca. Elsewhere this season, Cura sings the title role in Otello (Deutsche Oper), Cavaradossi (Vienna State Opera), Rodolfo in La Bohème (Zurich Opera), Calaf in Turandot (Deutsche Oper), and the title role in Edgar (the Teatro Comunale di Bologna).
Sondra Radvanovsky, who has been hailed by the Associated Press for her "strong, evenly produced sound and expressive flexibility," has sung some of Verdi's most demanding soprano roles at the Met, including Elvira in Ernani, Elena in I Vespri Siciliani, Elizabeth in Don Carlo, the title role in Luisa Miller, and Leonora in Il Trovatore (both in the 2002 revival and the 2009 new production by David McVicar). Radvanovksy is a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and made her Met debut in 1996 as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto. Her company repertoire also includes Musetta in La Bohème, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac, a role she sang in the 2005 U.S. premiere. Last season the American soprano performed the title role of Puccini's Suor Angelica at the Los Angeles Opera and title role of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia in her Washington National Opera debut.
Stankar is Andrzej Dobber's third Verdi role at the Met. Last season the Polish baritone appeared as Germont in La Traviata. Dobber made his Met debut as Amonasro in Aida in 2007. His recent appearances include Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde (Glyndebourne Opera), Germont in La Traviata (Deutsche Oper, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Nederlandse Opera, and the Los Angeles Opera), Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera (Netherlands Opera), and the title role in Macbeth (Glyndebourne Opera). Later this season he sings Scarpia in Tosca (Berlin State Opera).
Phillip Ens last appeared on the Met stage in 2008 as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, which he also sang at the premiere of the new production in 2004. The Canadian bass made his Met debut in 2000 as Hunding in Die Walküre. His company roles also include Wurm in the 2001 new production of Luisa Miller and Tiresias in Oedipus Rex. Elsewhere he has performed Claggart in Billy Budd (Houston Grand Opera), Don Basilio in IL Barbiere di Siviglia (San Francisco Opera), and Fafner in Das Rheingold (Royal Opera, Covent Garden).
Michael Fabiano makes his Met debut as Raffaele. A resident artist with the Academy of Vocal Arts, Fabiano was the first place winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. His performance was captured in Susan Froemke's documentary The Audition, a behind-the-scenes look at the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions and the thousands of hopefuls who compete. In February 2008, Fabiano sang Rodolfo in a concert performance of La Boheme with Rossen Milanov and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In March 2008, Fabiano made his debut at La Scala as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi. Also last season, Fabiano performed Alfredo in La Traviata for Opera New Jersey in Princeton. Fabiano has won numerous awards and accolades, including first place in the 2007 Loren Zachary Competition, first place in the 2007 Opera Index Competition, and first place in the 2006 Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Competition.
Julianna di Giacomo made her Met debut in 2007 as Clotilde in Norma. The American soprano's recent engagements include Leonora in Il Trovatore with the Caramoor Festival, Lucrezia in I Due Foscari with Opera Orchestra New York in Carnegie Hall, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte with New York City Opera (for which she won 2006 debut artist of the year), Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with New Orleans Opera, and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Grand Rapids. Di Giacomo made her Italian debut in the 2008-09 season at La Scala in Verdi's I Due Foscari. In concert, Di Giacomo has appeared in Carnegie Hall for the New York Choral Society's Rossini Stabat Mater and Vaughan William's Dona Nobis Pacem, at Lincoln Center's Puccini 150th Birthday Celebration Gala Concert, and at Disney Hall in Los Angeles to sing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
Plácido Domingo has had one of the most remarkable careers in the Met's 125-year history. He has sung an astounding 631 performances and 45 roles with the company, as well as numerous appearances in galas and concerts. In addition, he has conducted 127 performances of nine operas. He has performed in 21 opening night performances at the Met, more than any other principal artist in history, including the legendary Enrico Caruso. Domingo's Met career has included many firsts, among them the title role in the world premiere of Tan Dun's The First Emperor (2006), which was later transmitted around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series; the title role in the United States premiere of Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac (2005); the title roles in the Met premieres of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Sly (2002) and Verdi's Stiffelio (1993); and the role of Danilo in the Met premiere of Lehár's The Merry Widow (2000). In 2009 Domingo returned to another of his best-known roles: Siegmund in Wagner's Die Walküre, performed in the final two performances of Otto Schenk's landmark production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Domingo made his debut on the Met podium 25 years ago with a performance of La Bohème. Stiffelio is the tenth opera (and fifth by Verdi) that he has conducted at the Met. Domingo also serves as General Director of both the Washington National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera.
Live Broadcasts Around the World
Stiffelio will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season on the radio and the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.
The January 11 premiere will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79. The premiere on January 11 will also be streamed live via RealNetworks internet streaming on the Met's website www.metopera.org.
The January 30 performance will be broadcast live again on Metropolitan Opera Radio and over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.
About the Met
Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company's repertory. The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.