The Metropolitan Opera will open its 2012-13 season tonight, September 24 at 7:00 p.m. with a new production of Donizetti's delightful comic gem L'Elisir d'Amore, starring Russian diva Anna Netrebko-in her second consecutive Met opening night-as the irresistible heroine Adina. Matthew Polenzani sings the role of the lovelorn peasant Nemorino, Mariusz Kwiecien sings Sergeant Belcore, his romantic rival, and Ambrogio Maestri is the potion-peddling Doctor Dulcamara in Bartlett Sher's new staging of the classic love story, which will be conducted by Maurizio Benini. The principal singers and conductor will return to reprise the opera this January and February, with Netrebko's offstage partner Erwin Schrott replacing Maestri in the role of Dulcamara.
Although L'Elisir d'Amore is one of the most popular comic operas in the repertory, it has never before been performed on the Met's opening night.
Bartlett Sher has directed three previous productions at the Met: Rossini's IL Barbiere di Siviglia (2006), Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann (2009), and Rossini's Le Comte Ory (2011). Le Comte Ory will be revived at the Met this spring and IL Barbiere di Siviglia will be restaged in an abridged, English-language version that will open in December and play throughout the holiday season. Sher is also a Tony Award-winning stage director whose Broadway credits include South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza.
This season's performances will be Anna Netrebko's Met role debut as Adina, though she sang a portion of the opera in a 2006 Met gala and has performed the role to acclaim at the Mariinsky Theatre, Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Netrebko opened the Met's 2011-12 season with a celebrated performance in the fiery title role of Donizetti's Anna Bolena and returned in the spring as the title character in a new production of Massenet's Manon. Her more than 100 Met performances also include Norina in Donizetti's Don Pasquale and the title role in his Lucia di Lammermoor; Antonia and Stella in Sher's production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann; Musetta and Mimì in Puccini's La Bohème; Juliette in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette; Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani; Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto; Donna Anna and Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni; and, for her Met debut in 2002, Natasha Rostova in Prokofiev's War and Peace.
Matthew Polenzani also makes his Met role debut in this season's performances of L'Elisir d'Amore. In 2010, he sang Nemorino to Netrebko's Adina at the Bavarian State Opera. He has sung more than 250 performances in 29 roles at the Met. In recent seasons, his starring roles have included Alfredo in the new production premiere of Verdi's La Traviata (2010), Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Ernesto inDon Pasquale, Tamino in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Roméo in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. He has starred opposite Netrebko in Met performances of Don Giovanni, Don Pasquale, and Roméo et Juliette.
Mariusz Kwiecien made his Met role debut as Belcore last season in a revival of L'Elisir d'Amore. His more than 150 Met performances include four roles in new production premieres: the title character in Don Giovanni (2011), Escamillo in Carmen (2009), Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor (2007), and Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale (2006). He starred opposite Netrebko and Polenzani in a 2010 revival of Don Pasquale that was transmitted worldwide as part of the Met's Live in HD series. Kwiecien made his Met debut as Kuligin in a 1999 revival of Janá?ek's Kát'a Kabanová and has also appeared in a variety of other roles, most frequently Marcello in La Bohème, Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, and Guglielmo in Mozart's Cosí fan tutte.