The Metropolitan Opera continues its free nightly streaming of encore productions this holiday week with the theme “Family Drama.” That the roster includes tragedies such as “Hamlet,” “Elektra” and “Lucia de Lammermoor” tells you something about the Met’s tongue-in-cheek approach to America’s kerfuffle over what to do about Thanksgiving.
All three of the above operas delve into dysfunctional families and end badly. But, that’s the story of grand opera. And fans are lucky enough to benefit from the Met’s programmatic largesse to see previously filmed productions during our quarantined holidays.
By merely clicking metopera.org any night through the Met’s general website, encore productions from The Met Live in HD and the archives are yours free. If you can’t watch at 5:30 p.m., each production is available until 6:30 p.m. the next day.
The Met announces its roster in three-week packages. They are bundled according to a theme or composers. Puccini, Mozart and Wagner, have already had their weeks, but who’s to say that the odd “Cosi” or “Parsifal” might return. In fact, “Parsifal” is scheduled for Dec. 2, with heartthrob Jonas Kaufmann. And a famous 1978 production of Puccini’s “Tosca,” with Cornell MacNeil as Baron Scarpia, my favorite villain, will be aired Dec. 6.
If you have been a regular at The Met Live in HD, our local Saturday morning opera sessions at Fort Lewis College, you may have seen many. See them again.
One archive production, “Aida” from 1985, is high on my wish list. I’ll be watching Leontyne Price sing her signature role on Tuesday. The famous Black soprano, who is still alive, by the way, came to the University of Michigan when I was in college. She and tenor James McCracken performed a concert version of “Aida” with the Philadelphia Orchestra. I auditioned to sing in the chorus, got in and sat with about 80 other enthralled college students on stage.
To this day, I remember that performance. Tall and regal, Price made a grand entrance in a burnished yellow full-length gown and filled Hill Auditorium with her spectacular voice. She overshadowed McCracken vocally and dramatically. For the next 20 years, Price made the role her own all over the world.
Price first came to prominence in Europe, no surprise there. And the Met’s color barrier had already been broken by Marion Anderson, who also sang with McCracken, but it was still uphill for any Black singer. Price gave her final performance as Aida at age 57.
On Monday, the Met will reprise a 2007 production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” starring American soprano Renée Fleming and the late Russian bass-baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role. On Nov. 22, 2017, Hvorostovsky died prematurely of a brain tumor at age 55. Earlier that year, May 3, he gave a farewell performance at the Met’s 50th Gala, while he could still stand and sing. To be sure, I will be watching “Onegin” next Monday with riveted attention.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.