VOG Opera Tours 2017
New York Metropolitan Tour: April 8 – 14, 2017
A large group of 45 departed Vancouver on the cool, spring morning of Friday, April 7th for our flight to Newark, N.J. We were bundled up in our warm coats and scarfs as the anticipated weather in N.Y. was similar. Upon arrival, we met one more tour member bringing our total to 46. Our transfer from the airport to the hotel was entertaining and informative as local tour guide, Jim Dykes, orated some of the highlights, sights and history of Newark, N.J. and N.Y. City.
Late Saturday afternoon we gathered for a reception in the Starlight Lounge of the Watson Hotel enjoying wine, beer, soft drinks and deliciously catered snacks. A great time was shared by all as we mingled and chatted about opera, and other interests that brought us together to NYC. Later, a group agreed to meet and walk together the short distance to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Centre for the first of five fabulous operas beginning with Fidelio.
Fidelio, Beethoven’s one and only opera about human rights, truth, and freedom of speech was conducted by Sebastian Weigle. The wrongfully convicted prisoner, Florestan, was performed by Klaus Florian Vogt and his determined wife’s role disguised as a man, Leonore by Canadian own, Adrianne Pieczonka both sung with conviction and emotion. The role of Marzelline, Hanna-Elisabeth Mὒller, who has fallen for disguised Leonore, known to her as Fidelio, was gorgeously performed with young love and devotion. Greer Grimsley was Don Pizarro and Falk Struckmann as Rocco. The two superb sopranos, tenors and a bass accompanied by the Met’s orchestra, and Beethoven’s score was a great start to a week of opera.
After viewing the creative but depressing set of prison life in Beethoven’s Fidelio, the curtain rises for our second opera and we have been transported to ancient Egypt for Verdi’s Aida conducted by Daniele Rustioni. The Met did not disappoint with its monumental staging where two lovers, the prestigious leader of the army, Radamès, Riccardo Massi, and the slave girl, Aida performed by soprano Krassimira Stoyanova must secretly hide their love for each other. Aida must contend with the reality that the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter, Amneris, Violeta Urmana, is in love with Radamès. The production is riveting with a massive cast and chorus of soldiers, slaves, prisoners, and horse drawn chariots. The music is memorable.
Verdi’s musical talent continued for our next opera of La Traviata conducted by Nicola Luisotti. The 21st century setting was visually stunning in a stark, modernist style of pure white. Violetta Valéry, was performed by soprano, Olga Peretyatko, filling in for Carmen Giannattasio who was ill. Olga had just arrived the day before from Europe and in one short four-hour block rehearsal mesmerized the audience with her immense vocal talents. Atalla Ayan played Alfredo Germont obsessed and in love with Violetta and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. Plácido has sung more than 650 performances of 49 roles and his strong vocal chords were endearing and appreciated by the audience.
The Met’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin places the action in the later 19th century of Russian society both in the rural country life to the glittering aristocracy of St. Petersburg. Tatiana was performed by soprano, Anna Netrebko, who is love struck for Onegin from her first glance. Baritone, Peter Mattei doesn’t disappoint with his charm yet causes stress for his friend, Lenski, performed by Alexey Dolgov. Bass, Štefan Kocán is Prince Gremin and his ode to finding love late in life was both moving and memorable. The dance scenes in Acts I and III were beautifully choreographed and costumed.
We closed off our superb week of operas with opening night of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss conducted by Sebastian Weigle. Mezzo-Soprano, Elina Garanča played Octavian, a young gentleman who is having an affair with The Marschallin, soprano, Renée Fleming. Gὒnther Groissböck is Baron Ochs. The Met’s new production moves the timeframe to Vienna 1911 around the time it first premiered. The opera is often set in 1740’s. The cast received terrific applause from the full house of patrons but some were booing their dislike of the new set and this production. It was special for us to hear Renée Fleming as she has announced she is retiring in some capacity from performing opera.
The weather in Manhattan improved with each passing day bringing smiles and joy to all of the tour members. We had left rainy and cold B.C. behind. The bright sun and warm temperatures were conducive for exploring the city by foot, bicycle or any of the other means of transportation available. I heard from many tour members of their excursions to the local museums, galleries, restaurants, Broadway shows, Central Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral and shopping at Macy’s, 5th Ave and closer to the hotel. The location on 57th Street between 9th & 10 Avenues lends itself to choose between the hustle and bustle of Times Square and city streets or gently strolling through Central Park. Everyone was in a very happy mood and appreciative of our luck with great weather. Most members returned home on April 14th on Air Canada with a few staying behind to further explore the city and/or surrounding area. Everyone commented that they truly enjoyed the tour.
Thank you to all the tour members for making my first opera led tour a most treasured memory.
Susan Hughes, Tour Leader