On February 3, Superstar Soprano Renée Fleming Is First Honoree in New Metropolitan Opera Guild Series, “The Met Mastersingers”, at New York’s Town Hall

Described by designer Jacques Herzog as capturing “the moment in history where an old world, an antique world, is collapsing and something new is rising out of the rubble,” Verdi’s Attila has never before been staged by the Metropolitan Opera. Now, with opening night just weeks away, Opera News’s February issue brings the company’s first production of the “rousing early opera” into focus. Making his highly-anticipated Met debut in the Attila premiere, Riccardo Muti is the subject of the cover story; in “Grandissimo Maestro,” he sits down with Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll to discourse on a range of topics, from his passion for Verdi and the early operas to his La Scala legacy and the perfectionism that has driven his extraordinary career. Beginning on February 1, the Opera News web site will feature an audio survey of highlights from the renowned conductor’s discography (www.operanews.com).

When composing Attila, Verdi faced a number of setbacks, including a change of librettist and a period of illness, but once the opera opened in Venice in 1846, it became one of his most popular works, only later falling into oblivion. In “Conquering Attila,” Patrick Dillon traces the opera’s development, from the powerful historical figure at its center, through the literary variations that inspired it, to the performance history leading up to this new staging.

The Met’s premiere production of Attila is directed by Pierre Audi, with costumes and sets designed by Miuccia Prada and architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The February issue of Opera News profiles Attila’s star: in “Comes a Horseman,” regular contributor Matthew Gurewitsch chronicles the ascendance of Ildar Abdrazakov, the Russian bass who rides into the Met as legendary warrior/ruler Attila the Hun, the title role he seems destined to play.

Also in the latest Opera News is a conversation with Kiri Te Kanawa, who makes a long-awaited return to New York in La fille du régiment. In “The Grand Duchess,” the New Zealand diva chats with writer William R. Braun about the joys and challenges of passing on her wisdom to a new generation.

This month’s Opera News takes a look at the careers of composers William Grant Still and Samuel Barber, who were a study in contrasts. In his feature “In and Out of the Mainstream,” Barry Singer explores their parallel paths and where they sharply diverged.

Among this month’s regular features, American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and recent graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, is the subject of February’s “Sound Bites” column with Features Editor Brian Kellow.

As usual, Opera News features numerous reviews of performances, recordings, videos, and books. The performances under consideration this month include New York City Opera’s gala reopening; the Met’s revival of Il trittico; and a scaled-back Wexford festival that still scores with The Ghosts of Versailles, Maria Padilla, and a Chabrier-Rossini double bill. Also critiqued are new discs from Damrau (whose coloratura “shatters expectations”), Jaroussky, and many more; Flórez and DiDonato on DVD; and books including a compendium of Wagner scholarship.

Finally, F. Paul Driscoll pays tribute to the “great spirit” of Elisabeth Söderström, the great Swedish soprano who died this past November, and whose last stage performance was at the Met, in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades in 1999.

As always, there are also special extras exclusively for subscribers and Met patrons at the Opera News web site, www.operanews.com.

The Met Mastersingers

On Wednesday February 3, the Metropolitan Opera Guild presents the debut of an exciting new series: “The Met Mastersingers”. Starting at the very top for this inaugural event, the Guild has invited the glorious Renée Fleming to join its executive producer Paul Gruber in an informal conversation about her life and career. The event will take place at New York’s Town Hall and will feature screenings of the radiant soprano’s favorite filmed performances – from the Metropolitan Opera as well as previously unscreened material from other opera houses and television shows; a new video biography; and filmed anecdotes by Fleming’s colleagues and friends, including Susan Graham, Marilyn Horne, Barbara Cook, James Levine and Peter Gelb. Ticket and other information for “The Met Mastersingers: Renée Fleming” follows below.

Like Opera News, this month’s Metropolitan Opera Guild lectures also spotlight the premiere Attila production, with two events. In “King of the Huns, King of the House” (Feb 10), cast and crew members discuss the production process, and in “Attila: Opera at the Crossroads of History” (Feb 23), Desirée Mays shows how Verdi captures the larger-than-life figure of the title character while balancing the demands of history and drama. Full details of these and other upcoming lectures and public events from the Metropolitan Opera Guild follow below.

Upcoming lectures and public events from the Metropolitan Opera Guild

Wednesday, February 3 at 8pm

THE MET MASTERSINGERS: Renée Fleming

The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, New York City

Tickets are $50 for Guild members and Met patrons, and $75 for all others. Following the program, join the Guild for an artists’ reception with champagne and dessert: $150 for premium seating and reception. For tickets, call (212) 769-7009, or order online at www.metguild.org.

Saturday, February 6 at 11am – 12:15pm

OPERA BOOT CAMP: Opera Revolution: 1800 to Today

Presented by Dottie Allen

Who were Wagner, Verdi, and Puccini, and how did their revolutionary ideas propel opera into superstardom? Learn how opera has continually transformed itself since the 19th century, and what it’s doing to stay vital and relevant today.

Price: $16.00; $20 at door

Wednesday, February 10 at 6pm – 7pm

OPERA OUTLOOKS: NEW PRODUCTIONS AT THE MET

King of the Huns, King of the House

Metropolitan Opera House

In Attila, Verdi probed the provocative nature of the infamous leader of the Huns. Hear members of the cast and crew converse about the process of bringing this work to its rightful place: center stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.

Price: $20; Met subscribers: $15; Guild members: $10

Sunday, February 14 at 4pm – 6pm

MASTERLY SINGING: Love Me Tender; Staging Love Duets

Presented by Dona D. Vaughn

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than with some of opera’s favorite romantic pairings? Esteemed director, teacher, and coach Dona D. Vaughn leads students through the challenging process of preparing a love duet for the stage.

Price: $20; $25 at door

Tuesday, February 16 at 6pm – 7:15pm

BASED ON A TRUE STORY: VERDI’S VERSION OF HISTORY

A Masked Ball in Boston?

Presented by John J.H. Muller

Originally based on the assassination of the enlightenment monarch Gustave III of Sweden, Un Ballo in Maschera was forced by government censors to change its locale – to colonial Massachusetts, hardly known for masked balls and court intrigues. John J.H. Muller explores the musical world that Verdi created, which transcends specificities of time and place.

Price: $20; Met subscribers: $15; Guild members: $10

Wednesday, February 22 at 6pm – 7pm

OPERA OUTLOOKS: NEW PRODUCTIONS AT THE MET

The Nose’s Many Faces

Metropolitan Opera House

Dmitri Shostakovich’s own nose remained firmly in place, but in his opera The Nose, the title “character” takes on a life of its own! Members of the cast and crew share insights into their roles in creating this Met premiere.

Price: $20; Met subscribers: $15; Guild members: $10

Tuesday, February 23 at 6pm – 7:15pm

BASED ON A TRUE STORY: VERDI’S VERSION OF HISTORY

Attila: Opera at the Crossroads of History

Presented by Desirée Mays

Attila the Hun is as much a part of legend as history, so it only seems right that Verdi’s early opera draws from both. Desirée Mays shows how Verdi brilliantly captures this larger-than-life figure while balancing the demands of history and drama.

Price: $20; Met subscribers: $15; Guild members: $10

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