Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczała Star in Puccini’s Classic Masterpiece, La Bohème

Puccini’s love story La Bohème returns to the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday, February 20, with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and Polish tenor Piotr Beczała as Puccini’s star-crossed lovers, Mimì and Rodolfo. Franco Zeffirelli’s dazzling production, conducted by Marco Armiliato, runs through Saturday, March 20. Fellow bohemians in the cast are portrayed by Nicole Cabell as Musetta, Gerald Finley as the painter Marcello, Massimo Cavalletti makes his Met debut as the musician Schaunard, and Shenyang as the philosopher Colline. In later performances, Ruth Ann Swenson will perform Musetta and George Petean makes his Met debut as Marcello. Oren Gradus will perform the role of Colline. Paul Plishka sings the roles of Benoit and Alcindoro.

About the Performers

When Anna Netrebko sang Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Met earlier this season, the New York Times hailed her portrayal as “vocally lustrous, charismatic and wrenching.” Netrebko has previously sung Mimì only once at the Met, in 2006, for a performance opposite Rolando Villazón as Rodolfo. Last season, she sang the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor, transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD series, opposite Piotr Beczała. Since her 2002 Met debut as Natasha Rostova in War and Peace, Netrebko has sung Norina in a new production of Don Pasquale, Musetta in La Bohème, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Zerlina in Don Giovanni. She also sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni during the company’s 2006 tour to Japan. Her performances as Elvira in I Puritani in the 2006-07 season and as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette in 2007-08 were transmitted live in HD. In 2007, Netrebko and Rolando Villazón gave a special concert to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Met at Lincoln Center, Anna & Rolando Celebrate the Met, which featured scenes from La Bohème, Manon, and L’Elisir d’Amore.

Piotr BeczaÅ‚a made his Met debut in the 2006-07 season as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto, a role he has also performed at La Scala and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. He returned to the Met in the 2008-09 season as Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Also in the 2008-09 season at the Met, BeczaÅ‚a sang Lenski in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in a performance the New York Times hailed for his “bright, healthy voice and impassioned delivery.”

American soprano Nicole Cabell made her Met debut in the 2008-09 season as Pamina in The Magic Flute and returned to sing Adina in the season’s final two performances of L’Elisir d’Amore. Cabell earned international attention in 2005 as the winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. She has recently been seen as Léila in Les Pêcheurs de Perles at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, in her first performances of the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro at Cincinnati Opera, and as Micaëla in Carmen at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper.

Canadian baritone Gerald Finley returns as Marcello, a role he first performed at the Met in the 2000-01 season. Finley was last seen at the Met in the 2008-09 season as J. Robert Oppenheimer in John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, a Met premiere. Finley first performed the role for the Doctor Atomic world premiere in San Francisco in 2005 and has since reprised it for the Netherlands Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the English National Opera. Finley made his Met debut in 1998 as Papageno in Mozart’s Magic Flute and later sang the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. His repertory runs from Handel and Mozart to Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Debussy, Britten, and works by contemporary composers, including Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Kaija’s Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin.

Massimo Cavalletti makes his Met debut as the musician Schaunard. Cavalletti attended the Young Artists Program at La Scala and made his operatic debut in Bergamo with La Parisina by Donizetti, organized by the La Scala Academy. He has since performed a number of roles at La Scala, including Figaro in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Schaunard in La Bohème, and Enrico Ashton in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermor. Later this season, Cavalletti will perform Paolo Albiani in Simon Boccanegra at La Scala and Escamillo in Carmen at the Zurich State Opera.

Chinese bass-baritone Shenyang, winner of the 2007 Cardiff Singer of the World competition and a member of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, made his Met debut in 2009 in the role of Masetto in Don Giovanni, a role he has also performed Masetto at the Verona Philharmonic Theatre and the Zhou Xiaoyan International Opera Center. Shenyang’s repertoire also includes Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, which he has performed in France and Germany with the Berliner Sibelius Orchestra.

Ruth Ann Swenson has given more than 200 performances of 18 roles with the Met, including Zerlina in Don Giovanni (debut, 1991), Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, Liù in Turandot, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, the Four Heroines in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Elvira in I Puritani, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Gilda in Rigoletto, Mimì in La Bohème, Juliette, Violetta, Lucia, and Manon.

Romanian baritone George Petean makes his Met debut as Marcello in the final four performances of La Bohème. Petean has performed at the Paris Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Bucharest National Opera and in a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti with Joseph Calleja and Nataliya Kovalova, performed in Valletta, Malta, among other recent engagements. His upcoming performances include further engagements of La Bohème in Monte Carlo, followed by La Traviata in Hamburg and Seville.

Bass Oren Gradus made his Met debut in 2002 as the Guardian in Elektra and was most recently seen on the Met stage in his return to that role in the 2009 revival. Gradus has performed roles in several mainstays of the company repertory including Zuniga in Carmen, Timur in Turandot, Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila, the King in Aida and Masetto in Don Giovanni.

Conductor Marco Armiliato has led a wide range of operas at the Met since his 1998 company debut. This season, Armiliato conducts La Fille du Régiment and the final three performances of Attila. His recent Met engagements have included Act III of Manon at the 2008-09 Opening Night Gala starring Renée Fleming, performances of Lucia di Lammermoor and the 2008-09 season new production of La Rondine, all shown live in HD. In the 2007-08 season, Armiliato conducted the new production of La Fille du Régiment, which was also seen live in HD, as well as La Traviata. In 2002, Armiliato conducted the Met premiere of Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly and, in 2005, the United States premiere of Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac. The Italian conductor has worked with such companies as the Vienna State Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and Venice’s La Fenice.

Live Broadcasts Around the World

La Bohème 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 February 24, 27, March 2, 10, and 17 performances will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79. The February 27 matinee will also be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

The February 24 and March 10 performances will be streamed live via RealNetworks internet streaming on the Met’s website

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.

The Met’s 2009-10 season features eight new productions, four of which are Met premieres. Opening night was a new production of Tosca starring Karita Mattila, conducted by Levine and directed by Luc Bondy. The four Met premieres are: Janáček’s From the House of the Dead, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Patrice Chéreau, both in Met debuts; Verdi’s Attila starring Ildar Abdrazakov, conducted by Riccardo Muti and directed by Pierre Audi, with set and costume design by Miuccia Prada and the firm Herzog & de Meuron, all in their Met debuts; Shostakovich’s The Nose featuring Paulo Szot, conducted by Valery Gergiev and directed and designed by William Kentridge in his Met debut; and Rossini’s Armida with Renée Fleming, conducted by Riccardo Frizza and directed by Mary Zimmerman. Other new productions are Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann starring Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko, and Alan Held, conducted by Levine and directed by Bartlett Sher; Carmen with Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and directed by Richard Eyre, both in Met debuts; and Thomas’s Hamlet with Natalie Dessay and Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Louis Langrée and directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser in their Met debuts.

Building on its 78-year radio broadcast history—currently heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network—the Met now uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world.

The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Met: Live in HD series returns for its fourth season in 2009-10 with nine transmissions, beginning October 10 with the new production of Tosca and ending with the new production of Rossini’s Armida on May 1. The productions are seen in more than 1000 theaters in 44 countries around the world and last season sold more than 1.8 million tickets. These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and thirteen HD performances are now available on DVD. The Magic Flute was released by the Met and is available at the newly renovated Met Opera Shop. In addition, two classic Met performances from 1978 have recently been released by the Met: Otello, conducted by Levine with Jon Vickers and Renata Scotto; and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci conducted by Levine, with Tatiana Troyanos and Plácido Domingo in the first part of the double bill and Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes in the latter. The Met: Live in HD series is made possible by a generous grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation. Bloomberg L.P. is the global corporate sponsor of The Met: Live in HD.

HD Live in Schools, the Met’s program offering free opera transmissions to New York City schools in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, continues for a third season. This season, for the second consecutive year the program will reach public school students and teachers in 18 cities and communities nationwide. HD Live in Schools is made possible by Bank of America.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera last season introduced Met Player, a new subscription service that makes much of the company’s extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public for the first time online in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. The new service currently offers nearly 200 historic audio recordings, and almost 100 full-length opera videos are available, including 28 of the company’s acclaimed The Met: Live in HD transmissions, known for their extraordinary sound and picture quality. New content, including HD productions and archival broadcasts, are added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Radio is a subscription-based audio entertainment service broadcasting an unprecedented number of live performances each week throughout the Met’s entire season, as well as rare historical performances, newly restored and remastered, spanning the Met’s 78-year broadcast history.

In addition to providing audio recordings through the Met on Rhapsody on-demand service, the Met also presents free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season with support from RealNetworks®.

The company’s groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York’s Lincoln Center Theater (LCT) provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. The Met’s partnership with LCT is part of the company’s larger initiative to commission new operas from contemporary composers, present modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, and provide a venue for artists to nurture their work. The first work to be produced from this program will be Nico Muhly’s debut opera (as yet untitled), set to a libretto by Craig Lucas. A co-production with the English National Opera, the opera will be directed by Bartlett Sher, debuting at the ENO’s London Coliseum in June 2011 and at the Met during its 2013-14 season.

The Met audience development initiatives include Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met, which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program; and an annual Holiday Presentation for families.

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