Simon Keenlyside and Marlis Petersen star in Thomas’s Hamlet, which returns to the Met for the first time in more than a century

Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet returns to the Met stage for its first performances since 1897, with the powerful pairing of Simon Keenlyside in the title role and Marlis Petersen as Ophélie. Keenlyside’s acclaimed interpretation of Hamlet in Geneva, London and Barcelona finally arrives in the United States, with a performance in the Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser production that was hailed by the British press as “magnificent . . . sheer vocal genius.” Petersen, who steps in for Natalie Dessay, brings her haunting portrayal of Ophélie to the Met; she earned praise for the role during a 2006 run of Hamlet in Düsseldorf. Louis Langrée conducts a cast that includes Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude, Toby Spence in his Met debut as Laërte, and James Morris in the role of Claudius. Jane Archibald, in her Met debut, sings the role of Ophélie on April 5 and 9. The creative team is rounded out by Christian Fenouillat with set designs, Agostino Cavalca with costume designs, and Christophe Forey with lighting designs, all in their Met debuts. Performances run through April 9, with the March 27 matinee shown worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series.

Marlis Petersen takes over the role of Ophélie from Natalie Dessay, who was originally announced for the part, but is ill. Petersen, who finishes performances of Aribert Reimann’s Medea in Vienna on March 12, is unable to make the regular rehearsal schedule at the Met. However, special rehearsals have been arranged for the Sunday and Monday preceding the premiere, including a highly unusual additional rehearsal in costume on stage with the orchestra specifically for Petersen. A Met coach was also sent to Vienna to do musical rehearsals with her before her arrival in New York.

When Thomas’s Hamlet had its premiere in 1868, the opera featured considerable departures from the original storyline of Shakespeare’s play, most notably a Hamlet who lives and is crowned king after killing Claudius. For the opera’s London premiere, Thomas rewrote the opera to provide a tragic ending that was more in line with the original play. In the 1884 Met premiere of Hamlet, and in subsequent performances here throughout the 1890s, both endings were eschewed and the curtain came down in the fourth act with the death of Ophélie. The current production first premiered in 1996 in Geneva, and went on to London and Barcelona, using the original ending. The Met, however, requested a tragic ending, so the directors and conductor devised a finale that combines the original version with the revised ending composed later by Thomas. The production is owned by the Grand Théâtre de Genève and is a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmer J. Thomas, Jr.

About the Performers

Simon Keenlyside’s Hamlet earned extraordinary praise when the English baritone first sang the role in 1996 in Geneva. The production went on to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where the Guardian hailed Keenlyside’s Hamlet as “riveting; he squeezes every bit of meaning out of each phrase, and demands attention whenever he is on stage.” The Independent wrote, “Simon Keenlyside’s Hamlet is a revelation.” Keenlyside made his Met debut in 1996 as Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, and has also sung the role of Olivier in the 1998 Met premiere of Capriccio, followed by Marcello in La Bohème and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte. In the 2007-08 season, Keenlyside triumphed in the role of Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, giving a performance the New York Times hailed as “nuanced and contrary as his characterization, elegantly dignified one moment, bullishly impulsive the next.” In the Met’s 2010-11 season, Keenlyside will take on the role of Rodrigo in Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Don Carlo.

Marlis Petersen finishes her triumphant run at the Vienna State Opera in the title role of Medea (a world premiere in a role written specifically for her by Aribert Reimann) just days before her Met role debut as Ophélie. In a role specifically written for her, Petersen triumphed as Medea, delivering a performance that was hailed by Germany’s Die Welt as “a crowning achievement . . . an exceptional singer who is able to make even the most revolting aspect of the drama her own, in a beautiful and personal way, leaving the audience spellbound by the character she plays.” Her 2006 Düsseldorf performance of Ophélie was acclaimed by Opernglas for her “pitch-perfect intonation, even in the most exposed top register.” Petersen made her Met debut in 2005 as Adele in Die Fledermaus. Later this season, she also brings her celebrated interpretation of the title role of Lulu to the Met, under the baton of James Levine. Petersen’s repertoire includes an additional two recent world premieres: Aphrodite in Henze’s Phaedra at the Berlin State Opera in 2007, Marta in Trojahn’s La Grande Magia at the Dresden State Opera in 2008Petersen has also performed at the Munich State Opera; the Berlin State Opera; and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; as well as the Aix-en-Provence Festival and the Bregenz Festival. Later this year, Petersen makes her Los Angeles Opera debut as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro.

Jane Archibald makes her Met debut as Ophélie. The Canadian soprano has sung Eudoxie in Halévy’s La Juive, Aminta in Strauss’s Die Schweigsame Frau, and Sophie in Werther in Vienna. In Berlin, she recently appeared at the Deutsche Oper as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, to rave reviews from the European press, and with the Philharmonic as Angelica in Haydn’s Orlando Paladino. Current and upcoming engagements include the role of Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Geneva, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier at La Scala, the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in Berlin, the roles of Zerbinetta and Konstanze at the Bavarian State Opera, and again reprising her celebrated Zerbinetta at the Baden Baden Festival.

American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore made her Met debut in 1995 in the role of Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. She has since appeared in the leading roles of seven other productions in the house: Giulio Cesare, La Cenerentola, L’Italiana in Algeri, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Die Fledermaus, Hansel and Gretel, and An American Tragedy, in its world premiere. Later this season, Larmore will portray the role of Dulcinée in Massenet’s Don Quichotte at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, and will also be seen at the Würzburg Festival this summer.

British tenor Toby Spence makes his Met debut as Laërte, having previously worked with Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser in the directors’s production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Spence’s repertoire also includes Monteverdi (Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria), Handel (Acis and Galatea), Britten (The Turn of the Screw, Curlew River), Bernstein (Candide), and Thomas Adès (The Tempest), as well as roles by Mozart, Janáček, Rossini and Wagner, among others. He has appeared at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the English National Opera; Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels; the Paris Opera; and the Bavarian State Opera; among others. His additional engagements this season include Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress at Covent Garden, and Henry Morosus in a new production of Die Schweigsame Frau at the Bavarian State Opera.

James Morris adds two new roles this season to his extensive Met repertoire: Claudius in the new production of Hamlet and Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper in Lulu. In his nearly 40 years at the Met, Morris, who reprised the role of Jacopo Fiesco earlier this season in Simon Boccanegra, has sung more than 50 roles, including the title roles of Le Nozze di Figaro, Der Fliegende Holländer, and Boris Godunov, as well as Hans Sachs, King Philip, Scarpia, and the four villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Last season Morris made his role debut as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, and also reprised his widely acclaimed interpretation of Wotan in the Met’s final staging of Otto Schenk’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Louis Langrée returns to the Met after conducting Don Giovanni last season. Langrée made his Met debut in 2007 leading Stephen Wadsworth’s new production of Iphigénie en Tauride. Langrée has served as music director of the Opéra National de Lyon (1998-2000) and Glyndebourne Touring Opera (1998-2003), and has worked regularly at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He has also conducted at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Lyric Opera of Chicago; Dresden State Opera; Grand Théâtre in Geneva; Paris Opera; and the Netherlands Opera. Since 2002, Langrée has held the post of music director of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. This season, Langrée makes his debut at La Scala and at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.

About the Production Team:

Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, who have collaborated together for more than two decades, make their Met debuts with Hamlet. The pair has produced more than 80 operas for such theaters as the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the Mariinsky Theater; the Châtelet (Paris); Geneva’s Grand Théâtre; the Welsh National Opera; the Angers/Nantes Opera; and the Spoleto Festival. Career highlights include productions of Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, Jenůfa, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Tosca, Bluebeard’s Castle, La Cenerentola, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Il Turco in Italia, Madama Butterfly, Hansel and Gretel, Eugene Onegin, and Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Christian Fenouillat began designing for the theater in 1975, and has worked with the directors Bruno Boëglin, Claudia Stavisky, and Christophe Perton, among others. His set designs for opera include Hansel and Gretel, La Cenerentola, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Il Turco in Italia (Royal Opera, Covent Garden), Fidelio, Orpheus and Eurydice (Welsh National Opera), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Lisbon), Armide, La Clemenza di Tito (Théâtre des Champs-Elysées), Wozzeck, Der Rosenkavalier, Der Ring des Nibelungen (Geneva), Jenůfa, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Charleston-Spoleto Festival), La Traviata, The Nose (Lausanne), Tosca, Bluebeard’s Castle (Nantes), Madama Butterfly, Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, Lucia di Lammermoor (Opéra de Lyon), and Pelléas et Mélisande (Bilbao).

Costume designer Agostino Cavalca, who makes his Met debut with designs for Hamlet, has produced costumes for Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots, The Threepenny Opera, Euryanthe, Le Comte Ory, Luisa Miller, and Roméo et Juliette. A close collaborator with Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser since 1995, Cavalca has designed costumes for them that have been seen at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre; the Paris Opera; Paris’s Châtelet; the Welsh National Opera; and Royal Opera, Covent Garden; among others.

Lighting designer Christophe Forey has worked closely with directors Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, creating the lighting for their productions of Fidelio, Orpheus and Eurydice, Der Rosenkavalier, Pelléas et Mélisande, Wagner’s Ring cycle, Don Carlo, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Cenerentola, Il Turco in Italia, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Hänsel und Gretel. Forey has also worked with Silviu Purcarete (Parsifal for Scottish Opera), Günther Krämer (Ariadne auf Naxos in Lyon), Bruno Boëglin (Bernard-Marie Koltès’s Roberto Zucco in Lyon and Paris), Jean-Marc Bourg (Emmanuel Darley’s Être Humain in Montpellier and Christian Prigent’s Une Phrase pour ma Mère in Avignon), and Lucinda Childs (Orfeo ed Euridice, The Miraculous Mandarin, Oedipus Rex, and Songs from Before in Edinburgh, Strasbourg, and Paris).

Live Broadcasts Around the World

Hamlet will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season in movie theaters and on the radio and the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.

The March 27 matinee, hosted by Renée Fleming, will be transmitted to over 1,000 movie theaters worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series.

The March 16 premiere will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79, as will the performances on March 24, 27, 30, and April 5.

The March 16 premiere will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming on the Met’s website www.metopera.org.

In addition to The Met: Live in HD transmission, the March 27 performance will also be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

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 is 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, Jacques Herzog, and Pierre 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 more than 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. This season’s special Holiday Presentation is Richard Jones’s English-language production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, which is given four matinee performances and four evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.

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