Umberto Giordano was one of the group of “verismo” composers who energised the world of opera at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Led by the most famous, Giacomo Puccini, the new composers dealt with real life drama in contemporary time rather than in history or myth. Some operas, such as La Bohème or the two one-acters Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci retained their popularity. Others, as with Fedora, briefly flared and then faded. If any company can make the lesser operas work, New York’s Metropolitan Opera can – by splurging a large sum on the set, appointing a top director and designer (David McVicar with designer Charles Edwards in this case) and a star cast to overcome any doubts about the plot.
The tale in Fedora hangs on a letter unwisely sent by the heroine, a Russian princess, who realises soon after sending it that she’s got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The man she loves and has now denounced to his enemies in St Petersburg is actually innocent and it’s just a matter of time till she has to condemn herself by swallowing the poison she carries for that eventuality in the jewelled cross around her neck.
With a rising star such as Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, you can be assured of a high voltage of emotion. Giordano took the subject from Victorien Sardou’s stage play written originally for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt. Fedora is every inch a proud and headstrong princess who at the beginning is about to be married to Count Vladimir Andreyevich in St Petersburg. The Count, who is a bad lot, is assassinated in the street, and suspicion rests on one Loris Ipanoff, sung by leading Polish tenor Piotr Beczala.
Act Two moves from the oppressive crimson drapes of St Petersburg to lively fin de siècle Paris, where Russian society spends the spring season in dancing and intrigues. Fedora turns detective to ascertain whether Loris may have murdered her fiancé. Having hastily despatched her letter, Fedora realises her mistake as she falls deeply in love with the man she has accused of murder. The lovers retire for a summer of bliss to Fedora’s villa in Switzerland, only for their happiness to unravel when Fedora is unmasked as the sender of the missive that has caused Loris to be exiled, and has indirectly caused the death of Loris’s young nephew and his mother. The final scene when Fedora takes the poison is a masterclass of cathartic emotion, as the curtain comes down on full-blown tragedy.
Next in the Met’s Cinema Live HD season is François Girard’s new production of Wagner’s Lohengrin on March 18. This promises to be another eye-popping event and Piotr Beczala, undoubtedly one of the most exciting tenors around today, takes the title role of the mysterious Swan Knight. Soprano Tamara Wilson is the Duchess Elsa, accused of murder, going head-to-head with soprano Christine Goerke as the cunning sorceress Ortrud. Director Francois Girard unveils an atmospheric staging that emphasises the other-worldly setting of this powerfully political work. Is Lohengrin to be seen as a saviour or as a potential dictator? An intriguing question. Meanwhile, it’s worth slotting into the diary dates of future Cinema Live operas, coming up during spring and summer at local cinemas nationwide. https://www.metliveinhd.co.uk/
Wagner’s Lohengrin—NEW PRODUCTION
Live in HD date: 18th March 2023
Live in HD date: 1st April 2023
Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier—REVIVAL
Live in HD date: 15th April 2023
Terence Blanchard’s Champion—MET PREMIERE
Live in HD date: 29th April 2023
Mozart’s Don Giovanni—NEW PRODUCTION
Live in HD date: 20th May 2023
Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte—NEW PRODUCTION
Live in HD date: 3rd June 2023