The Met Opera season opens for 2022, with a lushly dark staging of a play written over 200 years ago.
“Medea” by Luigi Cherubini and François-Benoît Hoffman premiered in Paris in 1797, and turned heads then. It’s based on a much older play, written in the 400s BCE by the prolific playright Euripides. “Medea” is a vicious story straight from the old world, about a woman who takes revenge on her faithless beloved by murdering his new bride and her father, and in the dramatic tension of the opera, her own children by him as well.
This will be “Medea’s” first time at the Met Opera. According to the Met Opera’s general manager, Peter Gelb, it was chosen largely because of who wanted to play the lead.
Sondra Radvanosky, 53, has been a lead performer at the Met Opera for five years. A powerhouse of a singer, she relishes the dark roles, and the darker the better.
“I really love dark and brooding and dying,” she said, and many of her roles at the Met show the truth of that, from doomed Leonora in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” to the Tudor queens of Donizetti, to the self-sacrificing Druid priestess in Bellini’s “Norma.” Her powerful, expressive voice is well-suited to the high drama of such tortured roles.
Opera is perhaps unique among the performing arts in that it favors maturity. Instructors will tell young devotees that they should not begin to seek lead roles until their 30s, because their voices will not be mature until then. And immature voices forced to the heights necessary for such roles can be permanently damaged.
“Medea” is being performed as a true opera, but it was not written as such. Cherubini wrote it as a French “opera-comique,” which meant it included spoken dialogue. In the 1950s, composer Maria Callas rewrote it into Italian, and replaced the spoken parts with sung narration, and that is how it is commonly performed today.
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