The WFMT Radio Network is pleased to announce the first batch of operas for the 2021 WFMT Radio Network Opera Series, beginning on June 12 and running through November 27, 2021. This first set of operas spans from June 12 through September 4, and includes productions from Chicago, England, Sweden, and France, featuring exceptional casts and stunning performances.
Chicago’s Haymarket Opera Company begins the 2021 Opera Series with a Handel Double-Bill: Acis and Galatea backed with Handel’s secular oratorio Apollo e Dafne. Michael St. Peter, “a discovery” (Chicago Classical Review), returns to Haymarket to sing the role of Acis, while Chicago’s own “bright, alluring soprano” (Chicago Tribune) Kimberly Jones is stunning as the sea nymph Galatea. In Apollo e Dafne, the dynamic duo of soprano Erica Schuller and baritone Ryan de Ryke bring vigor and talent to the roles of Daphne and Apollo in Handel’s youthful masterpiece. Schuller’s burnished soprano “easily wins our hearts with her infectious goodness, winning smile, and gorgeous tone” (Stage and Cinema) and De Ryke’s “supple, refined baritone” (Chicago Classical Review) is the ultimate match for the virtuosic demands of Handel’s Apollo.
Next up in the Opera Series is a slate of exceptional performances and beloved repertoire from the Royal Opera House. Puccini’s Tosca receives the royal treatment, with Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, with Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi, and Sir Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. Next, Verdi’s grand opera Les vêpres siciliennes with Lianna Haroutounian as Hélène, Bryan Hymel in the role of Henri, supported by a gorgeous cast. And then, the all-time audience favorite of damnation and rapture, Don Giovanni, with Mariusz Kwiecien as the roguish lead, with Alex Esposito as his sidekick Leporello. Véronique Gens stars as Donna Elvira, with Malin Byström as Donna Anna. Next up is Wagner’s legendary tale of song and love, both sacred and profane; Peter Seiffert commands the role of Tannhäuser, with Sophie Koch (Venus), Christian Gerhaher (Wolfram v Eschenbach), Stephen Milling (Hermann) and Emma Bell (his Niece), amongst a fabulous cast, all under the baton of Hartmut Haenchen. Another German great follows, with Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, starring the inimitable Renée Fleming as The Marschallin, Princess Marie Thérèse von Werdenberg, alongside an exceptional cast which includes Alice Coote, Sophie Bevan, Matthew Rose, and more. Royal Opera rounds out their suite of six operas with Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, with Eva-Maria Westbroek as Katerina Ismailova and Brandon Jovanovich as Sergey. Sir Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
We’re especially honored to bring two archival performances from Kungliga Operan (Swedish Royal Opera), with legends of the opera world in roles they sing best. Verdi’s Il Trovatore, in performance here from 1960, stars Jussi Björling as Manrico, with Hjördis Schymberg in the role of Leonora, under the baton of Herbert Sandberg. Then, we return to Strauss for a seminal performance of Elektra from 1965, with Birgit Nilsson as Elektra—her first performance in the challenging and virtuosic role, which became one of the most acclaimed in her long and famous career.
Rounding out the first part of the Opera Series, a suite of performances from France. Opéra de Paris brings Massenet’s opera comique Manon, with Pretty Yende in the title role, Benjamin Bernheim as Le Chevalier des Grieux, and Ludovic Tézier as Lescaut. Dan Ettinger conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Next is Rubinstein’s devilish tale of the struggle between Good and Evil, The Demon, with Nicolas Cavallier as the Demon, Evgenia Muraveva as Tamara, and Alexey Dolgov as Prince Sinodal. Here, the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Chorus of Opéra National de Bordeaux, and the chorus of Limoges Opera all perform magnificently under the baton of Paul Daniel at the Grand Théâtre, Bordeaux. Next, we return to Wagner with l’Opéra du Capitole de Toulouse’s exceptional rendition of Parsifal. Nikolai Schukoff stars in the title role, with Sophie Koch as Kundry, Peter Rose as Gurnemanz, and Matthias Goerne as Amfortas. And finally, we return to the 18th century with Jean-Philippe Rameau’s seminal and inspired work Hippolyte et Aricie produced by Opéra Comique. Reinoud Van Mechelen stars as Hippolyte, with Elsa Benoit as Aricie, supported by Stéphane Degout (Thésée), Eugénie Lefebvre (Diane), and more. Raphaël Pichon conducts the Pygmalion Ensemble and Chorus, with the exquisite sound of period instruments.
The Opera Series continues until the end of November, with more information to be released in the coming months. For the second half of the series, we’re pleased to work with American opera companies with productions from LA Opera, Opera Southwest, another performance from Haymarket Opera, and more. Stay tuned!