Joyce DiDonato enchants in HD performance from the Met

07/10/2014 12:17 PM

07/12/2014 7:52 PM

I saw “The Enchanted Island” when the Metropolitan Opera presented it in a live HD broadcast in January 2012 and was totally captivated.

It’s a baroque pastiche opera loaded with so much eye and ear candy that it could turn anyone into an opera fan.

The score is by the greatest composers of the era, and it’s sung by a top-flight cast, including Placido Domingo and Kansas City’s own Joyce DiDonato.

“The Enchanted Island,” simply put, is a stunner. The Met is presenting an encore HD broadcast of it on Wednesday in select local cinemas.

Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met, had the basic idea for the baroque “pasticcio” but hired librettist Jeremy Sams to develop the plot and write the lyrics. Sams combined characters and story elements from William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to create an over-the-top fantasy.

The music includes excerpts from the operas and oratorios of Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Antonio Vivaldi.

William Christie, one of the finest early music conductors in the world, leads the Met Orchestra and a cast of singers, many of whom regularly perform with his ensemble, Les Arts Florissants.

Countertenor David Daniels is the sorcerer Prospero, and Danielle de Niese is the sprite Ariel. DiDonato sings the role of the witch Sycorax.

The witch is an unseen character in “The Tempest,” but here Sycorax is Prospero’s former lover and a main character. DiDonato has several show-stopping moments in the opera, but the vengeful aria “Maybe Soon, Maybe Now” is especially thrilling.

The big, boffo number, however, occurs underwater. Domingo as the god Neptune dazzles with his stentorian voice, as mermaids frolic and the chorus sings “Neptune the Great” to the tune of Handel’s mighty coronation anthem “Zadok the Priest.”

You may have heard that the Met is going through some financial upheaval. According to Gelb, bankruptcy for the legendary company is a real possibility in the next two or three years.

Gelb blames bloated labor costs, and the unions blame Gelb’s mismanagement and lavish spending on unpopular productions.

Whatever Gelb’s faults, he can’t be accused of not trying innovative approaches to build an audience for opera. The HD broadcasts were his idea, and they have made the world of grand opera accessible to many communities in the United States.

Whenever I’ve attended an HD broadcast of the Met in Kansas City, I’ve always been impressed by the turnout.

“The Enchanted Island” is another one of Gelb’s creative and artistically successful ventures. With humor, flash and panache, it makes opera a populist entertainment without pandering in the slightest. It deserves to become a permanent part of the Met’s repertoire. If the Metropolitan Opera survives.

7 p.m. Wednesday. $12.50. Visit www.FathomEvents.com for tickets and a list of participating theaters.

Summerfest

The Summerfest series, which presents weekly chamber music concerts in July, is calling its 24th season “To Everything There Is a Season.”

The amorous side of the ecclesiastical theme will be explored next weekend with music by Dominick Argento, Francis Poulenc and Johannes Brahms.

You have two opportunities to hear “A Time to Love”: July 19 at White Recital Hall and July 20 at Country Club Christian Church.

7:30 p.m. July 19 at White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St., and 3 p.m. July 20 at Country Club Christian Church, 6101 Ward Parkway. $12, $29. 913-235-6222 or www.summerfestkc.org.

Patrick Neas is program director for RadioBach.com. You can reach him at pneas@jccc.edu.

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