Tuning in to Opera 2021

A course exploring, enjoying and discussing opera at U3A Nillumbik, Melbourne, conducted by Lyn and Tom Richards

Welcome to Tuning in to Opera. Our group meets on Fridays in U3A terms in the Girl Guide Hall, Eltham. This blog offers information about the operas and composers we study - and links to lots more materials about them including live performances. Contact U3A Nillumbik to join the course.

This course has run since 2016: see this website for its first years and this blog for 2019-20.


Bravo to San Francisco Opera - the house that streamed us the Ring operas in March. Now they are offering gems for free each weekend in April. These screen all day and night Sunday and Monday (our time) till 6.00pm.

The treats start with a splendid horror story - by, of course, Edgar Allen Poe, told twice in opera. Here's SFO: 'Get ready for two visions of madness, two visions of decadence, two visions of decay in a spine-tingling double bill featuring Gordon Getty’s Usher House and Claude Debussy’s The Fall of the House of Usher, both based on Poe’s short story of the same name.'

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
It's a rather crowded house....

'It’s this idea of making a story of chivalry and gallantry against the forces of evil.' Read Getty's take on the story and its challenges here.

Read all about the productions, synopsis etc. here. Then, if you have the courage, come inside Usher House and then witness The Fall of the House of Usher, both streaming for free Sunday April 11 and Monday 12th our time.

And the following weekend? APRIL 18-19th SFO is screening their hugely praised production of VERDI’S DON CARLO with top stars we know from the Met stage. Michael Fabiano stars as Carlo, son and heir to the king of Spain, whose love for the princess Elisabetta is dashed when his father claims her as his bride. René Pape is King Philip II, a “splendid” Nadia Krasteva as the scheming princess Eboli, and a “muscular and elegant” Mariusz Kwiecien as the advisor Rodrigo. Lots of detail here.

Come back to this post nearer the time for reviews, images etc.

And at the Met?

The Met has scheduled two weeks' worth of splendid escapist stories turned to opera. so this post takes you to mid-April! Dates are for Melbourne time.

From Page to Stage

Tuesday, April 6 Gounod’s Faust It's different - Faust is a jaundiced scientist, for starters. But the cast is splendid.

Starring Jonas Kaufmann as Faust, and René Pape as the devil - seen here together dressed up to kill.

And Marina Poplavskaya is Margueritte. Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Production by Des McAnuff. From December 10, 2011. NY Times review here.

Wednesday, April 7 Verdi’s Rigoletto Starring Christiane Eda-Pierre, Isola Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Louis Quilico, and Ara Berberian, conducted by James Levine. Production by John Dexter. From December 15, 1981.

Thursday, April 8 Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin Starring Anna Netrebko, Elena Maximova, Alexey Dolgov, Peter Mattei, and Štefan Kocán, conducted by Robin Ticciati. Production by Deborah Warner. From April 22, 2017.

No it's not Dmitri Hvorostovsky, but arguably Mattei is the better actor.

Friday, April 9 Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini Starring Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. Production by Piero Faggioni. From April 7, 1984.

Saturday, April 10

Shostakovich’s The Nose

Treat of the week - if you've not seen it, don't miss it. Kentridge creates a mad world of bureaucracy and paper reality to go with Shostakovich's mad world of itchy music to express Gogol's vision of a mad world in mid C19 grotesque and absurd Russian life. Here's Kentridge talking about it.

More about this LOL production in our post last year. Shostakovich’s The Nose Starring Andrey Popov, Alexander Lewis, and Paulo Szot, conducted by Pavel Smelkov. Production by William Kentridge. From October 26, 2013.

Sunday, April 11 Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette Starring Anna Netrebko, Roberto Alagna, Nathan Gunn, and Robert Lloyd, conducted by Plácido Domingo. Production by Guy Joosten. From December 15, 2007.

Read all about it in our post here.

Monday, April 12 Verdi’s Luisa Miller Your Verdi fix for the week. Starring Sonya Yoncheva, Olesya Petrova, Piotr Beczała, Plácido Domingo, Alexander Vinogradov, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. Production by Elijah Moshinsky. From April 14, 2018.

'Nothing short of an absolute triumph' is Simon Paris' judgement of Yoncheva in this role. Read the review here.

Perfect cast of Verdi voices - Sonya Yoncheva, Plácido Domingo, Piotr Beczała,

Week 57 Once Upon a Time

Tuesday, April 13 Massenet’s Cendrillon Starring Kathleen Kim, Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Stephanie Blythe, and Laurent Naouri, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. Production by Laurent Pelly. From April 28, 2018.

Wednesday, April 14 Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta / Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle Starring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczała in Iolanta, and Nadja Michael and Mikhail Petrenko in Bluebeard’s Castle, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Production by Mariusz Treliński. From February 14, 2015.

Thursday, April 15 Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte Starring Golda Schultz, Kathryn Lewek, Charles Castronovo, Markus Werba, and René Pape, conducted by James Levine. Production by Julie Taymor. From October 14, 2017.

This is the successful revival of Julie Taymor’s 2004 production of Die Zauberflöte. Reviews glowed. Seenandheard here. Bachtrack here. Puppets and colour everywhere!

Sending the three boys home in Taymor style

Friday, April 16 Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Starring Judith Blegen, Frederica von Stade, Jean Kraft, Rosalind Elias, and Michael Devlin, conducted by Thomas Fulton. Production by Nathaniel Merrill. From December 25, 1982.

Traditional production with brilliant singers as the kids - listen here!!

Saturday, April 17 Dvořák’s Rusalka Starring Kristine Opolais, Katarina Dalayman, Jamie Barton, Brandon Jovanovich, and Eric Owens, conducted by Sir Mark Elder. Production by Mary Zimmerman. From February 25, 2017.

Sunday, April 18 Puccini’s Turandot Starring Eva Marton, Leona Mitchell, Plácido Domingo, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From April 4, 1987.

Monday, April 19 Rossini’s La Cenerentola Starring Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Pietro Spagnoli, Alessandro Corbelli, and Luca Pisaroni, conducted by Fabio Luisi. Production by Cesare Lievi. From May 10, 2014

Lyn, 6 April 2021.


'[Opera is when] a tenor and a soprano want to make love, and are prevented from doing so by a baritone,' wrote George Bernard Shaw. It's such a cliche - operas about triangles. If it's not those two men desiring one woman it's a mezzo and soprano vying for the tenor. The Met is lining up some of those classic plots this week.

As always, the Met offers essays and images to accompany the operas. Here's the lineup (dates are for Melbourne.) A note - there are two epic performances by Sondra Radvanovsky in this week's offerings.

She loves him and so does she - Norma in action
They love each other too (DiDonato & Radvanovsky)

Tuesday, March 30 Bellini’s Norma Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja are the triangle, conducted by Carlo Rizzi. Production by Sir David McVicar. From October 7, 2017. It's not a glowing production (drab, Tomassini calls it!) but the two women are brilliant in the most challenging of Bellini roles. Met trailer here.

Wednesday, March 31 Strauss’s Capriccio Starring Renée Fleming, Sarah Connolly, Joseph Kaiser, Russell Braun, Morten Frank Larsen, and Peter Rose, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Production by John Cox. From April 23, 2011.

Thursday, April 1 Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux Starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecień, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Production by Sir David McVicar. From April 16, 2016. Third of the Tudor Queens operas, and a stunning performance by Radvanovsky. Our blog post on these operas is here.

Friday, April 2 Verdi’s Il Trovatore Starring Eva Marton, Dolora Zajick, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes, and Jeffrey Wells, conducted by James Levine. Production by Fabrizio Melano. From October 15, 1988. A classic production with classic stars. NYTimes unimpressed.

Kaufmann in Werther

Saturday, April 3 Massenet’s Werther Starring Lisette Oropesa, Sophie Koch, Jonas Kaufmann, and David Bizic, conducted by Alain Altinoglu. Production by Sir Richard Eyre. From March 15, 2013.

We watched a different production of Werther with Kaufmann and Koch, and absolutely approved it before lockdown. Here's our blog. Now this is your chance to view the Met version with these stars.

It's a cast heaven-made for this heavy opera - wonderful voices for the parts. Kaufmann talks about it here.

Sunday, April 4 Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore Starring Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecień, and Ambrogio Maestri, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Production by Bartlett Sher. From October 13, 2012.

Time for a laugh? One of opera's joyful offerings, and worth watching for Mariusz Kwiecień as the pompous Sergeant and Ambrogio Maestri as the snake oil salesman. Anna's pretty good too.

Monday, April 4 Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde Starring Nina Stemme, Ekaterina Gubanova, Stuart Skelton, Evgeny Nikitin, and René Pape, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Production by Mariusz Treliński. From October 8, 2016.

Wonderful music. Stemme is brilliant, but the gloomy production is challenging and Skelton's performance disappoints. Interesting interview with Nina Stemme here.

This production livestreamed last year - here's our blog post. CLICK HERE for the introduction on our earlier website.


From San Francisco, it's the final opera in the Wagner Ring Cycle, Twilight of the Gods.

The production has led us to the twilight of the world, following the lead of the famous Bayreuth Centenary production. Here's Clive Paget in Limelight, back in 2018 when the SF Opera Ring we are seeing first screened.

'Anyone who considers bringing climate change and man’s destruction of the planet into Wagner’s Ring merely a hippie-dippy 21st-century directorial fad need look no further than the poem for Götterdämmerung. As reported by the three Norns, the mutilated world-ash-tree has withered and been cut down, the spring has dried up. Add merciless images of factories and power plants belching acrid smoke and a river bed strewn with plastic bottles and you have the visual background to the final part of Francesca Zambello’s cohesively argued and increasingly impressive production of Wagner’s mighty tetralogy.'

Götterdämmerung will be streaming for free Sunday-Monday our time. Go to our blog post on the SF Ring for details.

Do you want more reading to prepare you for this ending?

Well here's our introduction to the opera several years ago.

There's a very detailed review of the performances and production here.

And another here.

SFO information and images, videos etc. here.

Warm review here.

Here's Limelight's detailed review .. And here's Bachtrack.

And SFOpera provides some interesting educational materials.

A ruined world awaits redemption through love?

At the Met, the theme is Myths and Legends.

IWeek 54 of their free live streamings offers a nice collection of the myths opera enjoys, and some great viewing.

Tuesday, March 23 Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice Starring Danielle de Niese, left, as Euridice and Stephanie Blythe as Orfeo.

But can he resist looking back?
The ghosts of Hades cry NO!

'This is Ms. Blythe’s show... a vocally commanding and deeply poignant portrayal of Orfeo,' according to NYTimes Tommasini. Here she is as Orpheus (down in the underworld noticing the pure sky and clear sun!).

Australian star Danielle is pretty and good as the cause of it all, Euridice.

Watch for the audience of historic notables. Production by Mark Morris. From January 24, 2009.

Wednesday, March 24 Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust Starring Susan Graham, Marcello Giordani, and John Relyea, conducted by James Levine. Production by Robert Lepage. From November 22, 2008.

Thursday, March 25 Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride Starring Susan Graham, Plácido Domingo, Paul Groves, and Gordon Hawkins, conducted by Patrick Summers. Production by Stephen Wadsworth. From February 26, 2011.

Friday, March 26 Strauss’s Elektra Starring Nina Stemme, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier, and Eric Owens, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Production by Patrice Chéreau. From April 30, 2016. Yes, it's been screened last year, but it's still the most brilliant portrayal of the myth and its heroine. Stemme is rivetting, and her singing superb . Check our blog post here.

Saturday, March 27 Mozart’s Idomeneo Starring Hildegard Behrens, Ileana Cotrubas, Frederica von Stade, Luciano Pavarotti, and John Alexander, conducted by James Levine. Production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. From November 6, 1982.

A likeable Don? Bryn Terfel in Zefferelli setting.

Sunday, March 28 Mozart’s Don Giovanni Starring Renée Fleming, Solveig Kringelborn, Hei-Kyung Hong, Paul Groves, Bryn Terfel, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and Sergei Koptchak, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From October 14, 2000. A likeable Don? Bryn Terfel brings Welsh sense of mischief. Here's his instructions for setting up an impromptu party (lyrics here), the Champagne Aria ('Fin ch' han dal vino'). Here it is sung by Teddy Tahu Rhodes in black leather mode.

Monday, March 28 Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer - Flying Dutchman.

Anja Kampe (Senta) and chorus under the eye of the mystery Dutchman

This one also screened recently. Here's our discussion and links to reviews on the 2020 blog post. It's the Met's new production using visuals throughout, strongly, though sometimes unsuccessfully. . Starring Anja Kampe, Mihoko Fujimura, Sergey Skorokhodov, David Portillo, Evgeny Nikitin, and Franz-Josef Selig, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Production by François Girard. From March 10, 2020.


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