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Friday, April 28, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Cyrano de Bergerac

"And all you can come up with is 'Big Nose.'"
by Paul J. Pelkonen
This isn't The Nose: Roberto Alagna as Cyrano de Bergerac.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera.
Franco Alfano is remembered today as a footnote. He's the guy saddled with the unenviable task of writing the final pages of Giacomo Puccini's last opera Turandot in 1924. That completion was dismissed in 1924 by Toscanini himself. However, his six operas survive. This is the first Metropolitan Opera revival of Cyrano de Bergerac.



What is Cyrano?
This is a 1930s opera written in the years before World War II, giving lie to the idea that there are no good operas written after Turandot. It was first mounted at the Met for Placido Domingo. the libretto by Henri Cain is a setting of the play of the same title by Edmond Rostand.

What's Cyrano about?
Cyrano is the story of a long-nosed swordsman, poet and gentleman who leads the city guard in the town of Bergerac. He is in love with the beautiful Roxanne but convinced she would never love him. Instead he aids the handsome but lunk-headed Christian in his attempts to woo Roxanne. Ultimately, the true hero of the opera dies in her arms.

What's the music like?
Despite his own considerable musical achievements and skills, Alfano will always be remembered for following in Puccini's footsteps. This opera was written twelve years after his Turandot epic for a first performance in Paris in 1936. Expect the last breath of Italian romanticism in this sweeping score.

Who's in it?
Roberto Alagna sings the title role. Jennifer Rowley is a late replacement as Roxanne. Tenor Atalla Ayan (fresh off a strong run in La Traviata) brings the dumb as Christian. Marco Armiliato conducts.

How's the production?
Traditional. Balconies. Plumed hats. Costumes. A big fake nose. You know, the way the Met audience likes it.

Why should I see it?
All of the above reasons. Besides, it's not done that often and the season is almost at an end.

When does it open?
Cyrano opens on May 2 for just four performances. The May 13 performance marks the end of the 2016-17 season.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recording should I get?
I don't know, having never heard or seen this opera before. (Hey, I'm honest.) Amazon.com lists two available recordings, one an old RAI broadcast with tenor William Johns in the title role. That's on the Gala label so at least it's cheap. There is also a pricier German recording made in Kiel and released on the CPO label. 

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.