La Donna del Lago was composed in 1819, but it’s only now having its Met premiere. Since our audience isn’t necessarily familiar with it, what are the opera’s virtues, and why is it time to finally stage it at the Met?
You never know what history is going to say, but I think when people look back at this particular period we’re in, they’re going to see it as a very important moment in terms of Rossini singing. This is a piece that you do when you have the cast to do it. I mean, we have just extraordinary tenors, in particular, right now, and I also think Elena and [the pants role of] Malcolm are two roles that are very difficult to cast. Elena isn’t quite a soprano, isn’t quite a mezzo, fits somewhere in between the two. Malcolm is just fiendishly difficult, and there are not a lot of those kinds of voices around today. So when the stars align and they bring you singers who can really do justice to the piece, I think it’s time, especially for a theater like the Metropolitan Opera, to present it.
When did you first encounter the opera?
Well, the first time I sang the aria “Tanti affetti” in public, it was at Carnegie Hall for Marilyn Horne’s 70th birthday. You know, if you’re going to do something, do it big, right?! It was a gala concert and I was finishing the whole performance with “Tanti affetti,” and to make it worse, Frederica von Stade was introducing me—no pressure! She and Marilyn Horne together really brought the opera back into the repertoire, and they had a famous production that played in Houston and London. When I did the opera in London a few years ago, they were still talking about that production. So that was the first time I sang the aria in public. Then, when I recorded my Rossini album, I knew that I was going to start stepping into these “big girl” roles of Rossini. You know, graduating from Rosina in The Barber of Seville and Cenerentola and stepping into Donna del Lago. I’m glad I didn’t do it earlier, because it’s a bit more dramatic and you need some heft, particularly in the second act. You can hear Verdi coming with this score!
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