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Online Opera Listening Kit

The Metropolitan Opera International Radio Broadcasts return today for the 2004–2005 season, with the broadcast of Giuseppe Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani at 1:30 pm. The cast features soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Duchess Elena), tenor Francisco Casanova (Arrigo), legendary baritone Leo Nucci (Guido di Monforte), famously villainous bass Samuel Ramey (Giovanni da Procida), with Marcello Viotti Frédéric Chaslin conducting. Here is everything you need to enjoy the opera this afternoon in the comfort of your own home:

  • Use the station finder to see what station in your listening area carries the broadcast. (In the Washington, D.C., area, tune to WETA at 90.9 FM.) There are lots of them in the United States and Canada, and apparently there are some in Latin America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim.
  • If you are not familiar with the opera, you should read the synopsis. Briefly, the Sicilians hate their French overlords, a father finds his long-lost son, conspirators attempt to murder the governor of Sicily, and to gain his refound son's love, that same governor consents to the marriage of his son to the leader of the rebellious Sicilians, who with the support of the Spanish murder the French occupiers in a bloody finale. Verdi originally conceived as a grand opera in French for Paris, in 1855, with a libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier, after their own work Le Duc d'Albe. (This synopsis has some images of historical productions of the opera in Italy.)
  • Dig a little deeper into the story by reading about the real historical background of the opera, which is based on actual events in the late 13th century.
  • You can give yourself some visual information to accompany your listening experience by following the story, in a longer format, with pictures and sound clips from the Met's production.
  • Read a bit about the composer, Giuseppe Verdi. (Here is the official Giuseppe Verdi Web site.)
  • If you really want to go crazy, look at the explanatory materials on the opera that the Met puts together for humanities and music teachers. Do you wonder how the overture's themes relate to the opera's action? You can find out there.
  • As you listen to the opera, follow the libretto (in Italian, Italian, or Italian. For an English translation, I am afraid you will have to use Babelfish to translate one of the pages listed above.
Next week, it's Wagner's Tannhäuser, on Saturday, December 18, starting at 1:00 pm (not 1:30 pm, as I listed incorrectly before).

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