The Lyric Stage with Mike Harrah

Sundays at 8 pm

Join Mike Harrah for great performances from the world of opera, including arias, duets, trios, ensemble performances, artist portraits and even short operas.

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The Lyric Stage: March 10 - Two Queens This Week

Mar 10, 2019

This Sunday night at 8, two of  English history's greatest queens confront each other in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, sung in English with a cast led by Dame Janet Baker as Maria, and Rosalind Plowright as Elizabeth.  Sir Charles Mackerras conducts this live performance by the English National Opera with the company's orchestra and chorus.

This Sunday at 8 pm on The Lyric Stage we have musical selections from The Threepenny Opera, whose  disreputable characters and social and political satire of Berlin in 1928 were inspired by Elisabeth Hauptman's translation of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera from 1728.

This week on The Lyric Stage, Fritz Wunderlich and Cecilia Bartoli sing music from Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan Tutti. Mozart's deceptively simple-looking music is full of surprises and challenges, and Wunderlich and Bartoli are superb interpreters.

Three singers from the early and middle parts of the twentieth century take center stage this Sunday night at 8. Gino Bechi (1913-1993) was not well known outside of Italy, but his interpretation of Verdi was on a par with Robert Merrill, Leonard Warren and Ettore Bastianini. Claudia Muzio (1889-1936) easily was one of the finest sopranos of the first half century, and Richard Tauber (1891-1948) is still the touchstone for how to sing operetta, although he had an extensive career in opera as well.

This week on the Lyric Stage selections from Act 3 of Richard Wagner's Die Walkure from a 1988 studio recording with Hildegarde Berhrens as Brunnhilde, Jessye Norman as Sieglinde and James Morris as Wotan. James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Jessye Norman will also sing  "In the Still of the Night" by Cole Porter and "Spring is Here" by Rodgers and Hart. Her versions of these standards are idiosyncratic - she sings them much like she sang Wagner - but very enjoyable.

Orlando is furious this week on the Lyric Stage

Feb 3, 2019

This week (Feb 3) we have highlights from Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso, from a much praised recording featuring Veronica Cangemi and Jennifer Larmore, with Jean-Cristophe Spinosi conducting the chorus Les Elements and the Ensemble Matheus.

The Lyric Stage: Jan. 27 - Rigoletto Highlights

Jan 24, 2019

Based on a play by Victor Hugo, Rigoletto is one of Verdi's best and most popular operas, and this week, we have highlights of the music from a 1960 studio recording with Ettore Bastianini as Rigoletto, Renata Scotto as Gilda, and Alfredo Krauss as the Duke of Mantua. All three singers were in the early prime of their careers, and of the many fine recordings of Rigoletto, this is one of the best. Gianandrea Gavazzenni  conducts the Orchestra and chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

In 1979, the Metropolitan Opera revived Kurt Weill's opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny which had originally appeared in Berlin in 1929, when Weill's wife, Lotte Lenya, sang Jenny. Teresa Stratas took the  role in 1979 at the Met. Lenya saw Stratas do it, and then packed up some unpublished and little known songs by Weill, and gave them to Stratas. Here, said Lenya, nobody sings Weill's music like you do and you should have these. Or words to that effect. The result was Stratas recorded an album of 14 of these songs, and this week we have some of them for you.

Camacho's Wedding may well be "the most brilliant opera written by a youthful composer," brilliant and inspired music, but "an opera to be seen with your eyes closed." So says the Belgian conductor Jos van Immerseel about Camacho's Wedding, Felix Mendelssohn's 1827 opera in two acts. Friedrich Voigt gets credit for the libretto, which is based on an episode in Cervantes's Don Quixote.

This week on the Lyric Stage we have selections from the New York City Opera's 1958 production of Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Bay Doe, featuring a name synonymous with the City Opera, Beverly Sills.

The Lyric Stage: Dec. 30 - The Merry Widow

Dec 30, 2018

This week on The Lyric Stage, a 1962 highlights version of Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow, featuring Lisa Della Casa as the Merry Widow and John Reardon as the Count Danillo, with Franz Allers conducting the American Opera Society Orchestra and Chorus in  a 1962 recording. One of the most performed stage pieces ever written, The Merry Widow premiered in Vienna in 1905, and has held stage continiously throughout the world since.

Christmas music this week on The Lyric Stage

Dec 23, 2018

Singers of all styles love to sing Chrismas Music of all kinds, and opera singers are no exception. This Sunday (12/23 at 8 pm), a special Lyric Stage of uninterrupted Christmas music sung by Jessye Norman, Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Mario Lanza and Kiri te Kanawa. The music ranges from the sacred and the classical to the popular, so sit back and enjoy. 

In the 1950's and the 1960's the many recordings Renata Tebaldi and Mario Delmonaco made together were some of classical music's best sellers. They made eleven of them, and in 1954 Manon Lescaut was the first of this long collaboration, and both of these beloved singers were at the top of their form on this studio recording.

This week, we have scenes from Wiliam Walton's only full length opera, Troilus and Cressida, with a libretto by Christopher Hassall.  The premiere was at Covent Garden in December of 1954.

The Lyric Stage: Dec 2 - Puccini's Mimi.

Dec 2, 2018

Now that you know who I am, says Rodolfo to this beautiful stranger he has just met, please tell me who you are. She answers that they call her Mimi, although her real name is Lucia. Her story is brief - she lives all alone in a little white room looking out on roofs and into the heavens, and doesn't always go to church. She makes magic on canvass by embroidering flowers that speak of love and springtimes. And when spring comes, the first sun is hers, the first kiss of April is hers.

  Baritone William Warfield (1920-2002) combined a wonderful voice and the gift of song with a great range of style. This week he sings a variety of songs and arias showing that range, including an aria from Handel's Messiah, songs by Robert Schumann,  Jerome Kern's Ol' Man River, and the complete set of Copland's Old American Songs.

If you were looking for them they were not hard to find - maybe it was the tell tale bulge of the portable cassette player from their jacket pockets or that curiously large briefcase they lugged as if it were the most ordinary of things to be taking into a performance in Zurich, New York, or Rome. Eyes shifting, they took their seats. They were the pirates, those denizens of the not so secret world of illegal opera recordings. They lived in the shadows and wanted nothing more than to go unnoticed.

The Lyric Stage: Nov. 11 - Frederica Von Stade

Nov 11, 2018

Frederica Von Stade's long career and broad repertoire includes the work of many French composers, and this week on the LS we feature her in arias and duets  from a 1979 recording of Jules Massenet's Cendrillon.  

The Lyric Stage: Nov. 4 - Russian Opera

Nov 4, 2018

Prince Igor is best known for the Polovtsian Dances. In fact perhaps Russian opera itself is best known for the Polovtsian Dances, and this week we have those dances for you in an idiomatic, spectacular version conducted by Valery Gergiev with the Kirov Opera orchestra and chorus. But Russian opera is much more than the Polovtsian Dances, as the other excerpts we have this week show. Valery Gergiev leads the coronation scene and Boris' death scene from Boris Godiunov, and Sir George Solti and Renee Fleming perform the letter scene from Eugene Onegin.

The Lyric Stage: Oct. 28 - A Comic One Act by Haydn

Oct 28, 2018

Joseph Haydn composed the comic opera L'infedelta delusa or Deceit Outwitted in 1773 early in his long tenure in service to the Esterhazy family. It's light fare, a burletta per musica, literally a musical joke, with a silly libretto by Mario Coltelina but one that serves the music well in a genre that is about absurd fun and good music. Sandrina wants to marry the peasant Nanni who's sister Vespina wants to marry the rich Nuncio but can't because Nuncio is going to marry Sandrina because her father says so, etc.

Two One-Act Chamber Operas on The Lyric Stage 10/21

Oct 21, 2018

Two chamber opera one acts this week on The Lyric Stage. In 1829 Hector Berlioz finally won the Prix de Rome on his fourth try, with the submission of his one act opera (officially a cantata) La Mort de Cleopatre, The Death of Cleopatra. Augustas Caesar has defeated Cleopatra and Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, Anthony has died in her arms, and there is no way out of her predicament in the face of the implacable Augustus Caesar who will otherwise parade her in disgrace through Rome before executing her.

  Luciano Pavarotti's legacy as one of the finest and most affecting singers of the twentieth century is on display this week on The Lyric Stage, as he sings arias, Italian art songs, Neapolitan songs, and the duet from Madame Butterfly with his childhood friend Mirella Freni, who said Pavarotti was "like a brother" to her. The recordings are mostly from the 1970's and 1980's when he was at his vocal peak.

In the 1820's, there was a fashion for stage works featuring sonnambulism or sleepwalking. This led to a popular 1827 ballet The Sleepwalker, or the arrival of a new Lord, and it is that work that in 1830 inspired Bellini and his librettist Felice Romani to write La Sonnambula. The opera premiered in Milan in 1831.

The music is timeless, and you hardly need to know what the plot is to appreciate the opera, but it does have a plot, albeit one that has not worn well nearly 200 years after the opera's premiere.

This week on The Lyric Stage, selections from Ferdinando Paer's 1805 opera, Sofonisba, about an early third century Princess of Carthage trapped in a life or death situation between her country and the Roman empire. Jennifer Larmore heads the cast.

Paer was a noted composer in his day, and a special favorite of Napoleon, just as he had been a special favorite of Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution. He composed in many genres, and his works contain elements of both classical and romantic styles, making him a transitional figure in Opera's history.

This week on the Lyric Stage selections from Act 3 of Richard Wagner's Die Walkure from a 1988 studio recording with Hildegarde Berhrens as Brunnhilde, Jessye Norman as Sieglinde and James Morris as Wotan. James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Jessye Norman will also sing  "In the Still of the Night" by Cole Porter and "Spring is Here" by Rodgers and Hart. Her versions of these standards are idiosyncratic - she sings them much like she sang Wagner - but very enjoyable.

You are in love with one who does not return your love, so to prove how much you love her, you serve her your beloved pet cat for dinner  because there is nothing else in the house. She is impressed by the gesture, and agrees to marry you. Basically that is the story of La Colombe, Charles Gounod's one act comic opera he wrote only a year after setting Faust to music with its triumph of God over Mephistopheles, and its cosmic backdrop. Horace does not serve Sylvie a cat, but he does have an adored dove he tells Sophie he has sacrificed for her dinner.

In  the mid 1950's Leonard Bernstein addressed the question of when is a work a musical comedy, or when is it an opera? He took the example of South ­Pacific, and said that when Emile sings "Some Enchanted Evening" we are hearing a musical, but when Bloody Mary sings "Bali Ha’i", we are in the world of opera.

“You just know,” he said. It’s to do with the tone, the sound, and most importantly the nature of the story."

This week on the Lyric Stage we have highlights from Maria Callas' Carmen. Callas never performed Carmen on stage, but many consider her 1964 recording of Bizet's opera among the best recorded versions of Carmen. To paraphrase one critic, "Callas isn't Carmen, Carmen is Callas."

Jacques Halevy's La Juive premiered in Paris 1835. It's a sprawling opera in five acts with huge choruses, ballets, and scenic effects, all against the backdrop of the Council of Constance in 1414. It was every thing the French opera public would want. It was popular for the century after its premiere, and it was the last opera Caruso added to his repertoire before his death in 1921. While not in the main repertoire today, in the last 20 years the Metropolitan and other companies around the world have revived it.

This week we have selections from Giordano's Madame Sans-Gens, with Mirella Freni in a live performance of  Giordano's version of Victorien Sardou's comedy drama.

In 1792, the very lovable Caterina, Madame Sans-Gens - Madame Carefree - is a Parisian laundress who is happy, carefree, engaged to be married, completely at ease.  One of her customers is a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte.