The Sunday Opera: Giacomo Meyerbeer's "Les Huguenots"
An opera that has been dubbed "the night of the seven stars” will fill this week’s Sunday Opera (1/26 3:00 p.m.) with Giacomo Meyerbeer’s 1836 marathon of an opera, “Les Huguenots.” Set in France in the tumultuous times around the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre where the French Protestants were set-upon and murdered by the French Catholics, this grandest of all grand operas has a love story at its center focusing on Valantine, a Catholic girl who renounces her faith in order to be with the Protestant man she loves, and her beloved Raoul. The final frenzy features a mob killing a church full of women and children, and Valantin’s father killing Raoul and his daughter in a finale that is reminiscent of Halevy’s “La Juive.”
Our stellar cast from this 1969 recording features Martina Arroyo as Valentine and Anastasios Vrenios as Raoul, a monster role that is made even more difficult by the tenor’s vocal line which lies very high in the tenor range for the entirety of the opera. Joan Sutherland is also featured as Marguerite de Valois who tries to keep peace between the Catholics and Protestants. You’ll also hear from Gabriel Bacquier, Huguette Tourangeau, and Nicola Ghiuselev, and they’re all joined by the Ambrosian Opera Chorus and the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge. Join host Michael Kownacky for a rarely performed opera (not seen at the Metropolitan Opera since 1915), and a stellar cast featuring singers who are often overlooked today.