Charles Affron, Mirella Jona Affron: Publications

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Lost Season, October-November 2020, Role Debuts: J’Nai Bridges, Russell Thomas, Christine Goerke, Lise Davidsen

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The cancellation of the 2020-2021 season deprived audiences of the conducting debut of Speranza Scappucci. Had the opportunity to conduct La Traviata not fallen to the wayside on account of the virus, she would have added her name to the handful of women who have led the Met orchestra in its nearly 140-year history. The public was also denied the long overdue company premiere of The Fiery Angel. Prokofiev’s opera had been slated to enter the repertoire at long last, in a production directed by Barrie Kosky. (It had been performed under the title The Flaming Angel by the New York City Opera in 1965.)

Four singers were to have made house role debuts in 2020-2021: J’Nai Bridges, Christine Goerke, Russell Thomas, and Lise Davidsen. We hear them in this post in parts they had been scheduled to sung in productions of Carmen, Tristan und Isolde, Il Trovatore, and Fidelio.

Mezzo J’Nai Bridges was the anticipated Carmen. She had made a successful 2019 Met debut as Nefertiti in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, a role she had sung in Los Angeles in 2016. Days before the Kennedy Center went dark, Washington Opera heard her first Dalila. Here, in a clip from her 2019 San Francisco performance in Bizet’s Carmen, Bridges sings the alluring “Habanera.”

Two years after her 1995 debut in a minor role, and following several extended absences from the Met, dramatic soprano Christine Goerke came back in 2013 a star, acclaimed for her Elektra, Brünnhilde, and Turandot. She will be heard as Puccini’s heroine in New York in Fall 2021. Her first Lincoln Center Tristan und Isolde was scheduled for the lost season. This excerpt from Act II, drawn from a 2019 Washington concert with the National Symphony, documents what Met audiences missed. Gianandrea Noseda conducts; the Brangäne is Ekaterina Gubanova.

Dramatic tenor Russell Thomas, who made his 2005 Met debut as the Herald in Don Carlo, has been assigned few major roles in his sporadic engagements with the company, most recently Rodolfo in La Bohème. It was not until 2020 that the Met planned to showcase Thomas as Manrico in Il Trovatore. Here he is in the troubadour’s stirring aria “Di quella pira (From that pyre)” in a 2019 performance from the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Her international reputation well established through major roles on European stages, dramatic soprano Lise Davidsen made her Met debut in 2019 as Lise in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades.  Not surprisingly, she was received enthusiastically by critics and public. She was to have sung Fidelio’s Leonore at the Met in 2020. This excerpt from a 2019 performance at the Royal Opera House increases our anticipation of hearing her in Fidelio in some future season. Davidsen takes on the taxing “Komm Hoffnung (Come Hope)” with command of legato, impeccable passage work, and thrilling high notes. The conductor is Antonio Pappano. She has been contracted for Ariadne auf Naxos, Elektra (as Chrysothemis), and Die Meistersinger for the 2021-2022 seasonat the Met.

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