James Levine Returns

FREDONIA – Live at the Met, the Metropolitan Opera’s award-winning series of live, high definition opera transmissions to theaters around the world, continues its 2013-14 season at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House on Saturday at 1 p.m., with Giuseppe Verdi’s classic opera Falstaff. Met Music Director James Levine, who has been unable to conduct for two years due to health issues, makes a triumphant return to the podium to conduct this beloved comedy.

“We’re very excited to be participating in our third full season of Live at the Met broadcasts,” said Rick Davis, opera house executive director. “The audiences, while small, have been extremely enthusiastic about this series. There’s just something exhilarating about seeing an opera production presented by one of the world’s foremost companies and seeing it right here in Fredonia at the same time audiences in NYC are seeing it live.”

In Robert Carsen’s production of Falstaff – the first new Met Falstaff since 1964 – the action is set in the English countryside in the mid-20th century. Ambrogio Maestri (last season’s Dulcamara in the opening night production of L’Elisir d’Amore) sings the title role of the brilliant and blustery Sir John Falstaff, opposite a marvelous ensemble that includes Angela Meade, Stephanie Blythe, Lisette Oropesa and Franco Vassallo.

Falstaff was Verdi’s final opera, written in the composer’s ninth decade, and was only the second of his 28 operas to be a comedy. It also was the third of Verdi’s operas to be based on a Shakespearean play, following his earlier Macbeth and Otello. While it has not proved to be as popular as the works that immediately preceded it, Aida and Otello, Falstaff has long been an admired favorite with critics and musicians because of its brilliant orchestration, scintillating libretto and refined melodic invention.

The opera’s story is drawn mainly from the Bard’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, but with some added material from Henry IV, and focuses on the well-deserved comeuppance of Sir John Falstaff, an overweight, drunken braggart and hopelessly deluded would-be seducer of ladies of taste and wealth.

A co-production of the Met, the Royal Opera House, Teatro alla Scala, the Canadian Opera Company and De Nederlandse Opera, its running time is 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Live at the Met telecasts are now shown in more than 2,000 theaters in 64 countries, making the Met the only arts institution with an ongoing global art series of this scale. The Met was the first arts company to experiment with this type of broadcast, beginning on a modest scale in 2006 and growing every season since then, with more than 10 million tickets sold to date.

Met opera stars serve as hosts for the series, conducting live interviews with cast members, crew and production teams, and introducing the popular behind-the-scenes features; altogether the worldwide audience is given an unprecedented look at what goes into the staging of an opera at one of the world’s great houses.

Individual tickets to each of the operas in the season are $20, ($18 Opera House members, $15 students). The Opera House also offers a flexible subscription consisting of eight tickets that can be used however the patron wants – one at a time to eight different operas, all at once for eight people, or anything in between. It is $142. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 679-1891, Tuesday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online anytime at www.fredopera.org.

The remaining 2013-14 Live at the Met season operas include: Dvor’k’s Rusalka on Feb.8; Borodin’s Prince Igor on Mar. 1; Massenet’s Werther on Mar. 15; Puccini’s La Bohme on Apr. 5; Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte on Apr. 26; and Rossini’s La Cenerentola on May 10.

Live at the Met opera broadcasts are made possible by Dr. James M. and Marcia Merrins, who funded the purchase of the satellite transmission and projection equipment used in the series.

Chautauqua County’s only performing arts center presenting its own programming year-round, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.fredopera.org.