Met Opera Broadcast Season Begins

Saturday at noon on Classical 88.7 HD1 – The 79th consecutive season of the Metropolitan Opera Saturday Matinee Radio Broadcasts launches on December 12, 2009 at 11:30 am with a live performance of Puccini's Il Trittico, starring Patricia Racette singing all three leading soprano roles. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe also appears in the Puccini triple-bill.

The 22-week season, carried over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network, runs through May 8 and features 19 live matinee performances broadcast direct from the Met stage, one pre-recorded performance, and one archival performance. Four operas that have never been broadcast on the Met's Saturday Matinee series highlight the season: Shostakovich's The Nose, Jan ek's From the House of the Dead, Thomas's Hamlet, and Rossini's Armida. Three more new productions from the Met season are also on the broadcast schedule: Tosca and Les Contes d'Hoffmann, both conducted by Met Music Director James Levine, and Carmen. Levine also conducts the broadcast of Simon Boccanegra with Pl cido Domingo singing the title role for the first time at the Met, and Lulu. Margaret Juntwait returns for her sixth season as host of the broadcasts.

The longest-running classical music series in American broadcast history, on the air since 1931, the Metropolitan Opera Saturday Matinee Radio Broadcasts bring the greatest operatic artists in the world to millions of radio listeners in 40 countries around the globe.

The first of the four operas having their Met Saturday Matinee Broadcast premieres is The Nose, based on a Gogol short story, under the baton of dynamic conductor Valery Gergiev, with Tony Award winner Paulo Szot making his Met broadcast debut in the lead role of Kovalyov. The new production is directed and designed by William Kentridge in his Met debut. The network premiere of From the House of the Dead, directed by Patrice Ch reau (in his Met debut) on March 20 features another major first, the Saturday Matinee broadcast debut of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. (The performance of the Jan ek opera will be recorded in the fall before the live broadcasts begin so that it can be part of the Saturday Matinee Radio season.) Peter Mattei in the role of Shishkov leads a powerful ensemble cast. One week later Thomas's Hamlet takes to the airwaves with the celebrated singing actors Simon Keenlyside and Natalie Dessay bringing their acclaimed portrayals of the title role and Oph lie, respectively, to worldwide radio audiences. Louis Langr e conducts the production by debuting directors Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser. The final network broadcast premiere of the season is Rossini's Armida on May 1, starring Ren e Fleming in the virtuosic role of the alluring sorceress. The production is by Mary Zimmerman; Riccardo Frizza conducts.

Met Music Director James Levine leads two new productions and two major revivals in the broadcast season, beginning on December 19 with Bartlett Sher's new production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann starring acclaimed tenor Joseph Calleja in the title role and Anna Netrebko as Antonia. Levine also leads the new Tosca production by director Luc Bondy on April 24, featuring renowned soprano Karita Mattila in the title role opposite the Cavaradossi and Scarpia of Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel - all network role debuts. The world's most famous tenor, Pl cido Domingo, makes Met history by singing the title role of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, his first baritone part, with Levine leading the revival broadcast on February 6. The final broadcast of the season is Berg's Lulu, an opera that Levine has championed since he conducted the Met premiere in 1977. He again leads the 20th century masterpiece on the May 8 broadcast with Marlis Petersen in the title role and Anne Sofie von Otter as the Countess Geschwitz.