The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Met Orchestra to showcase its strength in first Korea tour

By Park Ga-young

Published : June 3, 2024 - 14:51

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The Met Orchestra (Lotte Concert Hall) The Met Orchestra (Lotte Concert Hall)
Met Orchestra Conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin (Lotte Concert Hall) Met Orchestra Conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin (Lotte Concert Hall)
(From left) Soprano Elina Garanaa, bass-baritone Christian Van Horn and soprano Lisette Oropesa (Lotte Concert Hall) (From left) Soprano Elina Garanaa, bass-baritone Christian Van Horn and soprano Lisette Oropesa (Lotte Concert Hall)

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is making its debut in South Korea this month.

The resident orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, founded in 1883, the same year the Metropolitan Opera House opened, is s currently under the direction of Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who has been leading the orchestra as the music director since the 2018-19 season.

Throughout its history, the orchestra has been led by renowned conductors such as Arturo Toscanini, Gustav Mahler, Bruno Walter and James Levine, whose tenure as music director from 1976 to 2016, was one of the longest and most influential tenures in the company's history.

In Korea as part of the Met’s first-ever Asia tour, which also includes visits to Japan and Taiwan, the orchestra will take the stage twice, offering two different programs.

On June 19, the Met Orchestra will present Wagner’s “Der Fliegende Hollander” Overture, Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” Suite (arranged by Leinsdorf) and Bartok’s Opera “Bluebeard’s Castle”, Op. 11. For “Bluebeard’s Castle,” mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca will take the role of Judith while bass-baritone Christian Van Horn will take the role of Bluebeard.

On June 20, the program begins with Montgomery’s “Hymn for Everyone,” a piece noted for its inclusivity and uplifting spirit. The concert will then feature soprano Lisette Oropesa performing Mozart’s concert arias “Vado ma dove?” K. 583 and “A Berenice … Sol nascente” K. 70. The evening will conclude with Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Both performances will take place at Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul.

Regarding the music choices, Nezet-Seguin said that the orchestra "focuses on the operatic scores that demonstrate the orchestra’s quality and ability through a variety of styles.

“Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle is the perfect starting point -- it’s one of the great operatic scores and offers an expansive musical palette of dramatic color and really features the music, musicians and soloists in a tour de force composition,” the conductor explained.

He added that including the overture to "Der Fliegende Holländer" and excerpts from Debussy’s "Pelleas et Melisande" feels like an innate fit because both of these composers were very influential in helping Bartok find his voice.

“I believe the three composers were tied together: Debussy was rejecting Wagner because he was very much influenced by him. And without those two composers, Bartok wouldn’t have been able to compose such a beautiful masterpiece as Bluebeard’s Castle,” the conductor explained.

Met's top soloists -- soprano Lisette Oropesa, mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn -- will take to the stage.

Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, who will portray Bluebeard, said he is excited to bring Bartok’s orchestra score, which he believes is one for the ages and offers astounding colors. “I’ve performed it enough to know what reactions it gets from audiences and it's going to be a joy to bring it to a place that I don't think has heard it very much,” he said.

The role of Judith in “Bluebeard’s Castle,” for which Nezet-Seguin said “someone with dramatic power and great vocal control" is needed, will be performed by Garanca.

The Latvian-born Garanca made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008 as Rosina in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" and has since conquered numerous notable mezzo-soprano roles.

“Judith's journey is deeply complex and multilayered, and her interpretations might widely differ as she grapples with both her love for Bluebeard and her growing unease and fear as she uncovers the secrets of his castle," she said. "To me, it is an intriguing and tense journey through themes such as trust, and curiosity. By embodying Judith's character with sensitivity, emotional turmoil and inner conflict, I aim to bring her journey to life onstage, allowing audiences to empathize with her vulnerability as she navigates through the revelations within the castle."

At the concert on June 20, soprano Oropesa will perform Mozart's concert arias including "Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!" and "Bella mia fiamma, addio! Resta, o cara!"

Described as "a singer who embodies Mozart better than anyone else" by the Met artistic director, Oropesa describes Mozart’s arias as usually more exposed vocally, thereby making it more transparent and easier to hear a flaw. “For Mozart, a technique must be really in place, and this is why Mozart is hard for me, and for all of us! But of course, we love the music, and interpreting it is always a wonder and a joy,” she said.

Tickets for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra's debut in Korea range from 100,000 won ($73) to 470,000 won.