In April of 2010 the Metropolitan Opera mounted the company premiere production of Rossini’s opera Armida starring American soprano Renée Fleming in the title role. Fleming had previously triumphed at the opera house in other lesser-known operas (Il Pirata, Thaïs, Rodelinda and others) and so it was with great acclaim that the Met staged this bel canto rarity specifically for the soprano. The May 1, 2010 performance was broadcast as part of the Met’s Live in HD series and it is now brought to DVD by Decca – available February 15, 2011.
For this new production and Met premiere, the opera company not only engaged Renée Fleming for the title role but also enlisted a stellar supporting cast, including Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo. Having previously triumphed in La Cenerentola (available on DVD from Deutsche Grammophon) at the house, Brownlee brought the audience to its feet with his warm, lyric voice and thrilling passagework. His tour de force aria in Act 3 was one of many show-stopping moments throughout the performance.
The remaining cast includes five additional Rossini tenors in smaller but crucial roles. A highlight of the performance is the Act 3 trio for three tenors in which Brownlee is joined by Kobie van Rensburg and Barry Banks for this beautiful ensemble.
The production was led by Mary Zimmerman in her third bel canto opera at the Met in as many seasons. Having previously directed Lucia di Lammermoor and La Sonnambula (both available on DVD from Deutsche Grammophon and Decca), Ms. Zimmerman produced a fanciful production to tell this fairy-tale like story. From a pleasure palace to a demonic dance, the production colorfully captures Rossini’s music and propels the story forward.
The DVD release is the next in a long line of Deutsche Grammophon and Decca releases from the Metropolitan Opera. In recent years, both DG and Decca have led the way by releasing a number of Live in HD titles each season. This season DG has released Carmen with Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna, and later this season will release Don Pasquale with Anna Netrebko. Decca has released the historic production of Tosca starring Shirley Verrett and Luciano Pavarotti in the title roles and continues with this release of Armida.