Yesterday, I headed for home after dropping my son off at college and turned on Met Opera Radio as I pulled out, a little after three. Three o’clock in the afternoon is one of the times during the day that is a start time for the next complete opera to be played. The host said that the station was featuring soprano Renee Fleming this week in celebration of her 25th year of performing at the Met, having made her debut in 1991. The host stated that Ms. Fleming had selected three performances to be featured and that one of those was next to be played, Charles Gounod’s Faust. I have heard parts of Faust many times and watched a performance on DVD. For me, Gounod’s music is among the prettiest in opera, second maybe only to Puccini. So, I was looking forward to a pleasant ride home. What I got was nothing short of thrilling. Renee Fleming’s singing was at a level I had not experienced listening to her before and I am a fan; I love her voice and have listened to several of her recordings and opera recordings featuring her. At times in this version of Faust she soared like an angel swooping about in the heavens. Her flourishes and ability to extend and hold notes almost lifted me out of my seat, not a good position for the driver. The opera also featured an overall impressive cast, including Richard Leech, a tenor, and Sam Ramey, a bass-baritone, and conductor Julius Rudel, in a 1997 appearance at the Met; the performers seemed to take inspiration from each other and gave an inspired, cohesive presentation. For me, this was opera at the Mt. Olympus level.
I was only able to listen to Act l and part of Act ll before reaching home. When I got home, I searched for a recording of this performance. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a CD recording available, at least that I could find. There is a DVD version available in Met Opera on Demand. This service costs $150 per year or $15 per month on a monthly basis. However, it looked like I can rent it for $3.99, and a free seven day trial is offered. Could be in my future.
Normally I prefer to pick and schedule what I watch or listen to. However, going with the flow and just listening to whatever the radio sends your way can provide unexpected delights. Sometimes it happens like that.