Barbara and I saw *Iolanta* on 2/1/19. It's a Tchaikovsky opera on a double bill at the Met, paired with Bartok's *Bluebeard's Castle.* I saw them in 2015 when the productions were new. I loved *Iolanta,* both the opera and the production, and was fascinated by the music in *Bluebeard* but hated the production. I was considering skipping *Bluebeard* this time around (even though Bluebeard himself was being sung by Gerald Finley, a singer I love), and when I woke up at 3:15 that morning, and got out of bed at 4:15, it seemed that the decision was made for me!
The 2015 production of *Iolanta* starred Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczała. They were wonderful, but I liked the new cast even better, Sonya Yoncheva and Matthew Polenzani. They have more delicate, lyrical voices than the previous two, and I think it suits the music better. The highlight of the opera is a pair of arias - - the baritone, Alexey Markov, sang a gushy, romantic aria about his beloved. It was Romantic with a capital R, surging with passion. He's a peerless baritone, the late great Dmitri Hvorostovsky:
This aria is followed immediately by the tenor singing a love aria of a completely different character. It's sweet and tender with a floated, quiet ending that completely DESTROYS ME. Here's a peerless tenor, the late great Nicolai Gedda:
Polenzani was stunning in his performance of the tenor aria. I've been hearing him at the Met for fifteen years now, first in small roles and then bit by bit in bigger roles. It's thrilling to hear him singing so well, he's a wonderful singer.
But of course Iolanta is the central character, and she was played by the marvelous Sonya Yoncheva. Here she is singing her arioso at the dress rehearsal:
You can see the production in that video. Barbara didn't like it at all, it was too harsh and sterile for her taste. I agree that it might be better with a prettier, more overtly romantic production, but it worked for me. Barbara and I had different points of view on the story: it's about a young blind woman, living on a remote country estate. Her father decided the best thing for her was to bring her up to not know that she was blind, and he and the servants all assist her in this delusion. It had a sort of *Truman Show* quality to it, this story.
The tenor stumbles upon her and of course they fall in love. Of course he notices that she's blind and doesn't know that it's a secret - - she's completely confused. The father has brought a doctor to examine her and see if he can make her see. The doctor says that he might, but she has to know the truth and has to be willing. So the interaction with the tenor happened at just the right time. She has the surgery and of course she's able to see and everyone ends up happy.
Barbara felt the opera was an allegory on religion. I felt it was an allegory on romantic love. We both might be right!