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Riccardo Frizza’s Seventh Appeance at the Met: The Italian Opera Specialist Becomes a Regular

January 12, 2016 | By Anna Franini
January 29th to February 20th, the Met produces Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, conducted by the Italian conductor, Riccardo Frizza.  Sondra Radvanovsky plays the role of Mary Queen of Scots, opposite Elza van den Heenver as Elizabeth I.  The opera is directed by David McVicar.

Frizza is no stranger to the Met.  Maria Stuarda marks the seventh time conducting at the Met and comes a year after he conducted Franco Zeffirelli’s production of La Bohème.

Frizza (1971) is at the forefront of the latest generation of Italian conductors, following in the footsteps of a tradition that includes Arturo Toscanini and contemporary legends as Carlo Maria Giulini and Riccardo Muti. He was raised in the land of opera, born just 30 miles from Bergamo, the city of Donizetti, and not far from Busseto - Parma, the city of Giuseppe Verdi.  With a world wide curriculum and speciality in Italian opera, Italianissimo seems to apply to Riccardo Frizza.

Frizza is particularly pleased with the set created by David McVicar. “The cabaletta which introduces Elisabetta immediately establishes that she is a woman in charge.”  For this reason, Frizza approves McVicar’s choice to emphasize a masculine Elisabetta and a feminine Maria.

In Maria Stuarda, the theme is not just confrontation between two women, but two religions. Rabid patriotism abounds. Under many aspects, the atmosphere reflects what the world recently witnessed in France following the tragedy of the 13th of September.  

In fact, on the day of the attack, Frizza was in Paris, not far from the Bataclan. “I was in the hotel, exactly in that part of the city. I had just finished rehearsal for Norma at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées.” The theatre remained closed for three days but Frizza led the initiative to convince the artists to go on stage, even if France was in a state of emergency. “It is in such moments that an artist must promote culture. It is also our duty. Culture can be a vehicle of combatting fundamentalism,” Frizza explains.  The Parisians responded to the call, and the performances sold out immediately.

Frizza conducts at the world’s premier theaters.  He has already appeared six times at the Met, with stellar casts, including the debut of Rossini’s Armida in April 2010 that featured Renée Fleming in the title role.  Frizza regularly conducts a who’s who list of todays most iconic opera singers (Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez, Roberto Alagna, Joyce Di Donato) at theaters from Milan’s La Scala to the Bayerische Staatsoper.

In the concert hall, Riccardo Frizza graces podiums for world class ensembles including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestra Nazionale di Santa Cecilia di Roma, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Tokyo Symphony.  His extensive discography includes Decca’s Una Furtiva Lagrima, which won the 2004 Cannes Classical Award.


- “I don’t much care for directors who over intellectualize in order to discover a hidden meaning.  That only changes the work’s natural intention and form.  David McVicar offers a modern version of Maria Stuarda, but the substance remains intact and respected. Well done.”

- “As an Italian, I can’t help but admire the costumes used in this production. They are beautiful, true to the historical period, and they bring the spectator directly into the era of Mary Stuart.”

- “Donizetti exhibited great courage by putting to music a libretto in which one queen insults an other, and one is executed. He paid the price and was put under censure”.

- “Opera is an icon of Italian culture.  I am particularly satisfied to contribute to the export and diffusion of this Italian product.”

- “What does the Met represent to me?  Foremost, a model of efficiency in the arts.  Of course, I admire the excellent quality of the orchestra and enjoy the large, enthusiastic audiences.“

- “The Met is a huge theater but the acoustics are perfect. Its structure actually helps the musicians.  It’s fantastic yet comforting to work in this immense space - a sort of big hole that is wide but not too deep”. 

- “What equally intrigues me about the Met is its public. The audience is so passionate. For La Bohème, I met people who attended all fourteen productions, and each time they came to ask for an autograph. An incredible love and devotion to opera”.



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