Thursday Night Opera House

February 25, 2021 – Claude Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisane

This week the Thursday Night Opera House with Bob Chapman features Claude Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande. The opera is the story of the half brother of a prince who falls in love with his sister-in-law, a mysterious young woman who was discovered in a forest, about to commit an unthinkable act. Join host Bob Chapman for a presentation of Claude Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande, tonight at 7pm ET.



February 11, 2021 – Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story & On the Town

This week’s Thursday Night Opera House presents a pair of Broadway musicals with mostly operatic casts: West Side Story and On the Town. Set in the 1950s, West Side Story is an updated version of the Romeo and Juliet story in which teenage street gangs battle for control of the New York City neighborhood they uneasily share. The situation becomes complicated when a gang member falls in love with a rival’s sister. On the Town is the story of three American sailors during World War II and their amorous adventures on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City.

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and set in the urban slums of New York, the show used, as its modern equivalents for the Montagues and Capulets the juvenile gangs of local whites (the Jets) and immigrant Puerto Ricans (the Sharks).

With a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story opened in New York’s Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957.

The Jets, boastful and contemptuous of the immigrants, call on Tony (José Carreras), who used to be their leader but now has a regular job and is on his way to adulthood, to help their new leader Riff (Kurt Ollmann) and the gang in a challenge to the Sharks. Riff reminds Tony of his old allegiance and of how menacing are the newcomers. Tony reluctantly agrees reluctantly but soon becomes excited with the thrill of potential combat. Meanwhile, in a bridal shop Anita (Tatiana Troyanos), the sweetheart of the Shark’s leader, Bernado (Richard Harrell), is converting Maria’s communion dress into a gown for the dance that evening. Maria (Kiri Te Kanawa) is Bernardo’s sister. He has brought her from Puerto Rico hoping that she will marry his best friend, Chino. At the dance Riff challenges Bernado and the groups agree to do battle. Tony and Maria have seen each other and fall in love, instantly and become oblivious to the menace that is building up around them. Most of the Puerto Ricans are nervously elated over the coming conflict but they are confident and determined to assimilate into the American way despite the homesickness that some of them feel.

What could have been just a game of muscle flexing turns to tragedy when Bernado provokes a knife-fight that results in Riff being killed. Bernado is murdered in turn by the avenging Tony, who flees to the home of Maria. Her love for Tony overcomes her hatred for her brother’s killer. Tony promises to take her away and in a dream ballet sequence the battle is re-enacted. Anita taunts Maria for remaining faithful to Tony but nonetheless agrees to deliver Maria’s message for Tony to the Jets. Unfortunately, Anita is driven to claim that Chino has shot and killed Maria. Angry and wild with grief, Tony goes after Chino, but Chino coolly shoots him just as Tony discovers that Maria is not dead after all. Somewhat ashamed, the Jets and the Sharks between them remove Tony’s body as Maria follows them.

Leonard Bernstein conducts an unnamed orchestra and chorus in this 1984 DG recording, CD 415255.

From the original 1957 Broadway cast album, Reri Grist sings “Somewhere”:

With brash, spectacular, and slightly bittersweet abandon, On the Town is a tale about seizing the day and living life to its fullest. With a soaring score by Leonard Bernstein and humorous, highly intelligent lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, On the Town features the seductively upbeat “I Can Cook, Too”, the melancholically beautiful ballad “Lonely Town”, and that most iconic of tunes, “New York, New York.” The show opened at the Adelphi Theater on December 28, 1944.

The show follows the adventures of three sailors on leave for just 24 hours in New York before heading off to battle in World War II. Goofy ladies’ man Ozzie (David Garrison) is looking for a date – -maybe seven or eight – and studious innocent Chip (Kurt Ollmann), guidebook in hand, has several days’ worth of tourist attractions to check off his list. But when idealistic Gabey (Thomas Hampson) falls for the photograph of lovely Miss Turnstiles, a subway beauty queen, they all join in an ambitious scavenger hunt around the city to locate this dream girl — and, on the way, find all of the romance, adventure, and New York atmosphere for which they could wish. Joined by Claire (Frederica Von Stade), a sophisticated anthropologist with a red-hot heart, and Hildy (Tyne Daley), a sweetly aggressive cab driver on the lam, the sailors careen through museums and nightclubs, Carnegie Hall and Coney Island, before Gabey and Ivy (Marie McLaughlin) are finally united — just in the knick of time.

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices in this 1993 DG recording.

On Saturday, February 13th, at 1:00 p.m., be sure to listen to the April 28, 2018 Metropolitan Opera matinee broadcast of Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon with Joyce DiDonato as Cinderella, Alice Coote in the “trouser” role of Prince Charming, Laurent Naouri (Pandolfe), Stephanie Blythe (Madame de la Haltière), and Kathleen Kim (Fairy Godmother). Bertrand de Billy conducts.

Be sure to join the late Al Ruocchio next Thursday evening, February 18th, for an encore broadcast of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, with Maria Callas in the title role, Franco Corelli as Pollione, Christa Ludwig as Adalgisa, and Nicola Zaccaria as Oroveso. Tullio Serafin conducts this 1960 recording.

The Thursday Night Opera House is heard at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina. We’re also streamed online, and you can listen as well on WCPE’s Android or iPhone apps.

Bob Chapman

Robert Chapman, Host of the Thursday Night Opera House



February 4, 2021 – Gioachino Rossini’s Otello

On this week’s Thursday Night Opera House we feature Gioachino Rossini’s Otello, an 1816 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play OthelloJosé Carreras sings the title role and Frederica von Stade is Desdemona. Heard in other principal roles in this bel canto masterpiece are Gianfranco Pastine (Iago), Salvatore Fisichella (Rodrigo), Nucci Condo (Emilia), and Samuel Ramey (Elmiro). Jesús López Cobos conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus in this 1978 Philips Classics recording.

The Thursday Night Opera House is heard at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on, on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina, and via streaming apps on your smart phone, tablet, or other smart device.

Bob Chapman

Robert Chapman, Host of the Thursday Night Opera House


January 28, 2021 – Mozart et al.’s Der Stein der Weisen & Der wohltätige Derwisch

This pair of fairy tale operas was ommissioned in 1790 (along with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Magic Flute) for Vienna’s Theater auf der Wieden.  Der Stein der Weisen (The Philosopher’s Stone) was a collaborative effort by Mozart, Johann Baptist Henneberg, Benedikt Schack (the first Tamino), Franz Xaver Gerl (the first Sarastro), and impresario Emanuel Schikaneder (the first Papageno).

The Philosopher’s Stone begins in an Arcadian land where the priest Sadik (baritone Chris Pedro Trakas) leads a ceremony to the guardian spirit, Astromonte (tenor Kurt Streit). Sadik’s two foster children, the lovers Nadir (tenor Paul Austin Kelly) and Nadine (soprano Judith Lovat) soon appear with their rustic friends, Lubano (bass Kevin Deas) and Lubanara (soprano Jane Giering de Haan), a newly-wed couple. The audacious and untamed Lubanara persuaded Lubano to bring her to the sacred ceremony, as she dreams of riding in Astomonte’s flying machines. Lubano warns her of the dangers of displeasing Astromonte and the terrible subterranean spirit Eutifronte (bass Alan Ewing). Sadik metes out a mild punishment to them and warns of terrible consequences if there are future incidents. Astromonte’s Genie (soprano Sharon Baker) arrives in a cloud chariot and presents a cage that contains a magic bird, which will identify the most virtuous and innocent maiden by its song, and Astromonte will then take her with him. In subsequent comic scenes Lubano locks up his wife; she invokes Eutifronte, and the demon comes and frees her; when the husband protests, Eutifronte takes Lubanara into the abyss. Lubano discovers antlers on his head, the sign of cuckoldry, and he is chased by hunters. The bird remains silent until Nadine holds it. Astromonte descends in his chariot and accepts the sacred offerings. As he is about to leave, he hears the bird singing and sees Nadine. He takes them both in his chariot and departs. All implore Astromonte to return Nadine, and Lubano cries out for his Lubanara.  They decide to set sail to the magic island to find Nadine.

Martin Perlman conducts Boston Baroque in this 1999 Telarc recording.

From the second act finale of Der Stein der Weisen, here’s Piotr Micinski (Lubano) and Renate Arends (Lubanara) in the “Meow” duet:

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Der wohltätige Derwisch (The Beneficent Dervish) was the second of the three fairy tale operas Schikaneder commissioned that season.  First performed in March 1791, exactly midway between The Philosopher’s Stone and The Magic Flute, it appears to have been a group effort by the same composers—except Mozart.  There are nonetheless some important ideas evolving in The Beneficent Dervish that appear to have influenced The Magic Flute.  The bass role has evolved from the evil god of The Philosopher’s Stone to the wise dervish, a character who is much closer to Sarastro.  We also see here the origin of Papageno’s magic bells in Mandolino’s fool’s cap.

In The Beneficent Dervish, the Turkish Prince Sofrano (tenor John Aler) has been impoverished since the death of his father, King Almandor.  As the opera opens, he is about to leave for the Kingdom of Basora, where he hopes to win the heart of the beautiful Princess Zenomide (soprano Sharon Baker).  He says farewell to his friend and mentor, an old and wise Dervish (bass Alan Ewing), who gives Sofrano the key to a treasure box, which his father left in a monument.  He warns Sofrano to beware of Zenomide: she has a cold heart and her father is an evil sheik.  The Dervish reveals himself to be King Almandor and vows to help his son through his magical powers.  The Dervish watches as the fisherman Mandolino (bass Kevin Deas) is beaten by his wife, Mandolina (mezzo-soprano Deanne Meek), for flirting with a peasant girl, who is in fact a malicious fairy, who has poisoned him.  To save himself, Mandolino must drink from a golden goblet, which is guarded by a fire-breathing dragon, but he need not fear the dragon, since it eats only women.

Martin Perlman conducts Boston Baroque in this 2002 Telarc recording.

This Saturday, January 30 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, be sure to join The Classical Station for the December 11, 2011 Metropolitan Opera performance of Charles Gounod’s Faust. Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role, Marina Poplavskaya is Marguerite, and René Pape is Méphistophélès. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

Join me next Thursday, February 4th, for Gioachino Rossini’s Otello, an 1816 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Othello. José Carreras sings the title role and Frederica von Stade is Desdemona. Heard in other principal roles in this bel canto masterpiece are Gianfranco Pastine (Iago), Salvatore Fisichella (Rodrigo), Nucci Condo (Emilia), and Samuel Ramey (Elmiro). Jesús López Cobos conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus in this 1978 Philips Classics recording.

The Thursday Night Opera House is heard at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina. We’re also streamed online, and you can listen as well on WCPE’s Android or iPhone apps.

Bob Chapman

Robert Chapman, Host of the Thursday Night Opera House



January 21, 2021 – Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann

On this week’s Thursday Night Opera House please join us for an encore broadcast, hosted by the late Al Ruocchio, of Jacques Offenbach’s last stage work (and only true opera): Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).  Born Jacob Offenbach in Cologne, Germany in 1819, his father took him to Paris in 1833, where he was enrolled at the Conservatory.  After becoming one of Europe’s finest cellists, Offenbach began composing operettas for important theaters like the Bouffes-Parisiens.  A string of hits–Orphée aux enfers (1858), La belle Hélène (1864), Barbe-bleue (1866), La vie parisienne (1866), and La Périchole (1868)–soon followed.

End of Act 3 “La mort d’Antonia” of Offenbach’s opera “Les contes d’Hoffmann,” in 1881 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1881. In front: Adèle Isaac (Antonia); in back, L to R: Hippolyte Belhomme (Crespel), Marguerite Ugalde (Nicklausse), Pierre Grivot (Franz), Émile-Alexandre Taskin (Miracle), Jean-Alexandre Talazac (Hoffmann)  Author: Not Identified Date: 1881  Source: Scan of Yon, Jean-Claude (2000). Jacques Offenbach, plate 22 (after p.416) [Paris]: Galimard This file comes from Gallica Digital Library, available under the digital ID btv1b8423258f.  It is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States.

Offenbach was working on Les Contes d’Hoffmann when he died on October 5, 1880. A fascinating and at times disturbing work, it tells three inter-connected stories in which Hoffmann is thwarted in love by his evil genius.  Ideally, the four villains should be sung by the same man, and the four heroines by the same woman, as they are aspects of the same person. The work, existing in piano score only, was orchestrated by Ernest Guiraud, who also made a few additions.  Hoffmann was premiered in Paris on February 10, 1881.

The opera opens in Luther’s beer cellar in Nürnberg, Germany, where students await the end of a performance of Don Giovanni, starring Stella (soprano Edita Gruberova), amorously pursued by the poet Hoffmann (tenor Plácido Domingo) and also by the sinister Counselor Lindorf (baritone Andreas Schmidt). To pass the time, Hoffmann tells the story of his three great loves, in all he is aided by his young friend Nicklausse (mezzo-soprano Claudia Eder)–who’s later revealed to be the embodiment of the Muse of Poetry. In Paris, Hoffmann is sold a magical pair of glasses by Coppélius (bass-baritone Gabriel Bacquier) and falls in love with Olympia (Gruberova), the “daughter” of the inventor Spalanzani (tenor Gérard Friedman).  She turns out to be a mechanical doll, which Coppélius destroys when he discovers that Spalanzani has double-crossed him.

In Venice, Hoffmann is having an affair with the courtesan Giulietta (Gruberova), who–at the urging of the magician Dapertutto (bass Justino Diaz)–steals his reflection.  Hoffmann kills Giulietta’s former lover Schlémil (bass Richard Van Allan) in a duel and flees for his life, having witnessed Giulietta leaving with another man.  In Munich, Hoffmann has fallen in love with the singer Antonia (Gruberova). Her father Crespel (bass Harald Stamm) has forbidden her to sing, without telling her the reason: she is consumptive as was her dead mother, also a great singer.  The evil quack Dr. Miracle (bass-baritone James Morris) brings to life the portrait of her mother and urges her to sing ever more ecstatically.  The strain is too much and she dies in Hoffmann’s arms.  Back in the beer cellar, it becomes apparent that all three of Hoffmann’s lovers are aspects of the diva Stella.  Hoffmann is now totally drunk, and a triumphant Lindorf escorts Stella away.  The opera ends with Nicklausse urging Hoffmann to return to poetry.

Seiji Ozawa conducts the ORTF Chorus and Orchestra in this 1990 Deutsche Grammophon recording.

From a 2000 production, Natalie Dessay sings Olympia’s aria, “Les oiseaux dans la charmille”:

Be sure to tune in to The Classical Station this Saturday, January 23rd, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern for the Metropolitan Opera’s January 27, 1961 performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Leontyne Price is Leonora, Franco Corelli is Manrico, Mario Sereni is Count Di Luna, Irene Dallis is Azucena, and William Wilderman is Ferrando. Fausto Cleva conducts.

Next Thursday, January 28th, please join me for a pair of pastiche operas inspired by Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). First performed in 1790 and 1791, Der Stein der Weisen (The Philosopher’s Stone) and Der Wohltätige Derwisch (The Beneficient Dervish) include music by Mozart, Johann Baptist Hennebert, Benedikt Schack, Franz Xaver Gerl, and Emanuel Schickaneder. Martin Perlman conducts Boston Baroque in these 1999 and 2002 Telarc recordings.

The Thursday Night Opera House is heard every Thursday evening at 7:00pm Eastern on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina, online at, and on our streaming apps.

Bob Chapman

Robert Chapman, Host of the Thursday Night Opera House


portrait of Bob Chapman, host of Opera House

Bob Chapman

Grand Opera: A Sound Delight

The Classical Station offers two wonderful opportunities each week to hear the best in opera: Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday afternoons at 1:00 p.m. eastern from December through May. The Thursday Night Opera House has been a regular Thursday night feature on The Classical Station since April of 1980. On Saturday afternoons from December through May, we broadcast the Metropolitan Opera Saturday afternoon matinees.

Al Ruocchio hosted The Thursday Night Opera House from 1980 until his death in 2007. On December 4, 2008, Bob Chapman became the third host of The Thursday Night Opera House, succeeding Robert Galbraith. Bob is an opera singer who continues to use his wealth of experience and talents to bring the very best works of opera to our listeners with his show.

Winter 2020–21 Listings

December 3
Puccini’s Tosca
Tosca (Freni), a singer, gives herself to the Roman police chief, Scarpia (Ramey), to save her painter boyfriend, Cavaradossi (Domingo).

December 10
Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust
An aged philosopher, Faust (Lewis), sells his soul to the devil, Méphistophélès (Terfel), in exchange for another shot at youth, then seduces the beautiful Marguerite (Von Otter).

December 17
Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto
Paolino (Davies) is secretly married to Carolina (Auger), younger daughter of Geronimo (Fischer-Dieskau). (From the Ruocchio Archives.)

December 24
Christmas Eve at the Opera House
Sacred Christmas music performed by past- and present-day opera stars.

December 31
J. Strauss’s Die Fledermaus
Eisenstein (Kmentt) accepts Falke’s (Berry) invitation to a party; wife Rosalinde (Gueden) is visited by an old flame, Alfred (Zampieri); maid Adele (Köth) goes to the party of Prince Orlofsky (Resnik).

January 7
Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen
A clever, sharp-eared fox known as the Vixen (Watson) learns about life while on short adventures with other wildlife and a few humans.

January 14
Verdi’s Don Carlo
Don Carlo (Sylvester) is engaged to Elisabetta (Millo), but his father Filippo II (Furlanetto) marries her instead. Rodrigo (Chernov) tries to reconcile father and son but the Grand Inquisitor (Ramey) forces the king to assassinate him.

January 21
Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann
A poet, Hoffmann (Domingo), is inspired by three muses (Gruberová) but several villains (Bacquier, Morris, Diaz) conspire against him. (From the Ruocchio Archives.)

January 28
Mozart’s, et al., Der Stein der Weisen & Der Wohltätige Derwisch
First performed in 1790 and 1791, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Beneficient Dervish are pastiches—with music by Mozart, Henneberg, Schack, Gerl, and Schikaneder—that anticipate The Magic Flute.

February 4
Rossini’s Otello
Otello (Carreras) is in love with Desdemona (Von Stade), who’s been promised by her father, Elmiro (Ramey), to Rodrigo (Fisichella). Iago (Pastine) tells Otello that she’s been unfaithful.

February 11
Bernstein’s On the Town & West Side Story
On a 24-hour leave in New York City, three sailors (Garrison, Ollmann, Hampson) meet and connect with three women (Von Stade, Daly, McLaughlin). In a modern Romeo and Juliet story, a Puerto Rican woman, Maria (Te Kanawa), falls in love with a “real” American, Tony (Carreras).

February 18
Bellini’s Norma
A Druid priestess, Norma (Callas), is in a love triangle with her best friend, Adalgisa (Ludwig), and the father of her children, Pollione (Corelli). (From the Ruocchio Archives.)

February 25 Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande
After meeting Mélisande (Ewing) while hunting in the forest, Prince Golaud (Van Allen) marries her and then introduces his new wife to his half-brother, Pelléas (Le Roux)—and they promptly begin an adulterous relationship.

Opera House Newsletter

Bob describes the story of each week’s opera in his weekly Opera House Newsletter, e-mailed each Wednesday morning. Use the sign up form below to join the mailing list.

See previous quarters’ programming for Thursday Night Opera House.

Masthead photo: Puccini’s La Bohème by Evan Zimmerman and the Metropolitan Opera