Aria Code Dive into opera's most famous arias with the Met Opera's leading stars. Hosted by Rhiannon Giddens. Produced by WNYC Studios and WQXR, in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera.
Aria Code

Aria Code

From WNYC Radio

Dive into opera's most famous arias with the Met Opera's leading stars. Hosted by Rhiannon Giddens. Produced by WNYC Studios and WQXR, in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera.

Most Recent Episodes

Flower Power: Don José and Dangerous Love in Bizet's Carmen

You hear the message over and over in pop culture: love overcomes everything. But when Don José sings "The Flower Song" in Bizet's Carmen, you're reminded that love has a dark side, too. In the Season 1 finale, host Rhiannon Giddens welcomes tenor Roberto Alagna, critic Anne Midgette and psychologist Andrew G. Marshall to consider the crazy, possessive side of love and the importance of experiencing art that doesn't have a fairy-tale ending. Then, you'll hear Alagna sing the role of the passionate and violent Don José onstage at the Metropolitan Opera.

Massenet's Werther: You've Got Mail!

A picture may paint a thousand words, but nothing compares to the intimacy and immediacy of a handwritten letter. Hearing the "Letter Aria" from Jules Massenet's Werther will prove it. From an opera based on the Goethe novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, this scene finds the tortured heroine Charlotte re-reading the letters of the doomed poet. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens welcomes soprano Isabel Leonard, pianist Mary Dibbern and author Peter Bognanni to explore why the words we write to each other have so much power – sometimes even more than the ones we say aloud. They'll reflect on Massenet's talent for showing Charlotte's deep connection to Werther and you'll even get a real-life story about how email brought two people together. Then you'll hear Isabel Leonard sing the complete scene onstage at the Metropolitan Opera.

Mozart's Queen of the Night: Outrage Out of This World

When the Voyager spacecraft set off to explore the galaxy in 1977, it carried a recording to represent the best of humanity. The "Golden Record" featured everyone from Bach to Chuck Berry, but there was only one opera aria: the rage-fest from Mozart's The Magic Flute. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens is joined by soprano Kathryn Lewek, musicologist Carolyn Abbate and author Jan Swafford. Together they consider why the Queen of the Night's big moment – "Der Hölle Rache" – is an out-of-this-world achievement, how Mozart created a profound fairy tale for adults and what it takes for a soprano to reach the stratosphere. You'll hear Kathryn Lewek hit all those high notes onstage at the Metropolitan Opera and talk to Timothy Ferris, the man who produced NASA's "Golden Record."

Verdi's Rigoletto: First Love, Wrong Love

You've probably been there: in love for the first time and enchanted by the very sound of your sweetheart's name. The problem for Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto is that her new love isn't who he says he is. The worst will come (it's opera), but for a few brief moments in Act I, Gilda's innocence sweeps you away. She's young and head over heels and obsessing over the "caro nome," the "dear name" of her new love. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens is joined by soprano Nadine Sierra, writer Paul Thomason and psychologist Carl Pickhardt. Together they consider the dizzying thrill of your first love, Verdi's brilliant powers of orchestration and why Gilda's infatuation rings so true even today. You'll hear Nadine Sierra reminisce about her own formative experiences and then fall in love with the so-called "Gualtier Maldè" onstage at the Metropolitan Opera.

Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment: Sailing the High C's

Singing even one high C can be an event for the tenor and his audience. Everyone in the room knows how easily it could go wrong. Multiply that pressure by nine? You get "Ah, mes amis." Gaetano Donizetti wrote this high-stakes aria for his opera La Fille du Régiment. The young hero Tonio has just enlisted in the army and received permission to marry the girl of his dreams. "Ah, mes amis" is his celebration: Tonio's bursting with so much joy that the guy sings nine – count 'em, NINE – high C's. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens considers the sheer athleticism it takes to pull off "Ah, mes amis" with a singer, a vocal coach and a former NFL player. And once they've surveyed this Mount Everest of tenor arias, you'll hear tenor Javier Camarena scale its heights from his base camp on the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Saint-Saëns's Dalila: She's a Femme Fatale

She seduces, she traps, she destroys. She's a femme fatale and her signature aria is the dangerously alluring "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" from Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns. "My heart opens to your voice," sings Dalila, "like the flowers open to the kisses of the dawn." It sure sounds like a love song, but just below the surface it's simmering with seduction and betrayal. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens welcomes mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, writer James Jorden of Parterre Box and scholar Caroline Blyth. Her guests reflect on the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah, the trope of the femme fatale and how Saint-Saëns created this unforgettable moment that sounds as if Dalila's slowly removing her clothing, one note at a time. Plus, you'll hear Garanča sing the complete aria from the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Puccini's Tosca: I Offered Songs to the Stars

When things go from bad to worse for Tosca, Puccini's tragic heroine, she turns inward and prays. "I lived for art," she tells God, "I lived for love." What did I do to deserve all this? Tosca's despair and the moving way Puccini captures it musically speak so directly to artists, to audiences, to all of us, that "Vissi d'arte" has become one of the most famous arias in opera. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and guests Sondra Radvanovsky, Rufus Wainwright and Vivien Schweitzer consider what it means to "live for art" and how Tosca's lament has given them much needed strength, whether facing personal struggles, the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic or the persistent sexual harassment that sparked the #MeToo movement. Plus, you'll hear Sondra Radvanovksy sing the complete aria from the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Verdi's Otello: We All Have Demons, But Sometimes The Demons Have Us

The legendary Plácido Domingo says he's not a jealous guy, but he must know something about what Shakespeare called "the green-eyed monster" since he's played Othello more than 200 times. No opera captures what happens when that monster takes over better than Verdi's adaptation of the tragedy. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and her guests consider how jealousy always seems to know where to find us: at work, in our friendships, and of course, in love. Plácido Domingo takes you through his career-defining role, sharing the tragedy of a man undone by his demons, plus you'll hear him sing the complete aria "Dio mi potevi Scagliar" from the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Puccini's La Boheme: Is Love at First Sight Really a Thing?

Love at first sight not just a cliché of romantic comedies: more than half of all Americans say they've experienced it. Can this explain the timeless appeal of Puccini's La Bohème? In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and her guests consider what love at first sight is really all about, sharing perspectives on the music, the history and, yes, the brain science. Plus, you'll hear tenor Vittorio Grigolo sing the complete aria "Che gelida manina" from the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Verdi's La Traviata: Opera's Original 'Pretty Woman'

What would you give up for true love? Verdi's La Traviata opens a window into a courtesan's heart as she makes the biggest decision of her life. In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens welcomes soprano Diana Damrau, dramaturg Cori Ellison and former escort Dr. Brooke Magnanti to reflect on the spectacular Act I finale and its deep inner conflicts around love and freedom. Plus, you'll hear the complete aria sung by Diana Damrau from the Met Opera stage.

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