The Metropolitan Opera and WQXR, New York City’s classical music station, today announced a second season of “Aria Code” — the critically-acclaimed podcast about opera’s most legendary arias — debuting Wednesday, November 13.
Hailed by the New York Times as “a major event and a gift” and by The New Yorker as “elegantly constructed [and] effortlessly listenable,” “Aria Code” draws listeners into an inventive and stunning sonic world built around a single aria. Each episode features interviews with opera stars, experts, and people far beyond the world of opera who explore the arias’ stories, universal themes, deep emotions and relevance to contemporary times, and pairs them with a stellar recording from the Metropolitan Opera’s treasured archive. Host Rhiannon Giddens, the Grammy Award-winning artist and MacArthur “Genius,” brings an intimate and accessible approach to the artform, welcoming aficionados and newcomers alike.
Season Two of “Aria Code” will address one of opera’s most enduring and universal themes — desire, in its many forms: pining for an absent lover, thirsting for power, craving the early romantic spark of a marriage, longing for lost youth, grieving a spouse, and clamoring for freedom.
The series kicks off with “Una macchia è qui tuttora,” the dramatic sleepwalking scene from Verdi’s Macbeth that marks the moment of Lady Macbeth’s psychological unraveling — the cost of unchecked ambition and the drive for power. The episode features Dame Judi Dench, whose theater portrayal of Lady Macbeth is iconic; Anna Netrebko, who shares her enthusiasm for this richly complex character and the unique vocal demands of the role; Washington Post classical critic Anne Midgette, whose insights illuminate Verdi’s magnificent dramatic sensibility; and Tana Wojczuk, writer and writing teacher at New York University, who explores how the archetypal figure of Lady Macbeth as an ambitious, bloodthirsty woman too easily maps onto and condemns contemporary female politicians.
The season continues its meditation on desire with episodes on arias including “Un bel dì” (Puccini’s Madama Butterfly), “Summertime” (Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), “Dove sono” (Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro), and “In questa reggia” (Puccini’s Turandot), with stunning performances by Ana María Martínez, Golda Schultz, Susanna Phillips, and Christine Goerke.
Guests this season include:
- Anna Chlumsky, on the far-reaching effects of trauma in Turandot
- Dan Savage, on the sadness and isolation of neglect in a marriage and longing to rekindle the flame in Le nozze di Figaro
- Kyoko Katayama, writer and former psychotherapist, whose own story as the daughter of a Japanese woman and the American G.I. who left her pregnant in postwar Japan mirrors the tale of Madama Butterfly
- Sandra Kumomoto Stanley, Professor at California State University, on the characterization of Madama Butterfly as a projection of the Western male fantasy of the self-sacrificing, exotic woman, and the complicated racial and transnational issues the opera raises
- Dr. Kara Cooney, Egyptologist, who describes the strange and singular reign of the pharaoh Akhnaten, the heresy that led to his downfall, and how religious and political ideas that were once radical — such as monotheism — have become the norm
- Dr. Naomi André, Professor of Arts and Ideas, University of Michigan and author, Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, contextualizes issues of race and gender in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
“WQXR is thrilled to partner with the Metropolitan Opera to bring listeners a second season of ‘Aria Code,’” said Shannon Connolly, Senior Vice President of Music, New York Public Radio. “The series will continue to celebrate the timeless beauty and artistry of opera with a focus on desire, but will also be very much of our time, holding up a mirror to our own zeitgeist. With stories of the intoxicating allure of power, the agony of unrequited love, the complexity of identity, and the oppression of racism and sexism, ‘Aria Code’ will illuminate and animate the contemporary relevance of these centuries old works.”
“I’m so excited to be working on the second season of ‘Aria Code,’” said Giddens. “Music is one of the best vehicles to show us how we are all much more similar than different, and we really feel that in opera. This music communicates the full extent of the human experience, and this season we’re really going deep into the emotionality of these arias and into what makes them tick.”
“Aria Code” is available at AriaCode.org and all other platforms where podcasts are available. New episodes will be released through January 29, 2020.