Peter Goodman in Newsday:

The very genesis of opera itself is re-created unexpectedly in “Adriana Lecouvreur,” Francesco Cilea’s one big hit and a work that is mostly used as a vehicle for prima donnas and gran tennores. The moment comes at the climax of Act III when Adriana, an actress, in a barely veiled attack on her rival in love, the Princess de Bouillon, recites a passage from Racine’s play “Phedre” denouncing adultery and sin. It begins as a dramatic recitation with orchestral accompaniment. But Adriana’s passion rises. Her anguish, jealousy and anger can no longer be fully expressed by mere speech – and suddenly the actress erupts into song. When done properly – see Mirella Freni’s portrayal, currently at the Metropolitan Opera – it is an episode of power and insight. Opera begins when theater explodes. . . .

It demands a genuine star in the title role and works best when there are performers of equal caliber elsewhere in the cast. Freni is just such a star and Thursday’s performance was one of the high marks of this Met season. Freni’s Adriana was a magnificent creature, a grand actress full of fire and jealousy, yet tenderly vulnerable and eager for love, Tosca’s sister in every way. Freni’s performance offered lessons in vocalism and acting from her first moments onstage. Emotions flew across her face, were projected by her voice and supported by her bearing at every moment. Her voice was rich, varied and flexible, capable of careful expression and spontaneous eruption.

On this day in 1999 the Metropolitan Opera presented its main stage premiere of Carlisle Floyd‘s Susannah.

Birthday anniversaries of composers Johann Sebastian Bach (1685), Franz Joseph Haydn (1732), conductor Clemens Krauss (1893), tenors Franz Völker (1899) and John Mitchinson (1932), soprano Elisabeth Grümmer (1911) and bass Frederick Guthrie (1924).

Happy birthday to bass-baritone Jozsef Dene, sopranos Olivia Stapp and Christine Weidinger, tenors Dénes Gulyás and Robert Gambill, composer Jake Heggie and baritone Matthias Goerne.