One of the first operas to feature the alto saxophone, Ambroise Thomas’s 1868 opera, Hamlet is streaming tonight on Met on Demand. You can watch it here until Thursday, May 6th:
Here is the Metropolitan Opera’s description of this 2010 production.
“After over a century out of the Met’s repertoire, audiences were thrilled to discover just what a sensational evening in the theater Thomas’s Hamlet can be. Simon Keenlyside’s riveting performance as the tortured Prince of Denmark in Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s starkly brooding production had critics raving that Keenlyside’s superb singing, coupled with his deftly delineated three-dimensional Hamlet, was one of the greatest examples of operatic drama of our time. The cast includes Marlis Petersen as the long suffering Ophélie, who brilliantly shows why her mad scene is so justly famous, along with Jennifer Larmore and James Morris as Gertrude and Claudius.”
Here is a video from that production of the saxophone solo. It accompanies the play within the opera, setting up the love story between the king and queen in the play. After the play finishes, Hamlet, covered in crimson wine symbolizing the blood of his father, tears up the set as the curtain descends on the second act. The imagery accompanied with Thomas’s music creates an unforgettable performance.
To learn more about this opera and the other saxophone solos that didn’t make this production, check out my page on Ambroise Thomas. Learn how Ophelia fever swept Paris in 1868, and how Thomas used the saxophone in his last opera, Françoise de Rimini.