Next year at the Met: what I’ll miss

I will not be around the Metropolitan Opera next season.  I’ll switch to covering the wonders of Central Europe and its many prospects shortly, but first I wanted to preview what at the Met I will miss most, by way of recommending y’all go to it, even if I can’t.  Because tickets are going on sale soon!  So here are some of the Met productions I think look most intriguing.  The links on the titles go to the Met website’s listings.

Full Season Press Release (note: there have been a few changes since…)
Live in HD Broadcast Schedule

New Productions (apparently I consider all of them highlights)
Photo gallery
Some short videos of new productions

The Ring will supposedly look something like this.

Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre.  I am a Robert Lepage skeptic.  He seems more interested in creating images than narrative, and more taken with gadgets than characters.  And a Ring Cycle without an overarching sense of narrative would be dire.  This will be an important moment for the Met, and let’s hope that it turns out well.  As if that weren’t enough, add a complicated set, a very fragile conductor, and a dangerous number of unreliable and/or role-debuting singers and you have… enormous potential for backstage drama.  The only person sure to benefit from this one is La Cieca.  (Though the Sieglinde, Eva Maria Westbroek, seems to be pure awesome.)

Musorgsky, Boris Godunov. I saw superbass René Pape do this role last summer, he was utterly fantastic, hopefully the production will work.  Great director Peter Stein has mysteriously left, replaced by Stephen Wadsworth as of last week.  Not sure what to make of that.  Wadsworth is responsible for the Met’s Iphigénie (pretty good) and Rodelinda (pretty bad). Sorry to start this off on such a sour note, I’m just a cynic. (Video of Pape as Boris in the 1869 version, from Vienna–shame they put the mics next to the prompter)

Verdi, Don Carlo. Roberto Alagna is a most excellent Carlos… oops, that was almost 15 years ago, and it was in the far superior French version, not the Italian one on offer here.  But I still think he’ll be solid.  Hytner isn’t going to reinvent anything but the word from London, where this production has already played, is mostly good.  Furlanetto will be a memorable Filippo.  Nézét-Seguin is intriguing.  I might go to the HD of this one, it’s one of my favorite operas. (Watch the Act IV quartet from this production’s London incarnation with the Met’s future Filippo, Elisabetta, and Rodrigo (different Eboli))

It isn’t the Zeffirelli Traviata, thank God.

Verdi, La traviata. You’ve probably seen Willy Decker’s minimalist production on DVD with Anna and Rolando. Despite the scrappy singing, you can pry that DVD from my cold dead fingers; I love it.  But its wild success was closely linked to Netrebko’s own diva image and the 2006 Salzburg Festival setting.  The Met’s Violetta will be Marina Poplavskaya (who is also in Don Carlo), who is not really equivalent, the cast of Polenzani and Dobber is somewhat uninspiring, and I’m not sure if the apocalyptic excess of the production will have quite the same resonance In These Economic Times.  But at least New Year’s Eve is good timing for this one.  (Clip of Poplavskaya in this production in Amsterdam)

Adams, Nixon in China
. Honestly, I am not much of a minimalism fan.  But this is overdue from the Met, and good for them for getting Sellers and Adams and HD’ing it. (Good because we’ve been dealing with video of this quality so far.)

Rossini, Le Comte Ory.  This is an adorable opera (there’s a male chorus dressed up as nuns!), and Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau will be very cute in it (and bonus Joyce DiDonato!).  Hopefully Bartlett Sher will rein in the sliding panels and not overdo the shtick.  Don’t count on Damrau’s presence, though, she’s about to have a baby and might disappear.  (JDF does his nun thing in an old production)

Revivals (potential highlights, according to me)

Sondra Radvanovsky should not
missed in Trovatore

Verdi, Il trovatore. David McVicar: the director who can get even Marcelo Alvarez to act, more or less.  This production, from the 2008-09 season, is straightforward, smart, effective, and features lots of shirtless muscly guys hitting anvils.  The April performances will feature all four original leads (Radvanovsky /Zajick /Alvarez /Hvorostovsky), who I thought were mostly terrific.  People who say Gelb’s Met can’t successfully stage warhorses always manage to forget this one.  (Watch a bootleg of the Azucena-Manrico scene.)

Chaikovsky, The Queen of Spades. I love this opera, I love the Met’s stark production of it, and Vladimir Galouzine and Karita Mattila will provide the raw vocalism to make it happen.  In the more refined category, Peter Mattei will rock that beautiful Yeletsky aria. (Video of this production from 1999, with Placido and Hvorostovsky)

Puccini, Tosca.  I cannot recommend Luc Bondy’s production, but April showed it can be somewhat redeemed by the right cast.  Sondra Radvanovsky should be a really exciting Tosca, unfortunately no one else in any of the casts next season looks terribly promising (and the ones with Licitra and Morris should probably be avoided).  To be fair, I’ve never heard Falk Struckmann. (Sondra Radvanovsky sings “Vissi d’arte”)

Debussy, Pélleas et Mélisande. Simon Rattle’s Met debut and the appearance of this rare, challenging, and gorgeous work make this a real event.  Has the potential to be stunning.  (Sad face.) (Here is Magdalena Kozena, the Met’s Mélisande, in a different production.)

The Met’s Cosí: nothing unexpected

Mozart, Cosí fan tutte.  It’s on this list because of William Christie’s conducting debut, which should be worth hearing, but it also looks to be this season’s leading contender for the coveted Most Pulchritudinous Cast award.  Bring your opera glasses. (Watch marvelous Miah Persson, the Met’s Fiordiligi, from Glyndebourne)

I may go to one or two of the HD broadcasts next season.  But they cost 30 Euros each, and when I could see an obscene number of actual live operas for that amount of money, and enjoy something that I can’t get at home in New York, I’m not going to be a regular.  Have fun!

New production photos: Met Opera press site
Revival photos: Met Archives

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