Metropolitan Opera, 2011-12

I’m going to be back in the US next fall. This means fewer trips out of town for whacked-out opera (*whispers* did I mention that I’m going to Anna Nicole and Parsifal in London next weekend and I’m REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS?!?! sorry can’t whisper about that). But I am looking forward to reuniting with “my” Met, and they just announced their next season, so let’s prejudge for a second. It’s not fair, but I’m going to do it!

I agree with Lucy at Opera Obsession that it’s a somewhat underwhelming group of new productions. I think this is because an 800-pound gorilla in the form of the Ring is taking up all the budget and the tech people’s sleep. The selection is OK, though having two of the productions be French operas of a similar style (Manon, Faust) is unfortunate. And no Strauss in repertory?!?!? That’s just nuts, in a bad way. Couldn’t they leave out Butterfly or Tosca or Ernani and stick in, I don’t know, Arabella? A revival of Die ägyptische Helena? Guess not.

You can read the full press release here, and admire the shiny online brochure with photos here.

New Productions:
Anna Bolena, d. David McVicar, c. Marco Armiliato, with Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca, Stephen Costello.
I’m SO beating you guys to this. Netrebko and Garanca are doing Bolena together here in Vienna in April. But I’m looking forward to McVicar’s production, which will be one of his artist-inspired jobs, this time Holbein.  This is Opening Night, BTW.
Necessary-ness: This is an all-star thing. Very necessary.

Don Giovanni d. Michael Grandage c. James Levine, with Mariusz Kwiecien/Gerald Finley, Marina Rebeka, Barbara Frittoli/Annette Dasch, Mojca Erdmann/Isabel Leonard, Ramón Vargas/Matthew Polenzani, Luca Pisaroni/John Relyea
I have heard good things about Grandage’s Glyndebourne Billy Budd, but the online brochure reveals this will be the not-so-hotly-anticipated return of the Advent Calendar Set. Cast is not bad and Donna Anna debutant Marina Rebeka has teh buzz in Germany, but I would have preferred Ana María Martinez as Elvira over often-wobbly Frittoli and intonationally-challenged Dasch. Or Susannah Philips? Véronique Gens? After Pisaroni’s Figaro this week, I’m skeptical about his voice in the giant Met, but we’ll see.
Necessary-ness: The current Don is a real snooze. This is a necessity for the house, and hopefully will be necessary to see, too.

The RING, all of it. d. Robert Lepage, c. James Levine, in theory, with Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt/Katarina Dalayman, Stephanie Blythe, Eva Maria Westbroek, Stuart Skelton/Jonas Kaufmann, many more
I have some catching up to do here. But the computer programmers are named in the press release. Technocracy reigns. Not that tech isn’t important but there seems to be some confusion between means and ends going on here. The Ring isn’t Avatar, it’s got a lot of tangled substance to interpret and even a Jeopardy-winning computer can’t do that. But sign me up for Cycle 2, please (the one with Dalayman as Brünnhilde).
Necessary-ness: If we imply that it is less than necessary, The Machine will go on a rampage and kill us all.

Faust d. Des McAnuff, c. Yannick Nézet-Séguin/Alain Altinoglu with Angela Gheorghiu/Malin Byström/Marina Poplavskaya, Jonas Kaufmann/Roberto Alagna/Joseph Calleja, René Pape/Ferruccio Furlanetto.
I am a Gounod anti-fan, but, yeah, the Gheorghiu/Kaufmann/Pape cast is enough to get me to opening night anyways. Second night, at least. No, first night, lowest chance of a Gheorghiu cancellation that way. The triple-casting of the title role with terrifyingly intense Kaufmann, perpetual teenager Alagna, and easy-going Calleja is impressive, but it’s probably going to work better for one of them than the other two, unless the production is really vague. It is this ENO coproduction, by the way. 
Necessary-ness: Second new Faust in not very long. The current one is even worse than the Don, but this is a much less important opera. Not that necessary, but as a Gounod hater I’m prejudiced.

The Enchanted Island, pastiche with music by Handel, Rameau, Vivaldi, “and others” to a libretto by Jeremy Sams, d. Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, c. William Christie with Danielle de Niese, Joyce DiDionato, David Daniels, Placido Domingo, Luca Pisaroni
On the one hand, I love it. But on the other, doesn’t this sound like an all-star camp trainwreck waiting to happen? Or something that is actively trying to be a camp trainwreck, and will therefore end up intensely awkward? There are many perfectly wonderful Baroque operas out there that the Met has never deigned to produce, and it’s somewhat insulting that they have to come up with a new one instead. It is a fab cast, though.
Necessary-ness: Hopefully will be justified by being good.

Manon d. Laurent Pelly c. Fabio Luisi with Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, Paulo Szot, David Pittsinger.
Another London co-production, this time from Covent Garden, here is Intermezzo’s report on the earlier incarnation. This looks like an all-around decent thing, hopefully elevated to better by Netrebko and Beczala and Luisi. You may know Pelly from his La fille du régiment with the maps and tanks, but it seems like he was in a less twee mood this time, thank goodness.
Necessary-ness: I actually don’t know much about the old Manon, but since it hasn’t seen the light of day very often recently, I’m guessing it is due for a replacement. Besides, this one looks pretty good.

Notable Repertory
Billy Budd: with Nathan Gunn!
Khovanshchina: Fantastic, gripping opera despite its mind-boggling plot. Petrenko, Borodina, Abdrazakov, and Galouzine should be fantastic. Valery Gergiev’s iron grip on all non-Chaikovsky Russian rep at the Met is broken, possibly an anomaly.
The Makropulos Case: I adore this opera, and here’s finally a role that Karita Mattila will shine in.
La Traviata: I am highly skeptical of a Dessay Violetta at this point on vocal terms, but I do want to see the Decker production. Fabio Luisi conducts!

Much of the rest falls into the category of “I will go if I hear it’s especially good/get a free or cheap ticket/ need to get out of the house,” but I’m not marking my calendar yet.

Jonas Kaufmann Recital: Obviously the most important event of the season. (Not really. And the Met for a Liederabend is ridiculous. But does that mean I’ll skip it? Hell no!)

There’s a lot left for me in Europe before any of this happens, however…

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  1. I can't go back a decade. I thought the Figaro of a few years ago with Harteros, Keenlyside, Siurina (*marvelous* Susannah), and Terfel (hammy but fun) was wonderful, recent Met Idomeneos and Dons not so good. But I'm trying to be OPTIMISTIC here.

    I think there are some great Mozart singers out there who don't sing Mozart roles very often because they can easily get cast in starrier and flashier 19th-century roles, e.g. Netrebko, Garanca, Beczala, and Keenlyside (who has no business doing later 19th century rep IMO).

  2. Indeed. At least to some extent the decline in Mozart is by choice of the Singers. Garanca a sensational Cherubino in Vienna (with Harteros, D'Arcangelo, Damrau) in 2006. I think Keenlyside is doing the Count this year at Salzburg and while I like his Rodrigo its clearly not comfortable for him.