Today Peter Gelb announced that the Metropolitan Opera has received a $400 million donation, the largest in its history. The source was apparently the Mega Millions lottery jackpot, won by a New York woman identified only as “Z.” Z., being an opera fanatic, gave a large portion of her winnings to the Met.
“Z.’s generosity will allow us to do things we’ve never dreamed of,” Gelb’s first idea was to hire James Cameron to produce the complete works of Puccini, but Z. wasn’t a fan of this.
“She’s learned from Sybil Harrington, I think,” Gelb added, “and this donation comes with a few stipulations. Considering Z.’s munificence, I don’t think it’s anything we can’t handle. Our new initiatives will include a lot of Baroque opera and some European directors who will be new to our audience members. We think Met subscribers will find their work really, um, interesting. Most of the board has already resigned in outrage, so we don’t have them to worry about anymore. Also we might be picking up on the Bayerische Staatsoper’s boo-ban. Seems only prudent.”
In the past, the Met has struggled to recruit European directors, who prefer the more artistically open atmosphere of European houses. “Some pointed out that their apartments in Berlin are way bigger than any Manhattan place, but as soon as we promised Calixto Bieito he could sacrifice a goat onstage he signed up to direct Elisir d’amore this fall–Z. doesn’t like Bartlett Sher, so we fired him.”
He added that the Ring will be restaged by Stefan Herheim using only sets discarded from the old Otto Schenk and prematurely elderly Robert LePage productions–“not that we couldn’t afford new ones, we could, she says it’s some kind of symbolic something”–but Herheim is worried about finding foggers powerful enough to fill the entire Met with haze. “He also suggested that we could flood the downstairs lobby where all the photos of old-timey singers and productions are so people can ‘swim in the Rhine’ during intermissions to realize that they are drowning in the nostalgia for dead opera singers, this has something to with amniotic fluid. I thought we could charge admission to do this at other times, so I said OK! We’re putting part of The Machine on the stairs to function as diving boards. For the HD broadcast we’re thinking about going 3-D!”
A new temporary full-sized theater will be build on the stage of the Met to accommodate Baroque operas. A rough replica of the design of the seventeenth-century Teatro San Cassiano in Venice, it will open with a production of Cavalli’s Il Giasone. “We don’t expect many people want to see it, but there aren’t too many seats, so whatever,” Gelb said. “It’s like putting on a three-performance run of Dialogues of the Carmelites, and we do that all the time. Makes us look kind of arty. Besides, Herheim wants to use this mini-theater in his Ring too.”
The house has also bought out all of Placido Domingo’s conducting contracts and replaced him with Z.’s old friend M., though “pick a stranger off the street, they could probably do better,” was also suggested. Ekaterina Siurina will be singing Adina in the Bieito Elisir, because “Z. thinks Netrebko, though sassy, is past that role vocally,” and Netrebko will be starring instead in a new production of The Queen of Spades with Jonas Kaufmann instead, “that obviously being the best idea, and Z. thought thematizing gambling would be cute considering how she got the money.”
Z. also specified that yellow is her least favorite color and no productions were to use it as a major element of their design. She would also like a wide selection of German and Belgian beer at galas, as well as cupcakes.
The rest of Z.’s Mega Millions winnings are apparently going to curing cancer (slightly less expensive than opera) and a lot of European real estate. “She says that when I’m next in Berlin to go to the Komische Oper I have to come see her new place in Prenzlauer Berg, because it’s awesome and still has a tunnel in the basement that goes over to the Deutsche Oper.”
Further details will be announced next April 1.