Metropoitan Opera, 2013-2014

Onegin is pictured in Act 3 while Tatiana is in Act 1.

Single tickets for the Met’s 2013-14 season go on sale on August 11 (and sooner for donors), so I thought it was time to write my annual preview. It’s a promising schedule, with a good amount that I noted down as must-sees right away. You can admire the online brochure here. Here are my remarks.

It’s also a season that is seemingly split between stuff for the novice and connoisseur, with an unusual assortment of rarities like the The Nose, Prince Igor, and Arabella balanced out by a dozen performances each of Tosca, Butterfly, and Bohème.  To some extent it’s always like this, but it’s particularly pronounced this year. What gets pushed out seems to be the middle–there is no Wagner at all, and the only Mozart is Così and the kid-targeted abridged Flute. And while I’m not whining about the lack of early Verdi myself (it’s not my favorite), the Met usually features at least one pre-Rigoletto work.

I also noticed that with the exception of Prince Igor all the productions have either already been produced by a London house or are directed by someone British. I realize that Britain probably has the operatic culture most similar to the US’s, but this seems excessively narrow in focus. 

Nonetheless there is much to look forward to: the Met debut of Dmitri Tcherniakov, James Levine’s return, and 14 performances of La Bohème. OK, maybe not so much on that last one.

This year I’ll be writing a second preview covering groups such as the Gotham Chamber Opera, New York City Opera, and visiting groups such as Les Arts Florissants. Stay tuned.

You can find specific dates and details for each production on this page.

New Productions

Chaikovsky, Eugene Onegin (premiere September 23): This Deborah Warner production received mixed (at best) reviews at the English National Opera, and there has been general consternation that it is replacing the popular current Robert Carsen production at the Met. I can see the point: the Carsen has had a good enough run, but the Warner really doesn’t sound exciting. But it stars Netrebko (her third Met opening night in a row–I love ya, Trebs, but really?), so it had to be new, it seems. Mariusz Kwiecien sings Onegin and Piotr Beczala sings Lensky. Note that the second cast features the fabulous Onegin of Peter Mattei, but also Marina Poplovskaya as Tatiana and Rolando Villazon as Lensky, so it may be a matter of taste.

Two out of two Met Onegin sets agree: Onegin is about dead trees

Nico Muhly, Two Boys (October and November): Our new production theme seems to be things borrowed from the English National Opera. This one also received mixed reviews, and since I wasn’t nuts about Muhly’s Dark Sisters, I am somewhat ambivalent. But it’s great that the Met is producing new opera at all, I suppose. The internet theme means, as some slogan will surely remind us, that opera can be Contemporary! I never would have guessed. Cast includes Alice Coote, Paul Appleby, Jennifer Zetlan, and Caitlin Lynch (the latter two were in Dark Sisters).

Verdi, Falstaff (December and January): Oops, this one isn’t from the ENO, it’s from Covent Garden. Since we’re losing one Carsen production in Onegin, it’s nice we’re at least gaining another in this Falstaff, particularly because it sounds fairly good. Ambrogio Maestri, last year’s Dulcamara, sings Falstaff, Angela Meade is Alice Ford, and Lisette Oropesa should be beautiful as Nannetta. No word on whether Rupert the Horse is coming over from London.


J. Strauss II, Die Fledermaus (December, January, February): This one is an original, but it’s directed by British polymath Jeremy Sams, who is doing a new translation. I remind you that he brought us Enchanted Island. Douglas Carter Beane is doing the dialogue. Susanna Philips and Christopher Maltman sing the Eisensteins.

Borodin, Prince Igor (February and March). The only new production this season that neither comes from London nor is directed by a British person. The director is Dmitri Tcherniakov, who is one of the top Regie suspects in Europe and has had great success with Russian works like Ruslan and Lydmila, Khovanshchina, and, er, Onegin, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for this one. The cast is also very Slavic, and includes Ildar Abdrazakov and Anita Rachvelishvili.

Massenet, Werther (February and March). This mopey opera exists primarily as a tenor vehicle, in this case the tenor is Jonas Kaufmann. The production is by (British) Richard Eyre, who did the Met’s Carmen that everyone always forgets is actually only a few years old. Elina Garanca brings her distant charms to the repressed Charlotte. I’ve seen Garanca and Kaufmann independently in this opera in Vienna, and they both managed to make me not dislike Massenet, which is something. Also, Lisette Oropesa!

Mozart, Così fan tutte (September and April): James Levine’s big comeback! Isabel Leonard and Matthew Polenzani will be elegant, and last year’s best surprise, Guanqun Yu, returns to sing one performance of Fiordiligi. And Danielle De Niese is Despina, so, er.

Shostakovich, The Nose (September and October): This is a fantastic production of a very fun opera. Go see it, particularly if you missed it the first time around. Here’s what I wrote about its premiere.

Bellini, Norma (October): Has Anyone Except Callas Sung Norma Well Since 1650? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to talk about that for the month before and after this one! It features a Sondra Radvonovsky/Kate Aldrich option and an Angela Meade/Jamie “Awesome” Barton option. Aleksandrs Atonenko sings Pollione, which, well, that’s gonna be loud.

Britten, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (October): An opera I have never seen! (*Looks slightly embarrassed.*) I better go see it. Cast includes Kathleen Kim, Erin Wall, and Iestyn Davies, conducted by James Conlon.

Puccini, Tosca (October, November, December). This production, I can’t even. Tosce include Racette, Radvanovsky, and Matos; Marii Alagna, Giordani, and one Ricardo Tamura.

Strauss, Die Frau ohne Schatten (November). Now we’re talking! This Herbert Wernicke production is said to be fantastic, this is its first revival since its premiere a decade ago, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it. Vladimir Jurowski conducts and the cast includes Anne Schwanewilms (who sang it in Salzburg), Christine Goerke, Torsten Kerl, and Johan Reuter.


Verdi, Rigoletto (November). We all remember this one from last season. (If you don’t, here.) This year we get Aleksandra Kurzak as Gilda, who should be excellent, Hvorostovsky as the hunchback (which judging by past results will not be good), and Polenzani as the Duca. Reputedly fantastic conductor Pablo Heras-Casado debuts.

Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier (Novemeber and December). Martina Serafin should bring a real Viennese touch to the Marschallin, and Garanca’s Octavian is something to look forward to–while perhaps not the perfect personality match of Charlotte, she should certainly sound great. Unfortunately Mojca Erdmann will be singing Sophie. The second cast includes Serafin with Daniela Sindram as Octavian and Erin Morley as Sophie. Edward Gardner conducts, which, ?

Mozart, The Magic Flute (December and January): This is the English-language abridged version. Cast includes Eric Owens and Nathan Gunn.

Donizetti, L’Elisir d’amore (January): Same as last year, same Trebs. This time with Ramon Vargas, whose Nemorino is quite sweet.

Puccini, La Bohème (January, March, April): It wouldn’t be the Met without 14, count ‘em, 14 performances of Zeffirelli’s ode to the opulence of starving and freezing in a Parisian garret. 14 nights when I will plan to be somewhere else. Rotating cast includes Calleja and Grigolo as Rodolfo.

Puccini, Madama Butterfly (January, February, April, May). How does one pay for one’s Prince Igors, Noses, and Shadowless Ladies? With 14 Bohèmes and 14 Butterflies. Kristine Opolais alert in the second cast. No fewer than four Pinkertons in this one.

Dvorak, Rusalka (January, February). We got rid of the dusty greenery of Schenk’s Ring, but we still have the dusty greenery of Schenk’s Rusalka. Like the last revival, this one has Fleming and Zajick, unlike the last one it also has Beczala and, as the Foreign Princess, Emily Magee.

The aria “Are you having fun yet”
(sung to “Myself I shall adore”)

The Enchanted Island (February and March): Did we have to revive this? Did we really have to?

Berg, Wozzeck (March): Levine conducts again, in what has to be the single most often performed “rarity” around. (This will be its third outing in New York in two seasons, which is more than most standard rep.) Hampson sings Wozzeck, which will be something.

Bellini, La Sonnambula (March): This is a Mary Zimmerman production that landed in 2009 with a metatheatrical thump, and I don’t think many expected it to be revived. Anyway, Diana Damrau is singing it this time.

Giordano, Andrea Chénier (March and April): Libertà, egalité, and cheese! Or something like that. Álvarez, Racette, Lucic.

Strauss, Arabella (April): A true rarity in the US, this is another musty Schenk production but it will be nice to see this opera. This was reportedly planned for our favorite cancellation-prone German soprano, and has very strong casting in, well, everything except the title role. While we’re getting Malin Byström as Arabella, the great Genia Kühmeier sings Zdenka, and Michael Volle should be an unusually good Mandryka.

Bellini, I Puritani (April, May): When last seen with Trebs, this Thanksgiving pilgram-like production looks like the unironic version of the last scene of Zimmerman’s Sonnambula. But Olga Peretyatko, singing Elvira, is reportedly good.

Rossini, La Cenerentola (April, May): DiDonato/Flórez vehicle. It’ll be LIKABLE! It’ll remind you frequently how likable it is!

Mystery Event

Vittorio Grigolo in recital (March 9): I thought the Kaufmann recital of a few years ago showed us that this (a recital in the Met) is a difficult thing to pull off even if you’re an experienced recitalist with a large voice. Grigolo is neither experienced nor does he have a big voice. Why is this happening?

Start marking your calendars, folks. (Not for the Grigolo recital. Well, I guess, if you want. I shouldn’t judge. But….)

Photo credits:
Onegin: ENO
Falstaff: Catherine Ashmore/ROH
Rigoletto, Nose, Island: Met

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  1. Is Arabella that much of a rarity? I've seen it twice; first was not so good (a forgettable cast), second was spectacular, with Mattila, Bonney, Hampson, Very, and everyone else quite great. Oh, uh, Damrau as a non-annoying Fiakermilli. Conducted by Dohnanyi, and unbelievably beautiful.

    You know, I saw Erin Morley a year ago in King Roger at Santa Fe (speaking of rarities), and she didn't sound to me like a Sophie, but I see she also sings roles like the Queen of the Night and the Forest Bird, so what do I know.

    That's a terrible choice to have to make about Onegin I mean, I want Kwiecien and Mattei alternating in the title role with Trebs.

    I am hoping to be in town for Frau. We'll see if it happens.

  2. Well, Arabella hasn't been done at the Met since 2001. But, granted, it's still a lot more popular than Die schweigsame Frau.

    Unfortunately there are no Mattei/Netrebko/Beczala Onegins. If you want to see Mattei, you get Poplovskaya and Villazón. (I actually would love to see Poplovskaya. But I can't stand Villazón.)

  3. I'm so glad to see Emily Magee finally making her debut, even if it's in a thankless role. Is Zerbinetta a fan?

  4. I think it is astounding that the Met has a season with no Wagner, 2 Verdi's and 1 1/2 Mozarts and with three Bellini operas–all in horrible productions–how any of these nightmares get to see the light of day (or houselights) is beyond me. Bryan

  5. I wonder if there's no Wagner because of Levine's limitations, Luisi's unavailability, and unwillingness to engage someone else. As in, maybe a few years ago a Wagner production was planned, but yanked because of the events of the last couple of years.

    Zerb, yeah, I know there are no Mattei/Trebs/Beczala Onegins; I was daydreaming.

    Villazon was wonderful the one time I saw him. That was around ten years ago, before it all fell apart.

  6. Bryan, yep, I have to agree with you here too. But I think both the Bellini surplus and the Wagner shortage were results of some late shifting. Well, the Puritani was supposed to be Dessay. (Still too much Bellini, IMO.) And the season was planned to include Tannhäuser and Parisfal, which were replaced by Rusalka and Wozzeck, due to money.

    We got a shit ton of Verdi last season, which might explain the relative paucity this season.

    And, honestly, we don't need to see that Don Giovanni again quite yet.

  7. Oh, also, Emily Magee! Yes, the Foreign Princess is a bad debut role. I have seen her sing Ariadne and Salome and both were pretty uneven–some exciting singing but many places where she didn't project and seemed to be swallowing the sound.

  8. It's great to see that the Met is going to do a revival of "The Nose". Better still, the opera is included in their cinema broadcastings. It was an excellent decision for those who can't attend the theater (I live in Colombia). I hope to see it on October 26. Greetings, Zerbinetta.

  9. Cool post. So, so jealous of the FrOSch and sad that it won't be being Met Broadcast'd.

    One disagreement – Grigolo does actually have a very large voice – he was almost offensively loud in last years ROH Rigoletto. His problem is that he has absolutely no taste or idea of style.

  10. I would love to see Arabella. But what I truly would pay mucho bucks to get to New York for is Mattei's Onegin. Unfortunately those mucho bucks won't be available.