Metropolitan Opera, 2014-2015

Artist’s rendering of what has happened at the Met over the summer

Met single tickets go on sale to the general public tomorrow, and while the season’s start still is a major question mark due to seemingly intractable labor disputes I think we’ll hopefully have some opera at some point or another? Because of this uncertainty I don’t imagine a whole lot of people will rush to the box office tomorrow, but I have written a preview of everything that is currently scheduled to happen anyway. I have, spoiler, moved to Philadelphia–more on that later–so I won’t be going to a large number of these, but I will nonetheless offer my suggestions as to what you should get yourself to the Met to see, what the world would not miss should it not occur, and so on.

(Side note: I write this from bucolic Annandale-on-Hudson, where I am dramaturging for the Bard Music Festival. I’m working on a Schubert jukebox operetta (as well as a genuine Schubert Singspiel) which a) exists and b) is going to be performed tomorrow at 5:30. It is a charming program and the cast is lovely, please stop by.)

Anyway, on to the Met! You can peruse the full offerings with dates and such here. The HD broadcast schedule can be found here; productions with these broadcasts are marked HD.

Le nozze di Figaro. Fearless innovator predictable routiner Richard Eyre takes on my personal favorite opera, promising a setting in 1920s Seville. Let us hope there will not be too many of the Spanish clichés so beloved in the opera house. Marina Poplavskaya sometimes give incredibly moving performances but she has none of the elegance and precision required for Mozartian singing and I am dubious about her as the Countess. Our Countess will be relative unknown Amanda Majeski (replacing Marina Poplavskaya), who I saw sing an impressive Donna Elvira in Philadelphia last spring. In the rest of the cast, Marlis Petersen is always a class act, as are Peter Mattei and Ildar Abdrazakhov. Levine conducts, probably slowly. (Opens the season on September 22.) HD

The Death of Klinghoffer. Repeat after me: they cancelled the broadcast, not the live performances. This is a production from the English National Opera, where it was widely discussed but, as far as I know, never as threatened as this production already has been. The timing is, to put it mildly, delicate and the Met is in a vulnerable spot. I’m not holding my breath for them to show any backbone, but let’s hope this actually makes it onstage. (Premiere on October 20, or one can hope.) If you haven’t read up on this piece, you might start with Robert Fink’s essay.

The Merry Widow. Renée Fleming takes on Hanna Glawari’s forgiving tessitura in the company of Nathan Gunn, who is ideally cast as Danilo. Jeremy Sams again provides a translation. Susan Stroman promises an all-dancing extravaganza. I have major opinions about this piece and you can read them over there. If we’re lucky this will be less smug than last season’s trying Fledermaus. Personally I think it would be best if Stroman put her skills to work on something sprawling and weird and Louis XIV-era French, but I realize that is unrealistic. (Premiere December 31.) HD

Iolanta in Baden Baden

Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle. A double bill in a production by
Mariusz Trelinski that was done in Baden Baden a few years back.
Netrebko is in Iolanta (which is by Chaikovsky), and she should be
great, and Beczala should be good too. The
Bartók stars Nadja Michael, presumably the opera is obscure enough and
chromatic enough and in Hungarian enough that most people won’t be able to tell if she is on
pitch or not. Gergiev is conducting so expect some fun on that front.
(Premiere January 26.) HD

Gelb’s Boognosticator predicts zero boos for these costumes

La donna del lago. A DiDonato-Flórez star vehicle, though look for fabulous mezzo Daniela Barcellona to steal the show right out from under them, as she did when I saw almost this exact cast in London. That London production was supposed to go to the Met but it was, um, not that great and a Paul Curran one from Santa Fe is showing up instead. Fun fact: the London production was itself a replacement for another production that flopped in Paris which was originally bound for both London and the Met. Third time’s the charm, I guess. It’s a tricky opera to make theatrically compelling, but this cast does do some very impressive singing in it. (Premiere February 16.) HD

Cavelleria rusticana/Pagliacci: The director is David McVicar, a competent director whose Met work has mostly been really boring. I actually have never seen either of these operas, which I know is weird, so I guess I will, though Marcelo Álvarez in both of the big tenor roles isn’t making me too enthusiastic about it. Fabio Luisi conducts and this should be in his wheelhouse, the ladies include Eva-Maria Westbroek and Patricia Racette. (Premiere April 14.) HD (Note: corrected because I originally named the director as Bartlett Sher, who I think was originally scheduled for this. Small mercies.)

Aida. Business as usual, unless the horses go on strike. Or is it a donkey? I hear Latonia Moore is worth hearing in the title role, but I have not yet heard her myself. I hope the Met sometime casts her in a role other than Aida, which is a bit of a trap for African-American sopranos. At least it sounds like her voice is the right Fach for it. I have heard powerhouse Monastyrska, who is in some of the other ones. Berti and Giordani are the uninspiring Radamèse and Olga Borodina will try her high note luck in some performances. Beware, Domingo is conducting a few of these.

Un ballo in maschera. I liked this production more than most people did. It has atmosphere. Sondra Radvanovsky is back, which is good. I anticipate Piotr Beczala might be stretched a bit thin as Gustavus III.

Barber of Seville. The donkey might go on strike. Or is it a horse? Or is this the one that inexplicably has scantily clad ladies towing Figaro’s cart? I think it is, but I haven’t seen it since the premiere. This is the full Italian one, not the short kiddie version. HD

La bohème. Zeffirelli business as usual, except December 10 and 13 may be your only chances to hear The Elusive Chanteuse Angela Gheorghiu–and not “may be” because she is apt to turn up for something else. Soon-to-be-major soprano Sonya Yoncheva shows up in January. Frizza conducting is not good news.

Carmen. Donkey on strike? Is there a donkey? Anyway, Jonas Kaufmann shows up for two nights only to sing Don José with Elina Garanca in March. You can also see Anita Rachvelishvili, Roberto Alagna, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Anita Hartig, and Ailyn Pérez in various casting permutations. HD

Les contes d’Hoffmann. Grigolo! Sometimes Polenzani! Plus people! I just saw Hibla Gerzmava (the Antonia) in London recently and I didn’t write about her but I found her interestingly nuts and her voice big and exciting. Levine conducts some of these. HD

Go Liannaaaaa!

Don Carlo. Nézet-Séguin is promising. Do your best to see the one performance on April 15 where impressive and immensely likeable Lianna Haroutounian replaces Barbara Frittoli (who when I saw her in this in 2013 was lackluster at best).

Don Giovanni. Luca Pisaroni as Leporello! One reason to stay awake through this incredibly boring production.

Ernani. WHY DOES THE MET DO ERNANI ALMOST EVERY SEASON? THIS IS CAPSLOCK LEVEL CONFUSING TO ME. I mean, it’s alright, but it’s not that special. Why can’t they occasionally put on some Janacek or something?

Hansel and Gretel. The giant fish waiter better not go on strike, because this production (Richard Jones) is my favorite. And the score is fabulous Wagner-with-tunes. Really great for everyone.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. A Graham Vick production which I haven’t seen. Eva-Maria Westbroek is known to be terrific in the title role. Personally this opera creeps me the hell out but it is still a must-see.

Lucia di Lammermoor. What if the greyhounds Irish wolfhouds go on strike? Joseph Calleja, a singer with the voice of an angel and the temperament of a golfer, will make beautiful noises as Edgardo. Locally unknown quantity Albina Shagimuratova is Lucia.

Macbeth. Anna Netrebko takes on the beast of a Lady. If there is a strike this one will be the big early in the season loss for me. Also involves Lucic, Calleja, and Pape. HD

Manon. Oh yeah, that production. The one with Netrebko in a pink dress, but a long one. I forgot it, somehow, it wasn’t too memorable. This time Damrau and Grigolo are in it and she should be excellent.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Finally some Wagner!!!! It’s about time. Levine will conduct and it will make up in hours what we missed last season. This is a big, heavy, and totally literal-minded Otto Schenk production and features Johan Botha as Walther. I know he sings this one really beautifully and there is enough going on around him to distract from his refrigerator-like stage deportment. Johan Reuter sings Sachs, with an army of thousands. HD

The Rake’s Progress. Up and coming Layla Claire and Paul Appleby in a tear-jerker about a countess who loved her gardener the only standard rep opera to involve a bearded lady.

La traviata. The production that proves that Regietheater can sell at the Met, something people seem to still not believe. Whether the technically adept but bland Marina Rebeka can continue this, though, remains to be seen. Ludovic Tézier should be a Gérmont worth hearing.

Die Zauberflöte. The dancing bears might go on strike. Surprise debutant from a little bit ago Pretty Yende sings Pamina.

See you there. Or not. TBA!

PHOTO CREDITS: Iolanta: Baden-Baden/Andrea Kemper. Don Carlo: Bill Cooper, Donna del lago: Ken Howard.

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  1. You might "you might start with Robert Fink's essay," but a more edifying secondary source with which to commence a study of The Death of Klinghoffer would be Richard Taruskin's essay "The Danger of Music," especially as found in his book with the same title which contains a followup commentary rife with tales of utterly astonishing non-comprehension of the original essay. Along with other truths, Mr. Fink's basic premises are incontrovertibly demolished therein.

  2. BOHEME first cast is strong: Bryan Hymel, Quinn Kelsey, and Greek soprano Myrto Papatanasio, whose Paris ALCINA last winter was quite lovely (if a little small-scale). Don't know the Mimi, Ekaterina Shcherbachenko, but Operabase shows an impressive performance record, mostly in Russia.

  3. Your are obviously not a "dog person." The dogs in Lucia (who I once met in the plaza on their way to work) are Irish Wolfhounds not Greyhounds–I remember thinking at the time wouldn't Enrico have Scottish Deerhounds. One of them kept yawning during the first scene which was pretty much how I felt about the whole evening. I don't get the whole love affair with Ernani–forget weak box office performers like Janacek (who I love)–no Fidelio or Lohengrin since 2006 (Volpe's last season), Salome since 2008 or Elektra since 2009 (even though there is a new Elektra planned sometime in the future).

  4. Chantarelle–indeed, not bad at all. I have heard Scherbachenko and she has a lovely voice but also be a bit small-scale. I am yet to warm to Bryan Hymel, and his selling point seems to be that he can pull off really tough Meyerbeer-type rep that no one else can, so casting him as Rodolfo is not too logical to me.

    Bryan–oh dear. I mean, oh, deer? Sorry about the error, I am indeed a total cat person. And is Janacek really that much poorer at the box office than Ernani? I would love to see more Fidelio or Strauss as well–and Lohengrin, for that matter, but I have read that the Robert Wilson production is monstrously expensive to put on.

  5. The Rake's Progress has an amazing cast. Claire and Appleby are lovely to listen to and look at the support; Steph Blythe, Gerry Finley and Brindley Sherratt. Shame only three performances and no broadcast.