Met Opera, 2015-16

“So glad I got this newsprint instead of the Olivier Py Lulu.

Hello, Met-goers! The Met put its tickets on sale in June this year, several months before their recent custom, and I missed writing my usual preview because I have spent the intervening months trying to figure out how to use the Met’s new website otherwise occupied. But we still have a week before things start and it doesn’t look like much has sold out yet (though the Saturday matinees are, as always, the hottest tickets) so I believe this is still timely.

Programming note: As I mentioned earlier, I’m now based in western Massachusetts, where I’m a postdoc at Smith College. (Ask me about my spring semester opera history class!) I’m still only a bus ride away from New York but it’s become a somewhat longer bus ride. I’m closer to Boston and should be there periodically as well.

This year has a few exceptionally interesting operas among the new productions while most of the revivals are on the routine side. But perhaps some fortuitous casting will revive a previously moribund production (as happened to multiple operas last season). The season skews nineteenth century, with no Baroque and Lulu (1935, third act completed 1979) the most recent composition (second place: Turandot, premiere 1926). Also, this is a year without any Slavic operas at all—no Janacek, no Tchaikovsky, no Musorgsky, no nothing. When will we get the production of The Excursions of Mr. Broucek that we’re clamoring for?
Also, that website. How can something with so little text end up this cluttered?

The Zeffirelli Turandot can make anything cluttered.

When you mouse over the productions in the main season display, the image changes, which is quite dizzying.  It also has some glitches, like the a recital by Anna Netrebko featuring “APPLICABLE NOT” in the composer field:

Ah yes, Applicable Not, the third-greatest Socialist Realist composer of songs about tractors. But really, this is likely going to be the only Russian sung onstage all season. Unless Olga Borodina drops in to sing some Orlovskys and goes wildly off script.


New Productions
Verdi, Otello. As Desdemona, the currently very hot soprano Sonya Yoncheva takes up an
assignment I believe was planned for the vanished Marina Poplovskaya. Aleksandrs
Antonenko sings Otello, which he has been doing everywhere with good
results for some time (I saw him in Paris a few years ago). Yannick N-S’s conducting should be exciting. Bartlett Sher directs. His vision of opera seems to be founded entirely in surface charm, so I’m not sure what he’ll do with a genuine tragedy. September, October, April, May. HD.

Berg, Lulu. Marlis Petersen is again Lulu and last time she did this at the Met she was terrific, and the supporting cast of Daniel Brenna, Paul Groves, and Johan Reuter is classy. I liked William Kentridge’s production of The Nose a lot, but he’s a visual artist and it was, unsurprisingly, stronger in images than it was in Personenregie.
So the combination of him and what might be the most specifically
gestural score in all of opera is counter-intuitive. But we’ll see. This production has already happened in Amsterdam, though with a different cast. (Only two of the “new” productions are actually new to the world rather than new to New York, but considering the Met’s track record in developing these things that might be canny.) November and December. HD.

Bizet, The Pearl Fishers. The marketing photo for this one is actually the new cover art of Orientalism. But this Penny Woolcock production arrives from the ENO and is apparently rather conscious of these perils. Here it will be sung by Diana Damrau and Matthew Polenzani. Mariusz Kwiecien sings the other half of the duet which is virtually the only thing anyone knows from this opera. (There’s also a semi-popular tenor aria, for the record.) New Year’s, January, February. HD.

Puccini, Manon Lescaut. This is the kind of role where Kristine Opolais’s intensity can potentially triumph over her uneven singing. Jonas Kaufmann by contrast sings this music very precisely, almost to a fault–which you prefer is a question of taste but we’ll have to see what happens when you put them together. This Richard Eyre production arrives from Baden Baden, and it promises a “film noir setting in occupied France.” Uh, OK? HD.

Donizetti, Roberto Devereux. Sondra Radvanovsky sings all three Donizetti “Tudor Queen” leading roles this season (note: Mary Stewart wasn’t exactly a Tudor); this is the only one which is new. La Rad’s unique tone can be divisive; I like her well enough. The Met calls this the “climactic opera of the trilogy,” which as a musicologist I must point out wasn’t conceived as a trilogy and has no continuous narrative thread. They also call David McVicar’s productions of all three operas an “enormously ambitious directorial accomplishment,” which, well, no. The first two were watchable but bland and anything but ambitious. Elina Garanca, Mariusz Kwiecien, and Matthew Polenzani are also singing. (While everyone else gets gold-plated adjectives, poor Maurizio Benini is damned with the faint praise of “specialist.”) March and April. HD.

Strauss, Elektra. It’s creepy and weird for a new production to be directed by someone who passed away two years ago. But I will be the first in line to see (RIP) Patrice Chéreau’s Elektra. Based on the DVD, I’m not sure how its intimacy will read in the big, big Met, but I can’t wait to see Waltraud Meier as Klytämnestra. Super Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts. Along with Lulu this is what I am most excited about. April and May. HD.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Burkhard Ulrich, but I must admire his headshot. Also also, I will be seeing Andris Nelsons conduct this opera in concert in Boston in October as well.

The rest of the “Tudor Trilogy”:
Anna Bolena. Can Sondra Radvanovsky and Jamie Barton enliven this dull production? Anna Netrebko leaves some big shoes to fill. This isn’t an opera I feel any need to see again, but I almost want to because Jamie Barton is seriously that good. September, October, January.

Maria Stuarda. A McVicar production even less interesting than his Anna Bolena! Again with Sondra R., this time joined by Elza van den Heever from the original cast. They’re fine, but IMO this one is for completists only. Celso Albelo, a tenor I do not know, sings Leicester. My original review here. January, February.

The Rest:
Rossini, Barber of Seville. This is the English-language family version. Philly’s Count from last fall, Taylor Stayton, appears in the same role. December, January.

Puccini, La bohème. The Zeff Bohème is doing its thing, again. There three different casts and they all have their strengths and weaknesses but I am grateful that the Met has brought back the wonderful Ana Maria Martinez, though she should be singing a lot more than Musetta. Watch the Herheim production instead. (Every other night this season, starting in November)

Pagliacci: McVicar in “zany” mode

Mascagni/Leoncavallo, Cav/Pag. Roberto Alagna as Canio should be worth hearing, but he’s not doing Turiddu (shared by Yonghoon Lee and Ricardo Tamura) You have your choice of Santuzzas in Violeta Urmana and Liudmyla Monastyrska, both of whom are tanks compared to sensitive Eva-Maria Westbroek last season. Luisi is, thankfully, back on the podium. My review from last season is here. January and February.

Donizetti, Don Pasquale. Otto Schenk’s Met swan song. Newcomer Eleanora Buratto sings Norina and recent favorite Javier Camarena is Ernesto. Ambrogio Maestri seems like a good fit for the title role. Possible breakout hit? Maybe. March.

Rossini, La donna del Lago.  Most of the original cast is back from from last season but the excellent Lawrence Brownlee replaces Juan Diego Flórez as Giacomo V. I didn’t see this one last year. December.

Donizetti, L’Elisir d’amore. I really disliked this witless, nasty Sher production when it first aired and have no interest in seeing it again. However, given Vittorio Grigolo’s reputation for showboating, maybe he can make it less of a downer. Aleksandra Kurzak should be a nice Adina. March, April.

Mozart, Die Entführung aus dem Serail. The very accurate Albina Shagimuratova sings Konstanze and the highlight will probably be Paul Appleby as Belmonte. Hans-Peter König will be a proper Osmin. Though maybe the Pedrillo will walk off with it.

Perhaps it’s time for Stefan Vinke’s Met debut.

Other Strauss, Die Fledermaus. This time with even less Jeremy Sams/Douglas Carter Beane dialogue? James Levine is conducting it? My review from last time. December, January.

Puccini, Madama Butterfly. I go back and forth on this production but it’s worth seeing for the visual pleasure. Lyric soprano and longtime cult favorite Hei-Kyung Hong makes the leap into the title role, alternating with preeminent suffering maiden Kristine Opolais. Roberto Alagna is Pinkerton and he’s really good at this role. February-April. HD.


Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro. The Met copy describes Richard Eyre’s production as “stylish,” which is Metspeak for “vacuous mid-century update.” The cast is decent, particularly Anita Hartig as Susanna and Luca Pisaroni as the Count. Luisi conducts, and he’s really quite listenable in Mozart. My review from last year. February and March.

Verdi, Rigoletto. Met audiences have acclimated to this Vegas thing somewhat better than the Bayreuth audiences have to the Castorf Ring. Pablo Heras-Casado is said to be good. There are a lot of performances of this one. Catch Piotr Beczala and debuting soprano Nadine Sierra on the later dates. October/November/December.

Verdi, Simon Boccanegra. I don’t know, I kind of liked Plácido Domingo in this. I thought it kind of worked. (I know, I’m so confident about this opinion.) He’s doing it again, with a gold-plated supporting cast of Joseph Calleja, Ferruccio Furlanetto, one performance with Lianna Haroutounian, and the talented TBA singing most of the Ameilas. (Word has it this is either Gheorghiu or Poplovskaya, but we’d all be better off if it they just gave them all to the excellent and vocally fit Haroutounian.) No HD, actually. April.

Wagner, Tannhäuser. Yes, our sole Wagner opera! It’s a musty old production whose biggest attraction is Peter Mattei as Wolfram. Johan Botha is a tireless Tannhäuser and will certainly sound good, but I’ve heard him do it before and, as you know if you’ve ever heard Botha in anything, he’s really boring. Levine conducts.

Yes, surely this is why Tannhäuser is notable. Geez, Met, YOUR OPERA LITERALLY HAS A SEX GODDESS IN IT. Don Draper does not approve of this copy. September and October. HD.

Puccini, Tosca. This is a routine revival with familiar not-quite-stars in it except it is rumored that we will be visited upon by Angela Gheorghiu in the title role for two performances. I mean, the website says she’ll be doing it, but good luck with that. I wouldn’t bet three hours on a bus on it. Otherwise we have Dyka/Guleghina/Monastyrska. Massimo Giordano and Marcello Giordani know you always get them mixed up (Giordano is the younger one) and are helpfully sharing Cavaradossi. Be warned that Domingo is conducting and James Morris sings some Scarpias. With due respect to their long and sterling careers, I’d steer clear of both of those. (This leaves you with three Toscas only, all with Monastyrska.) On the other hand, Domingo conducting Gheorghiu has dire potential. October, November, December

A Trovatore of days gone by

Verdi, Il trovatore. This is the biggest of all the revivals because it features Anna Netrebko making her NYC debut as Leonore! I’m going to the first one because I am excited about this. The rest of the cast has welcome usual suspects Zajick and Hvorostovsky with the impressive if not very nuanced Yonghoon Lee as Manrico. Different, rather routine cast in February. This is another sufficient but not-enormously-ambitious McVicar deal. September/October/February.

Puccini, Turandot. Stranger, listen! The Zeffirellian schlock is back with no fewer than four Turnadots: Christine Goerke, Lise Lindstrom, Jennifer Wilson, and Nina Stemme. In this role I’d go for Lindstrom, myself. (Bonus: she’s the voice of Turandot in the new Mission Impossible movie!) Paolo Carignani conducted all those Bregenz Turandots last summer and is back to do the same at the Met. I bet he doesn’t need a score at this point. Leah Crocetto, who I liked a lot in Don Carlo in Philly last spring, sings some Lius. September-November and January. HD.

Check out the whole season here.

I won’t be at all of these but I should be reporting from at least a few. Let’s hope for surprises.

Photos copyright Met, presumably.

You may also like


  1. As always, I enjoyed this, and will look forward to your reports. Also, I was just asking myself this weekend: what HAS happened to Marina Poplavskaya? Relieved to learn that, surprisingly given the cover photo, the "Pearl Fishers" production has heard of Edward Said.

  2. Marina Poplovskaya's singing has always been wildly uneven and her technique obviously cobbled together. I don't know what's up and I don't know that her absence is necessarily due to a vocal crisis because I don't think anything has been announced. But she never seemed to have a very firm handle on things. I do hope she makes a comeback; she's really special.

  3. Also, note that the reviews of Pearl Fishers in London weren't good at all. Most of them were quite bad. But they did note that the production wasn't as unconscious as the photo and blurb suggest.

  4. >time for Stefan Vinke’s Met debut

    Pedrillo, huh. He was THAT much of a lightweight in Siegfried.

    Pearlfishers. Everyone who hasn't left early to catch a train will leave the theater humming the duet–this not being Italy we can hope they won't actually sing along–and wondering why the Met doesn't do more pretty operas like this.

  5. There are 10 performances of Pearl Fishers. That's three more than Elektra. Clearly the Met has more faith in it than y'all do.

    Chantarelle–I wasn't making fun of Vinke's vocal weight, which is pretty formidable. He was simply the least likely candidate I could think of.

    Also, isn't the duet very close to the beginning of the opera? You'd have to run for a train right after the overture to miss it.

  6. So happy about the waltraud meier love! She was beyond amazing on DVD but I'm a little worried how she will sound at the met. Just saw her in the role this summer in munich and while she was riveting, she was a little hard to hear in the lower regions. I wax also grateful to see her very final performance of isolde and oddly enough that role sat a bit more comfortably.

  7. Hi, Micaela, and welcome to the Pioneer Valley. Make sure to rosin up your snowshoes, tug your hat down over your ears, and bundle up in your best down wrap during the height of the Met season … and I saw The Pearl Fishers years ago at the NYCO, and it was enervating, nothing at all going on except for said duet. They never do go fishing for them pearls, do they?

  8. Haha, anon, I went to high school in Syracuse, NY. I laugh at your Massachusetts winters. 🙂

    Peter, I was so sad to have missed those Isoldes, but for a variety of reasons it wasn't going to work. I'm jealous!

  9. Micaela, the performance was wonderful, though it was definitely time for her to drop the role (she drops Kundry this season). Pretty much the last word on the role IMO (and I know how extreme that sounds). Pape as Mark was also absolute luxury.

    I'm jealous that I won't be able to attend the Lulu's as I'll be living abroad up until Christmas. I've heard nothing but raves about Petersen as lulu and I've never even seen her live. In fact the only Lulu I've seen live is Schafer* in the dexter production, one of the better traditional productions at the met IMO.

    *Schafer is currently just like Marina Poplavskaya in that she has literally cancelled every single engagement over the past two seasons. I like Poplavskaya a lot but Schafer's decline really saddens me because she was just amazing, not only as Lulu, but Cherubino as well.

  10. A bit off topic, but will you make it into boston for boston baroque juditha triumphans tomorrow? (thadieu)