As I was putting together my Met preview post, I thought to myself, “so much Donizetti!” So I fired up Excel and made some charts. The above pie chart shows numbers of productions by composers.
There is a lot of Donizetti. He and Puccini are tied for first by number of productions. I like Donizetti just fine an d the Three Queens Not-a-Trilogy (Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux) is a one-off special occasion. But I’m not sure if he merits more than twice the number of productions than Richard Strauss and Wagner put together.
Donizetti operas must sell, though I suspect this is not based on the composer’s name recognition. These operas are either star singer vehicles (the Not-a-Trilogy) or frothy comedies (the other two, Don Pasquale and L’elisir d’amore). Also, they’re far cheaper to produce than Strauss and Wagner.
You know what else sells? Puccini. If you count performances rather than productions, you will find that Puccini is occupying the Met for many more performances than Donizetti.
Bohème, Turandot, Tosca, and Butterfly all get runs of over a dozen performances each, while the Donizettis average around seven each. (Verdi also gets some longer series.)
Both Puccini and Donizetti—along with Verdi, who is next in line after these two—represent a mainstream American idea of what opera is. Not the most interesting idea, in my opinion, and one that would benefit from including more music from other time periods and traditions.
Here is a chart showing things by language. I love Italian opera but this is ridiculous.
The Pearl Fishers is the only French opera onstage this season! And neither of the English-sung operas were written in English; they’re an Italian opera and an Austrian operetta given in translation (Barber, for families, and Fledermaus, for
Jeremy Sams superfans).
Just to reiterate some absences I’ve already noted: there’s nothing composed after 1935 (all due respect to Friedrich Cerha, the completer of Lulu) and no Slavic repertoire.
If you look at dates of composition, you get this. Only Mozart, Turandot, and Lulu fall outside the “long nineteenth century”: