The Met’s 2016-17 season by the numbers

Around a year ago I used pie charts to analyze the Met’s 2015-16 programming, revealing that what appeared to be a very Donizetti-heavy season was actually a very heavy Donizetti and Puccini season. This was interesting and popular so I’ve done it again for 2016-17.

This season is still largely made up of big canonic Met favorites, almost all from the nineteenth century, but this time they’re spread out significantly more evenly across languages, composers, and styles. Except for Verdi. Can you guess what happened to Verdi!!!!?????

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So, there’s a lot of Verdi. Did you guess right?

First let’s consider composers. The composer with the most works programmed is indeed Verdi with four, anchored by a 14-performance run of Aida and 15 Traviatas. Puccini, surprisingly, only has two (the omnipresent Bohème and a revival of Manon Lescaut), perhaps due to his overrepresentation last season. The other repeat customers are Mozart with three, somewhat surprisingly Rossini with three, and Strauss and Wagner with two each. The other composers all have one each. Yes, that means only one Donizetti opera no Donizetti at all! (These charts have been updated because I originally subconsciously could not believe that there was no Donizetti and gave him credit for I puritani, which is actually by Bellini. Sorry!)

These pie charts are by performance rather than by production–since Tristan is being performed eight times it counts for eight, and so on. I think this gives a more accurate view of what is happening on a night-by-night basis. In the tables with each chart, though, the second column shows productions while the third shows performances.

Those long runs of Verdi are extremely evident, as are the (to me somewhat inexplicable) 16 performances of Don Giovanni, an opera in a poor production and for which the Met is too big. There aren’t too many tiny runs of operas this coming season–the least is Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac at four (for Roberto Alagna superfans and people who think the best part of Turandot is the ending). There are only five performances of Der fliegende Holländer; everything else gets at least six.

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Next: let’s boil this composer situation down a little bit. Here I’ve grouped the composers by style. Here we can see that the general distribution of works is actually pretty good. Though I did make Verdi his own group because, well, those numbers are ridiculous.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.24.05 AM

What about language? As usual, there’s a ton more Italian than anything else. Unlike last year, there are somewhat more than negligible numbers of non-Italian operas, however, and two Slavic languages are represented!

language pie Language

But despite that geographic and linguistic diversity, this is a season that fixates, above all, on music of the second half of the nineteenth century. This huge chunk of the program is almost entirely big warhorses–the least familiar works are probably Werther and Manon Lescaut, both of which are reprises of recent new productions. (The comparative rarities on the program are from outside this range, like Jenufa and Guillaume Tell.)

half century pie Half century

One reason for this disparity is that there are only two operas written after 1911, which is not good. And one is Alfano’s Cyrano, which I think is safe to call a throwback, at the very least. I put him in with Puccini above. The other is Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, which is the only opera written after 1936 and also, it goes without saying, the only one written by a woman. We also don’t get anything pre-Mozart, but I’m willing to cut the Met a fair amount of slack in that because I think most earlier opera is more suited to a smaller space with a period practice orchestra if possible.

century pie Century

What do you think is revealed here? Any other numbers you’d like to see?

Update: Bonus chart! Please remember that this gender ratio is an improvement over the whole last century!

gender of composer

You can find more details on the Met’s website.

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  1. The lack of anything “modern” bar the Saariaho and the Janacek is pretty depressing really. It rather seems to be the pattern across North America. Look at Chicago’s utterly mainstream season for example. Even the COC seems to have decided that its token piece of Canadiana should replace anything from the modern canon with Pyramus replacing Makroupolos Case and the case of the mysteriously disappearing Lulu.

  2. I love Janacek but modern? Jenufa had its prima in 1904! Of course it does sound like it was written a century after Cyrano.

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