On the Met’s 2017-18 season, or, free yourself

The Met announced their 2017-18 season last week to, on my internets at least, general yawning. Let’s take a look.

The new productions are haunted by compromise. We know that the opening night Norma was going to be Anna Netrebko, but she reconsidered and it went to Sondra Radvanovsky, who has already sung the role at the Met and thus lacks much opening night novelty. Somehow I doubt we can expect much novelty from David McVicar’s production, either. (I have written about McVicar at the Met here. Short version: he can be an interesting director, but rarely is one at the Met.)

Most notably from my perspective, a planned new production of La forza del destino by Calixto Bieito was canceled due to financial concerns. I can’t imagine this would have gone over too well (I recently witnessed Bieito’s East Coast debut and it was not great), and the word from London, where the intended co-production already premiered at the English National Opera, was that it wasn’t the director’s best work. But it at least would have been an event. Instead we get a bunch of performances of the Verdi Requiem, which is a sorry excuse.

Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel is the only genuinely exciting new production, and might even arrive the same season as the tenuously planned new Sondheim musical on the same subject. (Here’s hoping!) It also has the distinction of only having been performed in two opera houses before the Met. The other new productions are old news. Cendrillon is a lovely piece but we’re getting it via a very well traveled and DVDed Laurent Pelly production. (The Met: taking the “new” out of “new production.”)

The Phelim McDermott Così was at the ENO back in 2014 and features the surprising casting of Kelli O’Hara as Despina, of which I am skeptical (directorial choice is odd too, but who knows? what was this one like in London? why is everything always from London?). Finally, there’s a Tosca that is actually new but is also McVicar and I am inclined to agree with La Cieca’s take on it. If the promised Kaufmann/Terfel duo actually materializes, though, it at least has the potential to be… as exciting as it was when I last saw them in it. At the Met. In 2010. Anna Netrebko sings the title role in April, replacing Opolais, which could be something to see.

The revivals contain some much more interesting prospects, including a Vogt/Herlitzius Parsifal that I will surely write an excessively long blog post about and maybe go see more times than is reasonable, Angela Meade and Javier Camarena in an old production of Semiramide, Sonya Yoncheva and Piotr Beczala in Luisa Miller, and Yannick N-S conducting Elektra with Christine Goerke. The Chéreau production and Goerke will be an interesting combination, something I wrote a little about when it premiered with Nina Stemme last year. If you’re into Thaïs, and I confess I am not, Ailyn Pérez and Gerald Finley are some quality casting.

I will pie chart later but without breaking out Excel I can say that there isn’t a single opera in a Slavic language next season and that is disappointing.

Now for the critical take: this season was met with a general gnashing of teeth and I certainly agree with that. It is pared-down, safe, and we know of interesting things that were supposed to happen but didn’t make it. But I am slightly exhausted by all the hot takes noting that the Met is an antiquated institution. I mean, you’re just figuring this out? You only noticed this season that the Met doesn’t program many female composers? I don’t think that public shaming, no matter how big or well-populated your soapbox, is actually going to do anything to change this.

Two things: first, the problem is structural. The Met is funded by a donor base that in general would not have liked a Bieito Forza and doesn’t much care about the underrepresentation of anyone who isn’t a white man. It needs donors. It is a very large theater, it operates in a way that is very expensive, and if you don’t change these basic things you aren’t going to get that all-Schreker season that you long for. Since the Met is facing increasing financial challenges and the NEA, small beans that it is, is probably going to dissolve by lunchtime tomorrow, I don’t think this is going to change anytime soon.

Second: the Met isn’t all of opera. It does a good job of marketing itself as such and lots of people buy the hype. Its vast media empire—carried out at the multiplex at your local mall, which often seems like all too appropriate a setting—positions it as The Greatest Opera on Earth. But if you decide it isn’t what you want out of opera, take your attention and your audience support elsewhere! Before you state the obvious I admit that I am not the best example here, because I do write about the Met a lot, and that has to do partly with its prominence (it gets me teh clicks) and my love of singing. If you really want to hear big time, international voices in the northeast US, the Met is necessary.

But there is other opera that is different and don’t forget that. I try to get out of the US when I can because as y’all know I also love Regietheater and that means Europe. But there’s lots more going on in the US too. Take a look at Opera Philadelphia, which I enjoyed a lot when I lived there a few years ago. Philadelphia has a reputation of being “not an opera town” but their season, while much shorter than the Met’s, is way more interesting. New opera is happening everywhere, and you’re usually a lot closer to the action than the Family Circle. Recent conservatory grads are putting on Mercadante in an old pickle factory or whatever it is that is going on in Brooklyn. Go to the Prototype Festival! (Again, I’m sorry I didn’t, but the timing didn’t work for me. I’m going to try to be better about this myself. Writing scathing Met reviews is kind of satisfying, but I may be part of the problem here.)

So write your hot takes and tweets about the Met if you want, and you aren’t wrong, but remember that the Met isn’t all of opera unless you let it be.

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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?

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Upcoming Events

Obligatory Don Carlo photo

Hi everyone! I have been buried in work recently but I promise I have not been skipping lots of opera in Philadelphia. Philadelphia simply hasn’t been providing much opera.

That being said, when it rains it pours. In the next few weeks everyone has new productions:

Upcoming Opera in Philadelphia:

  • Don Carlo at Opera Philadelphia, April 24-May 3: this production has a really great cast (including Leah Crocetto, Michelle DeYoung, and Eric Owens) and I am looking forward to it a lot!
  • Faust at AVA, April 25-May 5: I will probably skip this because I can do without this opera even when I’m not busy. 
  • Bernstein’s Mass with the Philadelphia Orchestra, April 30-May 3: OK, it’s not an opera,
    but it has a lot of singing and is directed by Kevin Newbury, conducted
    by YNS. Strangely, the singers are still TBA.
  • The Rake’s Progress at Curtis: May 7-10: Going to Curtis Opera Theater is never, ever a bad decision.

Opera Philadelphia has also announced their 2015-16 season and it’s a good one, including Traviata with the excellent Lisette Oropesa and the local premiere of Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon.

I will not, however, be there! I had a great year in Philly (I didn’t go to as many concerts as I would have liked but this was what I expected) but I am moving elsewhere for the fall, because I am an early career academic and this is how it works. I will tell you about that sometime later but for now if you are an opera person in Boston and can tell me about what is happening there please do!

But before that I will be going to Europe this summer, where I will be going to some conferences, seeing the Ring in Bayreuth, going to the Bregenzer Festspiele for the first time, and probably some other things, which are, like the singers in Philadelphia’s Bernstein Mass, TBA.

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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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This season in New York beyond the Met

A few weeks ago I took a look at the Met’s upcoming season. But while the Met is the 800-pound gorilla of New York opera, it’s hardly the only option. Here’s a survey of some of the most interesting other operatic and vocal events of the season.

While few companies can compete with the Met for big, expensive, starry staged opera, other groups have some unique and even really offbeat stuff planned, much of which would never work in a giant space. For me, the winner is Gotham Chamber Opera, who have planned a spectacularly original and varied group of productions.

This listing is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather a selection of what I think sounds most intriguing for reasons of repertoire, casting, and production. It was assembled with the help of Parterre Box’s invaluable New York Opera calendar, which contains many more operatic and vocal events for your perusal. Note that the Opera Orchestra of New York hasn’t announced yet, but hopefully will. Big name singers with pet projects are probably applying now.

One note: buying tickets for these can be tricky. Some of these events will sell out weeks or even months ahead of time. Many won’t. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which is which. Support small companies and buy in advance!

You can find a list of links to the companies’ websites with full ticket information at the end of this post. 

Monteverdi, The Return of Ulysses (Opera Omnia): this occasional company has previously produced Poppea and Giasone at Le poisson rouge, this time they’re at the Baryshnikov Center. This is a gorgeous opera and their previous efforts have been musically solid.

Turnage, Anna Nicole (New York City Opera and BAM co-production): The American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera, to be seen in Richard Jones’s original production with Sarah Joy Miller (an actual American) in the title role along with some Broadway folks like James Barbour and Mary Testa. I wrote about the London production here. Let’s see how it does on this side of the pond.

Wagner, Parsifal, Act 2 and Saint-Saëns, Samson et Dalila, Act 2 in concert (New York Opera Forum at the NYPL Performing Arts) I know nothing about the New York Opera Forum but wished to recognize this bold programing. Also, some of the only Wagner you’ll hear in New York this whole season.

Verdi, Nabucco (Opera Philadelphia): OK, it’s in Philadelphia. But it’s a Thaddeus Strassberger production, which is interesting! Points to Philadelphia, who have been stepping up their game in the last few years, as well as losing the clunky “Company of” in the middle of their name.


Baden Baden 1927 (Gotham Chamber Opera at John Jay): One of the most exciting events of the season, a quadruple bill of short operas replicates the titular music festival: Weill’s Mahagonny Singspiel, Hindemith’s Hin und zurück (a palindromic opera!), Milhaud’s L’enlèvement d’Europe, and Toch’s Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse. The first will feature a rare US appearance by the legendary and timeless diva Helen Donath. Paul Curran is the director.

Handel, Aci, Galatea, e Polifermo (in concert, Le Concert d’Astrée, Lincoln Center-Alice Tully/Great Performers). Emmanuelle Haïm brings her historical group to Lincoln Center for this dramatic cantata with Lydia Teuscher, Delphine Galou, and Laurent Nouri.

Boito, Mefistofele (6, Carnegie): The Collegiate Chorale’s annual opera is Arrigo Boito’s Faustian tale, which is a very popular work among opera connoisseurs but is only performed now and then. Cast includes Eric Owens and Julianna Di Giacomo.

Recital: Anna Caterina Antonacci Era la notte (13 and 14, Great Performers). Another rare US appearance, this one by the wonderful Italian soprano, presumably replicating her excellent CD of the same title featuring Monteverdi, Strozzi, and more. How it fits into the White Nights Festival beats me, but we’re lucky to have her.

Mark Morris Dance Group: L’allegro, il penseroso, e il moderato (Lincoln Center Great Performers). The 1988 ballet opera classic revived again.

Strauss, Feuersnot (15, American Symphony Orchestra in concert, Carnegie). Leon Botstein continues to storm his way through obscure early twentieth-century scores. This early Strauss opera is a total hoot: full of Wagner jokes and a whole lot shorter than Meistersinger.


Charpentier, La descente d’Orphée aux Enfers (Gotham, Trinity Church Wall Street) After last season’s David et Jonathas, it’s nice to have another Charpentier opera in NYC already. You probably know the story of this one.

Recital: Anne Sofie von Otter/Emmanuel Ax (28, Carnegie main): Brahms/Nico Muhly.

February: short month, lots of singing

Handel, Theodora (2, in concert, Carnegie main): The English Concert conducted by Harry Bicket, cast includes Dorothea Röschmann, Sarah Connolly, and David Daniels. Along with Aci and L’allegro, one of the only Handel events of the season.

Recital: Gerald Finley/Julius Drake (13, Carnegie, Zankel): Winterreise

Recital: Jonas Kaufmann/Helmut Deutsch (20, Carnegie, main): Program TBA

J. C. Bach, Endimione (City Opera, El Museo del Barrio) When I say Endimione, you say, “you mean that beautiful scene in Cavalli’s La Calisto, right?” But I don’t! Similar story, but we’re dealing with J.C. Bach here. Yeah, it will be news to me too. Michael Counts, who did last season’s Mosè en Egitto, directs.

Double Bill: Monteverdi, Il Combattimento/Lembit Beecher, I Have No Stories to Tell You (Gotham Chamber Opera, Met Museum). An intriguing pairing of Monteverdi’s dramatic madrigal and a new opera on a libretto by Hannah Moscovitch. The first deals with war (and will be performed in the Arms and Armor gallery!), the second on its traumatic aftereffects (to be performed in the Medieval Sculpture Hall). Robin Guarino directs.

Philippe Jaroussky and the Venice Baroque Orchestra (25, Met Museum) Jaroussky is one of the best countertenors around and rarely performs in New York. He sings Vivaldi, Porpora, and Geminani.

Berg, Wozzeck (28, Wiener Staatsoper in concert, Carnegie). The Wiener Staatsoper is bringing two unstaged operas to Carnegie Hall (part of a much larger Philharmoniker residency). The first is Wozzeck, New York’s most popular opera at present (wir arme Leut’). It’s conducted by Daniele Gatti with a cast that includes Matthias Goerne, a rare US appearance by cult favorite Evelyn Herlitzius, and, as the Captain, the steam whistle tenor of Herwig Peccoraro.

Bartók, Bluebeard’s Castle (City Opera, St. Anne’s Warehouse) On the same night as Wozzeck, the City Opera premieres its new production of Bartók’s underperformed horror opera in the creepy venue of St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Viktoria Vizin and Gidon Saks sing, and Daniel Kramer directs. Note that this opera is often done as part of a double bill but is the only thing on the program here.


Strauss, Salome (1, Wiener Staatsoper in concert, Carnegie). The Wiener Staatsoper’s second performance is promising: Andris Nelsons conducts Salome. The orchestra can really play this score. Soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin is an unknown quantity to me, however. Anyone care to enlighten?

Sondheim, Sweeney Todd (NY Phil). OK, it’s not quite an opera, but it does star Bryn Terfel as the titular demon barber. He’ll sound a lot better than Johnny Depp. The announcement that Nadja Michael is singing Mrs. Lovett is only a matter of time, right?

Rameau, Platée (2, Alice Tully) Unfortunately Les Arts Florissants is not bringing a full staged opera to the Brooklyn Academy of Music this season, but they are performing Platée in concert. By French Baroque standards, this is something of a golden oldie but is always delightful. The cast includes Marcel Beekman in the title role and the inimitable Simone Kermes in the role she was born to play, La Folie.

Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro (City Opera, City Center). To be directed by Christopher Alden, completing his Da Ponte trilogy for City Opera. I missed the Don, but the Così was really good. Cast includes Simone Osborne as Susannah, Keri Alkema as the Countess, Rod Gilfry as the Count, and, as of yet, no announced Figaro.

Recital: Iestyn Davies/Thomas Dunford, lute (10, Carnegie Weill): Johnson, Danyel, Dowland, Nico Muhly


Hosokawa, The Raven (Gotham Chamber Opera). Part of the NY Biennial, this opera is a “monodrama for mezzo and twelve instrumentalists” based on the Poe. The mezzo will be Fredrika Brillemberg, and she will be joined by dancer Alessandra Ferri. I loved Hosokawa’s Matsukaze at this summer’s Lincoln Center Festival, and am glad he’s getting another New York performance so soon.

H.K. Gruber, Gloria: A Pigtale (Juilliard Opera): at the Met Museum. Part of the NY Biennial, details TBA. The opera sounds like Animal Farm for the Michael Pollan set.

New York City Opera
Gotham Chamber Opera
Carnegie Hall
Great Performers 
New York Philharmonic
American Symphony Orchestra
Collegiate Chorale
New York Opera Forum
Opera Omnia 
Met Museum 
Opera Philadelphia

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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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Met Opera 2012-13 Preview

Luxury! Opulence! Sarongs!

Single tickets for the Met 2012-13 season go on sale tomorrow, August 12. I can’t say it looks like a very exciting season, it is conservative and draws on repeat Met offenders whose past work hardly inspires confidence, but here’s the deal as I see it. Meaning, these are the questions I would like to ask the people who scheduled the thing.

New Productions
L’elisir d’amore. Why did you pick a charming but extremely modest opera for the grandeur of opening night? What makes you think Anna Netrebko still has the coloratura facility and endearing but, well, modest Matthew Polenzani has acquired enough star power to carry this thing? Why another production from the twee, superficial Bartlett Sher? WHY? (Opening night September 24, HD October 13)

The Tempest. Why did you let Robert Lepage direct again, after how it turned out last time? Why do you think “recreating the interior of the 18th-century La Scala” is a remotely original idea and what does it have to do with The Tempest? What does living composer Thomas Adès have to say about this, as I see he doesn’t actually say anything about his own opera in the publicity despite being the person conducting it and having, um, written it? (Opening October 23, HD November 10)

Un Ballo in Maschera. Wow, who around here found the nerve to hire David Alden to direct? Well done, person. Also a big thanks to the person who already convinced Karita Mattila that this role is not for her and hired Sondra Radvanovsky instead, who despite intonation issues is correct that this role is for her. Will Alden find the elusive key to Marcelo Alvarez’s inner actor? (Opening November 8, HD December 8)

Maria Stuarda. Who thought “nothing like a New Year’s Eve Gala that ends with a beheading”? You may be my people. Will someone pleaaaase get the old, interesting David McVicar back, who might even inspire Joyce DiDonato to forego the perky, and put the one who directed Anna Bolena and Les Troyens out to pasture? Also will you kindly tell me if Elza van den Heever is good, because I have not heard her? (Opening November 31, HD January 19)

“I could be in Paris right now”

Rigoletto. OK, I realize that this was supposed to be this other production from Vienna, which turned out to be dreadful, but why did you think that the keywords of “debut by a Broadway director,” “Las Vegas,” “antics,” and “tragic sidekick” were necessarily more promising? Meaning that I think this is the best opportunity for pure production filth in the season (except possibly the Faust revival). Also, who is conductor Michele Mariotti? Will Diana Damrau’s Babypause interfere with this one? And who will send Piotr Beczala a big bottle of vodka in sympathy? (Opening January 28, HD February 16)

Parsifal. Have you heard that this production by François Girard was outsourced to the arty Europeans for its first run and is rumored to be good? Have you thought about how the Met’s “Pick Your Pleasure” ad campaign is going to work with an opera that basically has no plot and when conducted by Daniele Gatti takes about a week? You know that this is the only thing except maybe Ballo that I am buying a ticket for at noon tomorrow on the dot? (Yes, you could have guessed that.) (Opening February 15, HD March 2)

Giulio Cesare. Do you realize that the Met is about the last house in the world to get this Bollywood-inspired all-singing all-dancing production, which hails from the glorious end of David McVicar’s Goofy Period? Oh well, I’m not sure what makes you think Natalie Dessay is a good choice for Cleopatra, and David Daniels is aging for Cesare, but Alice Coote and Christophe Dumaux will be lovely, right? (Opening April 4, HD April 27)

On to repertory!

Der Ring des Nibelungen: It was so great with the big-name cast that with many fewer famous names and keeping Fabio Luisi’s brutally efficient conducting it will be even better, right?

The voice is variable but the abs are golden
Roberto Alagna in Aida

Aida: Apparently I have forgotten a production deemed by the PR to be “unforgettable,” but I hear soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska is someone to get to know. (HD December 13)

La Clemenza di Tito: This quiet production should suit Elina Garanca’s elegant singing and legendary dramatic temperament as Sesto. Lucy Crowe is also good. (HD December 1)

Carmen. Their names are hard to pronounce, but you should maybe go hear Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen and Ekaterina Scherbachenko as Micaela?

Le Comte Ory. I missed this Bartlett Sher high jinks-fest when it premiered but have been warned. Juan Diego Florez is back, rest of the major cast is new.

Dialogues des Carmélites. Ding ding ding! Here is our token semi-recent opera to appease the arty crowd! AKA “me.” Felicity Palmer is an excellent idea as Madame de Croissy. Only three performances, Met? Lame. It probably will be less naked than this Berlin production, FWIW.

Don Giovanni. Erwin Schrott is a delight as Leporello and Edward Gardner is a fine conductor but this is a production to skip.

Don Carlo. I am unpersuaded by Ramon Vargas as Carlo but will go because I haven’t seen this production yet. Lorin Maazel? Lorin Maazel.

Faust. Nooooo! Sorry you got stuck with this one, Piotr. You deserve better.

Wikipedia claims this is Francesca da Rimini

Francesca da Rimini. Token verismo obscurity to be ignited by the fiery baton of Marco Armiliato. Probably a must only for Eva-Maria Westbroek superfans? And Marcello Giordani superfans, should they a) exist b) not be too exhausted after Les Troyens. (HD March 16)

Otello. Can you tell me who persuaded Placido Domingo to withdraw from conducting this so I can send them some #@*ing flowers? Also y’all should go see Krassimira Stoyanova in the second cast because she is the best. (HD October 13)

Le Nozze di Figaro. Blah blah blah it’s a Figaro so I would end up there even if the cast included Wolfgang Schmidt. Thankfully it does not though Mojca Erdmann as Susanna inspires great skepticism. Gerald Finley’s Count should make up for that.

La Rondine. What an unfortunate debut role for the exciting, dramatic Kristine Opolais. This role requires placid prettiness and that would not be one of La Opolais’s strengths. Filianoti should be right for Ruggero, though.

La Traviata. Diana Damrau’s Babypause again makes this one questionable, but whoever ends up signing Violetta, it will almost be worth it solely for the novelty value of Placido as Papa Germont.

Les Troyens. It’s a big opera, possibly the Biggest opera. The casting and the Luisi conducting is not the most reassuring, but Karen Cargill as Anna! She’s good. Graham should be good in this too. And we could always hope that this happens at some point. (HD January 5)

Il Trovatore. Throw another baby on the fire. Who is conductor Daniele Callegari?

Turandot. Timur is double-cast with James Morris and Samuel Ramey. Whose wobble will be bigger?

I welcome your company as we all try to make the website crash at noon tomorrow!

Rigoletto photo copyright Nick Heavican, Tempest costume by Kym Barrett, no credit listed for Alagna.

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European festivals for procrastinators

If you’re hoping to go to the Munich Opera Festival or the Salzburg Festival and don’t have your tickets yet, some important dates are coming up. Tickets not sold in the written order presale will go on sale tomorrow (March 24) at 10:00 sharp German time for Munich and on March 30 for Salzburg (exact time not specified but it might be 8:30 or 9:30, when the physical box offices open?). If you’re in North America, be aware that Daylight Savings Time hasn’t started yet in Europe, so tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Germany means 5 a.m. in New York (urrrrgh). Their clocks, however, change this weekend, so 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 30 in Salzburg will be 3:30 a.m. in New York, making it even more fun. Got it?

Munich’s Ring and Salzburg’s Bohème sold clean out in presale–the dual operatic gods Wagner and Anna Netrebko do that–, but if you’re fast you might be able to nab one of the few remaining tickets to some other popular events. Munich authority Rossignol advises to be particularly quick on the warhorses, considering the Bay Staats is light in this department this summer and demand will surely be high.

Remember, neither of these festivals reserve any day tickets, not even standing–everything is going out there now. But in my experience, a few tickets for Munich productions almost always pop up on the box office website a few days before the performance (even when the opera house’s website lists an event as sold out), but only in the most expensive price categories. And you can always stop by the ticket office in Salzburg and see what they can do for you. Or show up a half hour early to mix with the Kartenbörse hoards that congregate on the portico in Munich and in the pedestrian zone in Salzburg, bring some cash, and do your best. The Bayerische Staatsoper also has an online forum where some people sell or trade tickets, including the odd Salzburg ticket as well.

Of course, not all events sell out well in advance. Some chamber music and drama at Salzburg and ballet in Munich are readily accessible. So if you aren’t picky you’ll be able to get something, but don’t expect a whole lot of choice.

I had my shit together for once and got everything I ordered. (*looks very smug* Everyone else I know who applied for the Munich Ring got turned down but I got cycle B.) But I was stupid and didn’t order Traviata or the Calleja-Gheorghiu Bohème in Munich, so I’ll be scrambling very early tomorrow morning with the rest of y’all.

You could also go to one of the many scalpers ticket agencies, but be prepared to pay a big markup.

Bonus: Public booking for the summer season at the Royal Opera House, whose website’s Waiting Room has to be the single most annoying element of online opera ticket sales, begins on 10 April. (*looks even more smug* Some of us have already sorted our tickets for that one too.)

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The music of The Enchanted Island

The Met has released a list of the music used in their upcoming pasticcio, The Enchanted Island. The selection ranges from well-known (“Agitata da due
venti” is apparently David Daniels’s or possibly Danielle De Niese’s 11:00 number, and “Endless pleasure”
from Semele is set as a quartet [?]) to relatively obscure items.
Handel dominates, and the French music provides most of the dances.
Placido Domingo will arrive as Neptune to the strains of “Zadok the priest,” best known to British people for its use in coronations and as the “Champion’s League” theme song.

In case you were wondering, the plot will combine The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You can read a synopsis here (PDF). It sounds a little complicated?

I spent some time on the YouTubes and put together these playlists of the originals. The first contains the music of Act 1 and the second Act 2, in the order they will appear. (Remember that in the pasticcio they will be contrafacted, that is given new texts.) I wasn’t able to find everything but did locate most of it. Some of the videos are longer excerpts of which the pasticcio will use only a part. A few of the interpretations here aren’t ideal, but many are outstanding, reminding us how far Baroque performance has come in the last decade. (Keep an eye out for our favorite Simone Kermes, who brings her best dance moves to Vivaldi’s “Dopo un’ orrida procella.” Sadly, her Met debut is yet to be announced.)

Previously: Enchanted Island and baroque opera

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