The MET has just announced its 2018-2019 Season and I am, frankly, puzzled by the safe choices of repertory and underwhelmed by some of the selection of casts and directors. Old wine in new bottles or vice-versa?
One would imagine that the sudden removal of James Levine from his position as Music Director helped create a crisis of artistic planning, but it is common knowledge that the MET lines up its roster of artists and choices of repertory years in advance. Thus we have to look at the current MET season as a brainchild of one man: Peter Gelb.
But to give everyone his or her due, there’s a production of Boito’s Mefistofele, an opera not seen in NYC since 2000, and that’s great news. In the central title role, the fast-rising American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn is stepping into the bass role of all bass roles and in so doing following the steps of Samuel Ramey and Norman Treigle, both of whom are fondly remembered by those of us old enough to have heard them.
The casting of Bel Canto specialist Angela Meade in the essentially spinto role of Margerita is surprising at best, as is the choice of lyric tenor Michael Fabiano for the hefty part of Faust. But time will tell and hopefully prove my doubts and concerns unfounded.
Anna Netrebko as Aida? Maybe, but I am not so sure of a singer whose ravishing sound has so perfectly suited her Tatiana in Eugene Onegin and some of the lighter Verdi roles should be taking on the Egyptian Princess. Listen to her “O Patria Mia”, easily available on You Tube and see what you think.
Samson et Dalila in a new production gives us a surprisingly smoldering Dalila from the ever-cool Elīna Garanča and a light-weight Samson from Roberto Alagna. It will be interesting to see and hear what kind of heat the pairing of Anita Rashhvelishvili and Aleksandrs Antonenko can bring to this work.
I salute the commitment of the MET to contemporary opera and refrain from commenting until Nico Muhly’s Marnie is seen LIVE IN HD on November 10th. Two wonderful singing actors: Isabel Leonard and Christopher Maltman make the project sound very promising.
A new Michael Mayer production of La Traviata with Diana Damrau as Violetta, Juan Diego Florez as Alfredo, and Quinn Kelsey as Germont will replace the controversial old one with the unisex chorus in rented tuxes and all the clocks.
Another new production, tAdriana Lecouvreur featuring Anna Netrebko in the title role and Piotr Beczala as Maurizio sounds like a winner. If you miss it at the MET you might be able to catch it in London, in Barcelona, in Vienna, in Paris, or stateside in San Francisco, as the opera companies of each one of those cities are named as co-producers of this revival of Cilea’s melodrama.
From the French world there’s a revival of Pélleas et Mélisande with the lovely Isabel Leonard as the lost princess and Paul Appleby as her secret love. There’s another revival of the Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen with French mezzo-soprano Clementine Margaine as the Gypsy enchantress and Roberto Alagna as Don José.
Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena and Mariusz Kwiecien are the love triangle at the center of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles. There’s also the old Dialogue des Carmelites production by John Dexter that will close the season with the ubiquitous Isabel Leonard, in her third leading role this season as Blanche, and the formidable Karita Mattila as Madame de Croisy, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting.
La Fille du Régiment, not a French opera but a Donizetti opera in French will allow Javier Camarena to unpack his bag of high C’s and Pretty Yende to clown around and sing prettily as Marie.
The entire Ring Cycle is brought back in the multi-million Robert Lepage production, featuring “The Machine” and starring Wagnerians Greer Grimsley as Wotan, Christine Goerke as Brunhilde, Jamie Barton as Fricka, Eva-Maria Westbrock as Sieglinde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Tomasz Konieczny as Alberich, and Phillipe Jordan helming the MET orchestra.
From the pens of Verdi and Puccini, the MET will bring us the Robert Carsen 1950’ish Falstaff, Tosca with Jennifer Rowley, Joseph Calleja and Wolfgang Koch, a Trittico with Placido Domingo as Gianni Schichi, Otello with Sony Yoncheva, Stuart Skelton and Željko Lučić in the key roles and Gustavo Dudamel making his MET debut at the podium.
La Fanciulla del West with I-hope-he-won’t-cancel Jonas Kaufmann as the unfortunately-named Dick Johnson and Eva-Maria Westbrock as Minnie, is slated for a LIVE IN HD October 27 offering and a December 22 radio broadcast. Keep your fingers crossed.
A Mozart semi-rarity: La Clemenza di Tito will come late in the season with Matthew Polenzani in the title role and Joyce Di Donato as Sesto, in the old but still gorgeous Jean Pierre Ponnelle production. Don Giovanni will see a great Leporello: Luca Pisaroni switching from servant to master in the title role.
Time will tell how Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Music Director creates an imprint on the repertory and how much say he will have on the subject of casting and choice of creative teams, in addition to the selection of guest conductors. For now we wait and hope for the best.
Rafael de Acha