And on stage at the Met 2016/17

rosenkavmetI took a quick look at the Metropolitan Opera’s recently announced 2016/17 and while for the most part it’s business as usual there’s maybe one surprise.  There are 26 productions; 6 new, 20 revivals for a total of 225 performances.  The first thing that struck me was how little Puccini there is.  Only two Puccini works (La Bohème and Manon Lescaut) are being performed for a total of 23 shows (10.2%).  There’s nothing pre Mozart and only one opera written post WW1; L’Amour de Loin which gets 8 performances (ETA: Apparently Cyrano dates from 1936 though you wouldn’t guess that to hear it.  Still only 4 performances so it doesn’t affect the stats much).  There are only two other works which could, at a stretch, be called “modern” stylistically; Salome and Jenůfa, but they were written in 1905 and 1903 respectively, and get only 6 performances each.  Then there’ Rusalka (1901) and Rosenkavalier (1911) which are 20th century but not by any stretch “modern”.  So, even on generous definitions of “modernity”, over 85% of the Met’s output is, essentially, 19th century.

Of the new productions, the most interesting would appear to be Mariusz Treliński’s new Tristan und Isolde with an outstanding cast and Simon Rattle conducting and a new Robert Carsen Der Rosenkavalier which is the Met’s farewell gift to Renée Fleming.  There are a couple of things that might interest Toronto people.  Johannes Debus makes his Met debut in a strongly cast Salome and Adrianne Pieczonka sings Leonora in Fidelio.  I didn’t notice any co-production credits for the COC in any of the new productions.

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12 thoughts on “And on stage at the Met 2016/17

  1. And Der Rosenkavalier isn’t even post-WWI. It was premiered in Dresden in January 1911, more than three years before the outbreak of hostilities.

    As a fan of modern music, I don’t know how I feel about this lineup. I like the older operas that they are doing, and I have to give them respect for finally getting around to staging Saariaho, who writes some of the most consistently interesting operatic music of the early 21st century, but overall this feels like a retreat from the attempt to present more modern works and stagings.

    • I’ll correct on the Rosenkavalier date. I somehow had the idea it was a bit later. It’s frustrating isn’t it? It seems to get harder and harder to see works from the modern canon or contemporary works from Europe. We get thrown the odd bone but that’s it. I can reckon on one show a year at the COC that could reasonably be called ‘modern” and right now they are focussing on Canadian works. I’m all for Canadian works but I want my Berg and my Janacek and maybe some Reimann or Birtwistle!

      • I know exactly what you mean. As you’re in Chicago, perhaps you know the Chicago Opera Theater. Its artistic director, Andreas Mitisek, is also the artistic director of the Long Beach Opera, which is a two-hour drive to the north of me. The quality of their operas over here have been on a steady decline, but I think now they’ve reached the zero point. The four operas to be staged this year are Candide by Leonard Bernstein, which I find highly overrated, and something that if I wanted to see I’d just buy the DVD of the Robert Carsen production; Fallujah by Tobin Stokes, a rock musician turned classical composer who thinks that using nothing but I-IV-V7 chord progressions works just as well in classical music as pop; La Voix Humaine by Francis Poulenc, and The News by “Jacob TV”, another rock-musician-turned composer. When you’re a company that specializes in modern opera and the most musically innovative opera composer scheduled seems to be Poulenc, then something is amiss. Last year, though I didn’t buy season tickets, I ended up buying individual tickets for each one, but this time only Poulenc appeals to me and not very much. I’ve already heard Barbara Hannigan performing it at the Palais Garnier in a double-bill with Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, so do I need to drive two hours to hear what I can hear virtually anywhere else? Thanks to internet streaming, Paris is a lot closer than Long Beach.

        It signifies a lack of trust in their audience. I feel like I’m being condescended to when the programming is nothing but easy listening. That’s not what I’m looking for in modern music.And if they fear to venture too far from tonality. there are still many composers who write in a mostly tonal idiom whose works are still interesting to the listener. Philippe Boesmans’ Julie would make a nice end-of-year one-act opera, and the mid-20th century composers Gottfried von Einem and Karl Amadeus Hartmann wrote in a tonal style inspired by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, etc.

      • Actually I’m in Toronto, I’m familiar with Chicago Opera theatre though and they do seem to have done some neat stuff over the years. I shouldn’t moan too much because although the Canadian Opera Company is a bit light on modern stuff other companies do go a long way to filling the gap. Canadian Stage collaborated with Soundstreams to do “Julie” last year and this year Tapestry are collaborating with Scottish Opera to stage a couple of contemporary pieces. It’s a safe bet that at least one or two works by local composers (and some of them are really good) will see the light of day somewhere in any given season.

        COC has jumped on the pop bandwagon too with a commission to Rufus Wainwright to write an opera based on the life of the the emperor Hadrian. It should be produced in a couple of years time. We shall see.

  2. Cyrano de Bergerac actually dates from 1936! I thought for sure this was a one and done for Domingo back when he was in the final throes of being a tenor. I find it extremely odd that there is a HD of their awful DG but not of Tell (I would think the overture alone would put butts in the seats). Also did you notice that the world’s greatest Verdi baritone is conducting some performances of DG?! Whats next, the Ring? Why do the Met (and other companies) continue to enable Domingo in making a mockery of what was a great career?

    • I really do need to check dates more. I’ve seen Cyrano and I would never in a million years have put it as late as 1936. That said, with only four performances, it doesn’t affect the stats much! I did see that Domingo was conducting DG and passed over the fact with a frisson of horror.

      I wonder if the decision not to HD Tell has something to do with the ROH broadcasting it? I doubt it as the Met doesn’t seem to notice what anyone else does and thanks to their cinema contract hardly anyone gets to see the ROH cinema stuff anyway. And I guess they did DG too. So who knows?

      I guess Placido puts butts on seats. Why is anyone’s guess.

      • The Met is doing an HD of its ghastly new production of Manon Lescaut. The ROH did an HD of its ghastly production of ML about a year and a half ago–and it has just been released on Blu-ray so I don’t think the ROH broadcast of Tell explains it. Back to Cyrano–who in the world is going to see this? Many empty seats for ML with Opolais and Alagna. I know it would take a lot of rehearsal time but couldn’t the Met import a production of Minotaur or something else new(ish) for a few performances? The Mostly Mozart Festival (not exactly a bastion of modern music) had a YOOOGE (to quote a certain billionaire running for President) hit with Written on Skin–they imported the original production with Hannigan and Purvees (different counter tenor). They did I believe four performances–they sold out–it was a hit–at the performance I saw the audience (which looked a lot like a typical NY opera audience) went nuts. The new Lulu, which I didn’t care for, was a hit. The Met (with the assistance of some NYC music critics) makes anything “modern” sound “difficult” and “hard” –like the eating your vegetables (esp. brussel sprouts–yeech). If you stage it they will come.

      • Written on Skin is terrific. It was done semi-staged here last year and sold well. Oddly enough we’ve had both Chris Purves and Barbara Hannigan in town in the last few weeks.

        On the “hard”, “difficult” and “scary” (heavily reinforced in the HD of Lulu) I suggest that the Met be referred to another notable New Yorker for surely “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”.

  3. BTW, Lulu was one of the first operas I saw when I was in my early 20’s and just started going to the opera–didn’t understand a lot of the music at the time but fell in love with the intensity, and drama of the piece and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. Wonder how many of your readers fell in love with opera as a result of seeing a “non-traditional” work early on.

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