The Metropolitan Opera has announced its 2017/18 season. It’s quite heavy on warhorses. La Bohème, Tosca and Turandot each get fifteen performances and there’s plenty more standard fare in there. Once again, there’s nothing pre Mozart and the only nods to modernity are a revival of Elektra (six shows) and a new production of Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel (eight shows).
Rossini’s La Donna del Lago is based on the Walter Scott poem, itself a deliberately romantic view of Scottish history, simplified until not much is left but the rivalry for the heroine’s hand by her three suitors and a completely unexplained war between the king of Scotland and the Clan Alpine. Dramatically it’s thin indeed but it’s Rossini so there is crazy virtuosic music and it’s very hard to cast. One needs two mezzos; one a mistress of Rossinian coloratura, the other more dramatic, and two tenors; both of which can do the crazy high stuff. The supporting roles aren’t easy either. Realistically only a major house could cast this adequately.
I 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.
The Met has announced it’s 2016/17 cinema season. There are again ten productions with what seems now to be a settled mix of a smattering of the Met’s new productions and a bunch of war horses that have already been broadcast. For myself, I’ve pretty much had it with watching opera this way. There aren’t that many productions in the program that I have any interest in and the combination of far too common technical problems, cheesey scripted and rehearsed “interviews” and over long intervals make it all rather tedious. For the operas I want to see I’ll wait for the DVD release. Still for those who are still interested, here’s the line up. Continue reading
Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda featured in the MetHD series in January 2013 and has now been released on DVD. My review of the cinema broadcast is here. It’s always a bit different watching the DVD rather than the cinema version but in this case I think my somewhat different reaction has a lot to do with having recently seen various versions of the other Schiller/Donizetti Tudor queen operas, especially Stephen Lawless’ Roberto Devereux at the COC.
It’s nearly five years since I saw the MetHD broadcast of Carmen with Alagna and Garanča. I remember being quite impressed at the time. Watching it again on Blu-ray I came away with a less favourable impression. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s not. It just feels a bit lacklustre in a very crowded field. Let’s start with the positives. Elina Garanča is a very good Carmen. She sings superbly and grows into the role dramatically as the work progresses. She’s also a very good dancer and the production exploits that. In fact dance is used very well throughout with specialist dancers used to stage a sort of prologue to each act as well as the obvious places being reinforced with “real” dancers. As always, the Met doesn’t stint on this element and the dancers used are first rate.
Earlier this year the Metropolitan opera staged Borodin’s Prince Igor for the first time in nearly a hundred years with an HD broadcast and a DVD/Blu-ray release to boot. It’s an odd work. It’s quite long; a prologue and three acts running over three hours and it’s very episodic. The prologue takes place in Ptivl; the principality of which I gor is prince. He’s about to lead his army against the invading Polovtsians. There are dark omens. The next thing we see, as Act 1 opens, is that Igor is defeated and a captive of Khan Konchak who’s daughter is now in love with Igor’s son. It’s all just happened. Cue lots of exotic Polovtsiania. In Act 2 we are back in Ptivl where Galitsky is making trouble for his sister, Igor’s wife, who has been left as Regent. Mostly the trouble seems to be drunken partying and when the Polovtsian army arrives at the gates the brother, Galitsky, drops dead. In Act 3 the city has been sacked and everybody is kind of mooning around in the rubble until a pretty depressed Igor shows up and implores the other Russian princes to get off their arses and do something (unspecified). All the important stuff happens off stage and there really isn’t any resolution. There is some great music though.