Analysis: The Metropolitan Opera’s 2014-2015 Season

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 06:00 PM

Joyce DiDonato in Santa Fe Opera's 'La Donna del Lago,' coming to the Met in 2015 Joyce DiDonato in Santa Fe Opera's 'La Donna del Lago,' coming to the Met in 2015 (Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera)

Opera lovers everywhere, but especially in greater New York, await the announcement of a new Metropolitan Opera season anxiously and passionately. At its best, the Met can touch greatness more often than any other opera company. If we who love it sometimes express criticism and concern, it is because we understand its potential.

There are valid complaints to be lodged against the Met—there always have been—but that is not what this article is about. The company’s plans next season fill me with hope and optimism. My chief concern is that the financial stewardship of the Met be secure enough to keep it in good health—its money troubles have been widely covered in the media of late.

The season is an engaging mix of standard repertory and unusual offerings to please regulars, newcomers and those with more experimental inclinations. The only significant repertory hole is the lack of a Baroque opera, an era full of treasures for which there are many excellent singers now available. The oldest work is Le Nozze di Figaro (1786), which James Levine conducts on opening night in a new production by Richard Eyre.

The great news is that the Met’s music director has recovered from his ailments enough to lead six operas next season. Levine brings abundant experience, wisdom and devotion to the art form and is at the heart of the Met’s potential for greatness. He also conducts Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Ernani, Un Ballo in Maschera and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress with a splendid cast (Layla Claire, Stephanie Blythe, Paul Appleby, Gerald Finley).

The conducting roster is strong next season. Fabio Luisi leads Macbeth (sure to be a hot ticket with Anna Netrebko and a fine cast), a new Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci and some performances of the new Merry Widow. (Did the Met really need to spend precious money on another production of this opera? Its current version is fine.) James Conlon conducts Shostakovich’s marvelous Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, with Eva-Maria Westbroek. Yannick Nézet-Séguin helms Don Carlo with a mostly excellent cast. 

I am thrilled that Alan Gilbert will cross Lincoln Center Plaza from the New York Philharmonic for Don Giovanni. He did fine work on John Adams’s Dr. Atomic a few years ago. This Don Giovanni is a dud of a production but Gilbert is talented and has good singers (Peter Mattei, Luca Pisaroni and the potentially sensational Donna Anna of Elza van den Heever). David Robertson should be perfect leading the Met premiere of Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, an important contemporary opera. Controversial, to be sure, but controversy is good when serious artistic efforts are at hand.

Valery Gergiev leads the enticing new double bill of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta (with Netrebko) and Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Missing is Gianandrea Noseda, now doing brilliant work with Prince Igor. He brings his Teatro Regio di Torino to Carnegie Hall for a concert version of Rossini’s William Tell on December 7. Not to miss.

A scene from Iolanta from the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia (Mariinsky Theater)

Next season, 14 of the 26 operas are in Italian. English is second with four, though Hansel and Gretel and Merry Widow are sung in translation. Then come three French operas (Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Manon, Carmen), two Germans (Meistersinger; Die Zauberflöte), two Russians (Iolanta; Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) and one Hungarian (Bluebeard). The Italian-language repertory includes Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor), Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Puccini (15 performances of La Bohéme).

Six Verdi operas—Aïda, Ballo, Don Carlo, Ernani, Macbeth, La Traviata—provide a corrective to this season’s paltry two. Aïda might be my “total immersion” opera, with four compelling sopranos (Liudmyla Monastyrska, Latonia Moore, Marjorie Owens, Oksana Dyka) in the title role and the welcome returns of Olga Borodina and Violeta Urmana providing vocal and dramatic heft as Amneris.

Opera nirvana may come with Rossini's La Donna del Lago on February 16, 2015: Joyce DiDonato, Daniela Barcellona (finalmente!) and Juan Diego Flórez, under the baton of Michele Mariotti in Paul Curran’s Santa Fe Opera staging. I would listen to this opera with these artists anywhere, any time.

Deeper Casts

Casting next season is better, deeper and more diverse than this one. There are exceptions, of course, and places where an attractive face and voice seem to have mattered more than artistry. Some stars pass through briefly (Jonas Kaufmann is Don José in Carmen in March 2015). Several singers make welcome returns: René Pape (recital, Macbeth, Zauberflöte); Finley; van den Heever; Hei-Kyung Hong (Micaela in Carmen); Simon Keenlyside and Ferruccio Furlanetto in Don Carlo. It is frustrating that New York has not seen Furlanetto in some of his acclaimed roles, including Don Quixote and Boris Godunov.

Fewer top singers will be absent than this season. The big three are Bryn Terfel, Karita Mattila and Nina Stemme. We need to hear them in New York. Room should be found for soprano Dorothea Röschmann and mezzo Sarah Connolly. Soprano Christine Goerke and baritone Ambrogio Maestri, two of the best singers now before the public, are not scheduled for next season but will be prominent in the future.

I regret that Deborah Voigt is not on the roster. I don’t know if this was her choice, the Met’s, or by mutual consent. She has had some rough innings but many more glorious nights and is one of opera’s true stars. She can really connect with audiences in ways that few current artists can equal. When a role is right, she sings it wonderfully. Let’s hope this is just a pause to learn repertory more suited to her current strengths and that we will see her again soon.

There will be 10 HD transmissions: Macbeth; Le Nozze di Figaro; Carmen; The Death of Klinghoffer; Die Meistersinger; Merry Widow; Les Contes d’HoffmannIolanta/Duke Bluebeard’s Castle; La Donna del Lago; Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci. The Carmen and Hoffmann productions have already been documented. Much better choices would be Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and The Rake’s Progress, both of which have excellent productions, conductors and singers and scarcely exist on video.

Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives next season. I hope audiences attend with enthusiasm and the Met endeavors to be fiscally responsible and finds ways to better listen to what their audiences have to say. Without us, there is no Met.


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Comments [17]

Bob Tartaglia from New jersey

I certainly agree with the comments about the tacky and tasteless productions of Traviata, Tosca, Ballo, and most insulting of all Rigoletto. Since Peter Gelb arrived the Met is becoming the American home of Regietheater .......I, as a senior citizen resent being described as near- death !! Perhaps the person who attended these grotesque productions didn't hear the boos given to the directors of these productions.
In my opinion Peter Gelb must go..............

Jun. 17 2014 05:19 PM
Freddt from NYC

" No wonder the Met has financial problems after wasting money on tacky new productions with tasteless decor over several seasons, "Ballo", "Rigoletto", "Traviata", and Bondy's "Tosca""

More BS from the online world. I went to every production last seasons. Rigoletto -- ALWAYS PACKED as it was in it's first season. Definitely a huge hit. Yes the close to death crowd would whine about it but they would also show up in addition to those with a bit more life in them. La Traviata -- packed them in every show. Tosca did very well too. Ballo the least popular of those you mentioned. I'm not speculating -- I saw them all multiple times including multiple Rigoletto's (including both casts).

Apr. 06 2014 02:02 AM
Fred Plotkin from New York

To Rosanna: I think you might find the singers and orchestra in Don Carlo much better next season with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting. The big problem in the previous run was the anemic conducting that dragged everyone and everything down with it.

Feb. 25 2014 11:59 PM
James Cesarini

Glad to hear Voight is not going to be singing there for the next few seasons. She has a voice that has become easily distinguishable by it's ugliness.

Feb. 18 2014 08:13 PM

I expect so much for the season after the next one, Puccini' Fanciulla del West with Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann, Lohengrin with the same, and why not? Otello also...

Feb. 18 2014 11:12 AM
Gloria from New York

Looks like an interesting season but I am bewildered tat Jonas Kaufmann
Will sing just 2 Carmens. Can't imagine the Met not booking the most important tenor of our time.
Perhaps Kaufmann, like many others, prefers to stay closer to home.
Very sad for NY

Feb. 17 2014 10:57 PM
Rosanna from NYC

After Sondra Radvanovsky's phenomenal "Norma" this past fall, most everything on the Met's 2014-15 roster looks dim. I am glad to see the return of "Die Meistersinger" to the repertory plus the powerful Monastyrska-Borodina duo in "Aida" as well as Latonia Moore. But Barbara Frittoli in "Don Carlo" again? She was dreadful there last season. No wonder the Met has financial problems after wasting money on tacky new productions with tasteless decor over several seasons, "Ballo", "Rigoletto", "Traviata", and Bondy's "Tosca"-- to name a few. Nothing can beat the sumptuous Del Monaco productions in the Met's Italian repertory! I would also welcome the chance to hear Jay Hunter Morris extra-"Ring". The Met is too obsessed with Anna Netrebko and upstart stage designers.

Feb. 15 2014 04:51 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Glad Macbeth will be back. This is the opera where Verdi became Verdi. Why wasn't Norma broadcast this season but the dog I Puritani is. Don't be angry with this rather snarky remark.Woof, Woof. The Macbeth production is awful and I would like to do rather awful things to Peter Gelb and those responsible for it.

Feb. 14 2014 09:28 AM
Fred Plotkin from New York

Cordelia, I believe that Furlanetto has Don Q coming up soon in San Diego and then he will sing it in May at the Canadian Opera Company, in Toronto, where I plan to see it.

Feb. 13 2014 05:36 PM

Clarification: by once every three seasons, I mean one season out of every three, not one performance for every three seasons.

Feb. 13 2014 04:07 PM
Alison from New York, NY

Turandot is performed at the Met, on average, once every 3 seasons. The Met Opera has staged it nearly 300 times. They'll probably stage it the season after next. Personally, while I love both the opera and the Met's over-the-top production, I'm glad to see some variety.

Feb. 13 2014 04:06 PM

I'm disappointed every year that the new season is announced because Turandot is never included in the repetoire. Does anyone know why this beautiful opera is constantly overlooked?

Feb. 13 2014 01:57 PM
Cordelia Manning from Madison, NJ

To hear Furlanetto sing Don Quixote is my dream.

Feb. 13 2014 09:40 AM
Stephen from Manhattan

This season is the most promising in years. Thanks for the thorough analysis, Fred.

Feb. 13 2014 09:33 AM

Deb Voigt recently alluded on Twitter that she'd not be on the Met roster for years to come. (Technically she was responding to a fan who said they were enjoying looking at her on their Met calendar, and said that they wouldn't see her on it in the future, but that she'd be other places, but I suppose that's not hard to interpret.) I suspect Marie will be her last, at least for the foreseeable future. But if Angela Gheorghiu, who I was sure the Met had seen the last of, can be cast again after four years absence, when she has like five roles in her rep now, I can't imagine there wouldn't be a place for Deb who has many roles and is willing to learn more. I think the time away from the pressure might do her some good too; time to have some fun on the opera stage in smaller companies.

I'm not surprised to see Nina Stemme isn't cast; she's hardly ever at the Met and I think her next appearance is 2015-16 for a Salome. I don't think the Met is a favourite place of hers. Mattila is thought to have retired from the Met after Makropoulos Case because of her dislike of Peter Gelb, but also says she had a voice change and that's why she dropped out of Ballo. I'd be surprised to see her again.

I cannot think why the Met neglects Bryn Terfel so; he's a fine singer and was a great Wotan and could easily be a star performer of theirs. I also wish they'd do something else for Jay Hunter Morris, who surely deserves to be cast after he saved their Ring at the ninth hour. He's such a terrific person and performer.

Feb. 13 2014 09:31 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

The expiring AGMA contract looms ominously as the 2014-5 season approaches.As written elsewhere on these pages,it is to be hoped that the negotiations follow the compromise-savvy settlement of the NY Phil,and not the dreadful example of the Minnesota Orchestra,or the extortionate demands of the stagehands.Of the absent singers,the one perhaps most troubling is Voigt,who like Callas and Scotto before her,ran into vocal difficulties following a large and precipitous weight loss.

Feb. 12 2014 06:44 PM
Donna Lewis

I'm so happy Rene is back. But what's happening with Bryn, my favorite of all time. This will be the third season he will be absent. Is it money or parts?

Feb. 12 2014 06:43 PM

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