Analysis: The Metropolitan Opera's 2013-14 Season

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 05:00 PM

'Eugene Onegin' at English National Opera 'Eugene Onegin' at English National Opera (Neil Libbert)

The annual announcement of the Metropolitan Opera’s new season, which came today, is always a reason to pause and consider the state of that institution and, by connection, the state of Planet Opera. I did such a consideration last year and thus far, some of my hopes have been realized while others have been dashed because of singers and conductors who did not appear or were no longer suited to the repertory they agreed to do when first approached.

New Yorkers have long been jealously proud of the Met, declaring it the world’s best opera company. They feel protective and defensive of it and find ways to counteract claims that the companies of Vienna, Munich, Paris or elsewhere are better. I would say that the Met ranks among the best and we want it to be even better. What we New Yorkers sometimes forget is that we have more than two dozen operas to pick from at the Met each season and there will be things that please and displease all opera lovers. Other American opera companies, even the best ones, offer eight to ten works a season at most and, in straitened economic times, many have cut their seasons down to five operas. 

The big European theaters have offerings that rival the Met’s and I am very conscious of the fact that they secure special singers we don’t often see in New York. Some great artists who do sing at the Met are conspicuously absent next season. Among the missing in 2013-2014 are Daniela Barcellona (who would be great in several operas the Met does next season); Mariella Devia (a placid stage presence to be sure but, even at an advanced age, just scored a huge triumph in Il Pirata in Barcelona); Gerald Finley; Ferruccio Furlanetto (amazing right now in Don Carlo at the Met. His Boris Godunov was acclaimed in Moscow and St. Petersburg and needs to be seen here); Vesselina Kasarova; Karita Mattila; Adrianne Pieczonka; Rene Pape; Nina Stemme; Bryn Terfel.

A special case is Anja Harteros. Her Violetta and Donna Anna at the Met were unforgettable, but she is a frequent canceler and I would guess that her absence at the Met is not due to the company’s lack of trying. That said, there will be many great singers at the Met next year in familiar and new roles. The star of soprano Susanna Phillips is ascendent. She will be Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Musetta in La Bohème and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, which gets a new production on New Year’s Eve. 

I wonder if the Met might have used the money for Die Fledermaus for better purposes. The old production had sets by Gunther Schneider-Siemssen that were wonderfully idiomatic. There were great costumes and choreography too. It also had an absolutely dreadful book that was leaden and humorless.  Viennese humor, which I adore, does not translate easily. That production was also done before projected titles brought text closer to audiences and not every opera singer can deliver a funny line. The Met’s announcement says that the new production has lyrics by Jeremy Sams (in English, I presume) and “dialogue” by Douglas Carter Beane. Both are very talented men, but I think their gifts could have been used on the old production. Sams had a major hand in the baroque pastiche, The Enchanted Island, which returns next year with a great cast headed by Susan Graham as Sycorax, Luca Pisaroni as her son Caliban, David Daniels as Prospero and Plácido Domingo parting the waters as Neptune. 

It is no secret that the choices made by Met General Manager Peter Gelb have delighted many opera lovers and infuriated many others. Those of us with long memories can tell you that previous general managers also divided public opinion. Certain singers, conductors and producers are favored by every general manager. This is not news.

Levine to Make Comeback

The biggest and best news of all is the announced return of music director James Levine to the orchestra pit. He is scheduled to lead the Met orchestra at Carnegie Hall on May 19 and then will begin conducting opera on Sept. 24 with Così fan tutte. Mozart is one of Levine’s specialties and Così is, to me, one of the composer’s most sublime scores. 

Levine has been the heart and soul of the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades. His return, if he is disciplined about his health and energy, will bring all kinds of benefits to the music-making at the Met, even in the productions in which he is not directly involved. He will surely fine tune the excellent Met orchestra and help restore its glow.

Later in the season, Levine will lead a new production of Falstaff by Robert Carsen, one that I saw in London (right) that was my favorite new production of 2012. I think that Carsen is the most gifted opera director now at work, so this is very good news. In March, Levine is scheduled to conduct Wozzeck, one of the operas closest to his heart, and that will be a must-see.

The new season will have six new productions and 20 revivals in a rather eclectic and adventurous mix. There will be three operas each by Bellini (Norma, I Puritani, La Sonnambula), Puccini (La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca) and Richard Strauss (Arabella, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Die Rosenkavalier). In addition to Bellini, bel canto lovers can look forward L’Elisir d’Amore and La Cenerentola, which has a dream cast including Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez and Luca Pisaroni. The conductor is Fabio Luisi.

The notable presence of Strauss is due to the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1864. There are interesting casts in these operas, with Christine Goerke, who just sang the role of The Dyer’s Wife in Amsterdam, certain to be riveting as that character in Frau, along with Anne Schwanewilms and Meagan Miller making their debuts sharing the role of the Empress. Vladimir Jurowski conducts. Viennese soprano Martina Serafin will be the Marschallin in Die Rosenkavalier and Elina Garanca and debutante Daniela Sindram share the role of Octavian. Garanca also stars in a new Richard Eyre production of Massenet’s Werther, with Jonas Kaufmann certain to bring his soulful artistry to the title role. This, on quick review, seems to be the only French-language opera in the new season.

New opera is always important to the health of the art form. The Met commissioned Nico Muhly’s Two Boys as part of its initiative to develop new works. This co-production with the English National Opera will have its Met premiere on Oct. 21, 2013. The opera is in experienced hands, with a libretto by Craig Lucas, conductor David Robertson, director Bartlett Sher, sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber and a talented cast led by Alice Coote.

Only two operas next season will be by Verdi (Falstaff, Rigoletto) and none by Wagner, the two composers celebrating the bicentennial of their births in 2013. This is an interesting choice, even though Verdi and Wagner are omnipresent in the 2012-2013 season. Verdi operas sell tickets and a season without Wagner seems to have a piece missing. It is expensive to stage Wagner’s long operas, so the shorter Der Fliegende Holländer might have done the trick, perhaps starring Bryn Terfel and Nina Stemme. A centennial revival of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night’s Dream will have the always-welcome presence of James Conlon in the orchestra pit.

Russian and Slavic opera will be prominent. Renée Fleming appears in one of her signature roles, Rusalka. Also being revived is the thrilling William Kentridge production of Shostakovich’s The Nose, conducted by Valery Gergiev, which is nothing to sneeze at. Opening night will have a new production, by Deborah Warner, of Eugene Onegin, with Gergiev leading Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala and Mariusz Kwiecien. I think Warner does a lot of great work (I loved her staging of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Paris’s Opera Comique last March) but I am very sad to see Robert Carsen’s lovely production of Onegin be retired. There are many other works I would be glad to see Warner tackle. 

I am very excited about the arrival of Borodin’s Prince Igor, with Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role, a production by Dmitri Tcherniakov and the welcome return of Gianandrea Noseda in the pit, who is a specialist in Russian repertoire. He will also lead Andrea Chénier, which he will surely shine in, with Patricia Racette, Marcelo Alvarez and Zeljko Lucic promising excitement on the stage.

Racette will also sing Tosca, a role she will share with Sondra Radvanovsky, who starts the season as Norma. Later in the run, the Druid priestess will be sung by Angela Meade, who then will be Alice Ford in the new Falstaff, starring the wonderful Ambrogio Maestri and Stephanie Blythe as Mistress Quickly. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo will have an increased profile, reprising his elegant Ferdinand in The Enchanted Island and certain to be great fun as Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus.

There will be ten HD international transmissions: Eugene Onegin (Oct.5 ); The Nose (Oct. 26); Tosca (Nov. 9); Falstaff (Dec. 14);  Rusalka (Feb. 8); Prince Igor (Mar. 1); Werther (Mar. 15); La Bohème (Apr. 5); Così fan tutte (Apr. 26); La Cenerentola (May 10). I think the absence of Wozzeck is a big missed opportunity and it might have been interesting to have Two Boys documented as well. I would have eliminated both of the Puccini operas as these productions already exist on video, but it is understandable that the Met would want to include two popular works in the eclectic HD line-up.

Opera Revival at Carnegie Hall

New Yorkers will be glad to know that Carnegie Hall has increased its commitment to the vocal arts. In addition to three recital series, the Marilyn Horne master classes and large choral works, there will be four not-to-miss operas in concert next season. On Nov. 22 (Britten’s 100th birthday), the St. Louis Symphony performs Peter Grimes with the wonderful Anthony Dean Griffey and the ubiquitous Susanna Phillips. Carnegie Hall is doing a special focus on Vienna in the winter of 2014, including a visit from the Vienna State Opera for Wozzeck (Feb. 28) and Salome (Mar. 1). 

One of the best opera performances I have been to lately was a concert version of Handel’s Radamisto at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 24. It was conducted by Harry Bicket and starred David Daniels at the peak of his artistry. This bodes well for the Giulio Cesare they will do this spring at the Met. They return to Carnegie on Feb. 2, 2014 in Handel’s Theodora, with Dorothea Röschmann in the title role and Sarah Connolly as Irene.

We New Yorkers want all of our arts institutions to be strong. We have many excellent smaller companies in addition to the big ones (including the New York City Opera). It is easy to be cynical, despondent or overly nostalgic, but new works, new singers and new visions of classics are an essential part of keeping opera vibrant. Where there is life, there is hope.

Photo: Kai Rüütel, Ana Maria Martinez, Amanda Forsythe in 'Falstaff' (credit: Catherine Ashmore/Royal Opera House)

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Comments [24]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama InstItute, Boonton, NJ

It is distressing to learn of the MET's season of 2013-2014 NOT including baa single WAGNER opus. News today by the general manager of LA SCALA, Stephane Lissner that the world-famous opera house that was VERDI's outreach to the musical world is suffering government subsidy cutbacks and diminished attendance records will cut back on its scheduling, its season length and the number of productions. Worldwide the excuse by governments for cutting back on support of their cultural institutions, the opera, the symphony, the music conservatories, the museums, the universities and television and radio public broadcasting is 'we can't afford it." What we can't afford is the ignorance of our respective cultures that provide the incentive for achieving, that entertain and inform In the USA we are not even paying attention to our intrastructure with thousands of bridges and roadways and hospitals and schools in dangerous conditions, falling bridges with vehicles plunging into the waterways below. Terrorists terror but simple-minded, ethically challenged politicians potentially are even more destructive of an enlightened civilized society. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, opera composer and
director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. www.WagnerOpera.com

May. 27 2013 02:50 PM
Leslie A. Miller from Belfast, Maine

At least Joyce DiDonato and Susan Graham are doing something, but the absence of Ferruccio Furlanetto( His :Ella gemmai m'amo" on March 13th in the middle of a very slow Don Carlo was the most amazing performance of anything I have ever seen), and Rene Pape is very odd indeed.

I also wonder that Wozzeck is not in HD.
My fingers are crossed for Jimmy Levine.

With the rise in tickets for the Family Circle and my $180.00 gas bill -round trip-- from Maine for performances, I will have to group operas, and miss some I would love to see.

The HDs are a poor substitute.

Mar. 21 2013 05:47 PM
Leslie from Belfast, Maine

At least Joyce DiDonato and Susan Graham are doing something, but the absence of Ferruccio Furlanetto( His :Ella gemmai m'amo" on March 13th in the middle of a very slow Don Carlo was the most amazing performance of anything I have ever seen), and Rene Pape is very odd indeed.

I also wonder that Wozzeck is not in HD.
My fingers are crossed for Jimmy Levine.

With the rise in tickets for the Family Circle and my $180.00 gas bill -round trip-- from Maine for performances, I will have to group operas, and miss some I would love to see.

The HDs are a poor substitute.

Mar. 21 2013 05:47 PM
Leslie from Belfast, Maine

At least Joyce DiDonato and Susan Graham are doing something, but the absence of Ferruccio Furlanetto( His :Ella gemmai m'amo" on March 13th in the middle of a very slow Don Carlo was the most amazing performance of anything I have ever seen), and Rene Pape is very odd indeed.

I also wonder that Wozzeck is not in HD.
My fingers are crossed for Jimmy Levine.

With the rise in tickets for the Family Circle and my $180.00 gas bill -round trip-- from Maine for performances, I will have to group operas, and miss some I would love to see.

The HDs are a poor substitute.

Mar. 21 2013 05:46 PM
Leslie from Belfast, Maine

At least Joyce DiDonato and Susan Graham are doing something, but the absence of Ferruccio Furlanetto( His :Ella gemmai m'amo" on March 13th in the middle of a very slow Don Carlo was the most amazing performance of anything I have ever seen), and Rene Pape is very odd indeed.

I also wonder that Wozzeck is not in HD.
My fingers are crossed for Jimmy Levine.

With the rise in tickets for the Family Circle and my $180.00 gas bill -round trip-- from Maine for performances, I will have to group operas, and miss some I would love to see.

The HDs are a poor substitute.

Mar. 21 2013 05:46 PM
Ann in Houston

Ridiculous that they are not broadcasting Wozzeck!! I just saw the Houston Symphony's production. It was so powerful. And the Met production has Voigt and Hampson!! A pox on the Debbie h8rz; I am going to NY to see Götterdämmerung next month and am praying she shows up. Her Brunnhilde in the Ring broadcast on PBS has revived my latent operaphilia. Since September I've seen 4 operas live and 10 on HD plus countless on YouTube.
C'mon, Mr. Gelb, reconsider Wozzeck in HD!!

Mar. 15 2013 06:04 PM
Adélia from New York

I agree with the unexplained absence of Mariella Devia from the Met since 1994. No one, and I repeat no one his capable of her cololatura. You've got to hear her to understand what I am saying. So, can't the Met place a call to Rome?

Mar. 11 2013 11:03 PM
Phillip

And I wondered why Fledermaus is not in the HD mix. I understand that Wozzeck might have been problematic, as much as I would love to see it (down here in Texas), but wouldn't Fledermaus have just been catnip for the HD crowd? I appreciate peppering the HD season with the new productions. So why leave out that, of all new production?

Mar. 11 2013 02:46 PM
Trevor

I agree entirely with your statement that Robert Carsen is the best director working in opera today -- so I'm really thrilled that the Met is having him back to direct Falstaff, which I also saw in London and enjoyed. I share your disappointment in their retirement of his Onegin production, but I hear his Mefistofele will be back in a year or two.

Mar. 10 2013 09:05 PM
Rosanna from NYC

Sondra Radvanovsky in "Norma" and "Tosca"-- YES, YES! But so little Verdi and no Wagner? And why does Netrebko open every season?

Mar. 10 2013 03:04 AM
Jeep from NYC

"Fledermaus ... had an absolutely dreadful book that was leaden and humorless"! I would absolutely LOVE to see it at the Met again -- too bad the likes of Betty Comden and Adolph Green aren't still around to do a new version!

Mar. 08 2013 01:03 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

AS someone who lives on the West Virginia border, I have to rely on my annual subscription for my six or seven trips to me met each year. Factoring in the cost of transportation and hotel, each performance is an investment of $500.00 or more plus subscription cost. Last year I donated two tickets to Juilliard, for use by a student, this year I may skip three. I usually walk away from my mail box with a big smile each year when I get the subscription brochure but this 2013-2014 season makes me wonder if a subscription is worth while. I will purchase it but just out of habit, as the selections do not make me jump to my computer to book transportation and hotel for the subscriptions selected dates. Being just two hours from the Washington National Opera, I have witnessed its fall to the point that it had to be taken over by The Kennedy Center, and the closing of the wonderful Baltimore Opera. I just hope that the ticket sales at the met pick up, I am still shocked at how many unsold seat exit for the April stagings of The Ring, and other performances. I am one who does not blame this fall in tickets on the economy, but on the audience be dammed attitude of Mr. Gelb, hopefully there will be a turn around in ticket sales but a $25 to $35 dollar reduction in orchestra seats I do not think will motivate higher ticket sales, only better selections and a new attitude from the top management an Gelb towards the desires of the audience. Good Music to all

Mar. 05 2013 12:06 PM
MrGuizot from Los Angeles

2013-14 is definitely a ho-hum "live in HD season" -- with the exception of the two Russian rarities and Werther (Dont consider Onegin, wonderful as it is, a rarity). Also the supporting cast redeems Russalka I guess...

Very disappointing. No Wozzeck HD transmission?? Unthinkable. And what is possibly even worse: no Richard Strauss?? Pardon my ignorance (I'm a Californian), but when did the MET last do Meistersinger?? Or Pelleas? Or anything by von Weber? Or Rameau?

Mar. 02 2013 11:17 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

What opera general managers cannot contend with when they sign up singing artists for future performances often five years in advance is the awful possibility that thr particular singer may no longer possess the vocal attributes for singing the role or roles assigned. THIS MAY BE THE REASON THAT THE MET IOERA IS NOT DOING WAGNER NOR THE VERDI OPERAS REQUIRING ROBUST HEROIC VOICES. Often the problem arises when the singer has bad nutrition, a debilitating hedonistic lifestyle or an inadequate vocal technique. Pavarotti's food preferences and lack of physical activity, power walking or gym workouts, MAY have cut short his potential professional life. Jerome Hines had maintained a good health-based lifestyle which supported the stamina, trim physique and solid vocal estate for him until his 82nd year. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. My websites where one may download, free, my singing of 37 out of the 100 selections that I have sung in four solo concerts at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall by going to Recorded Selections; www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com.
Roles that are represented in my singing to be heard on my websites are: Tristan, Siegfried, Goetter.daemmerung Siegfried, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Florestan, Federico and Eleazar.

Feb. 28 2013 11:43 AM
Michael from Staten Island

I'm disappointed in the lack of Verdi and Wagner as they are two of my most famous opera composers. However, I've never listened or seen Eugene Onegin and I'm pretty excited, it'll be my first Tchaikovsky opera I've seen!

Feb. 27 2013 06:41 PM
David from Flushing

Other recent articles on the Met mention in addition to the reduction in ticket prices that nearly 1/5 of the seats now go unsold. I would like to think this is due to the recession, but I fear the mortality of the audience is now being felt. What will be left by 2030 is a good question.

Feb. 27 2013 04:59 PM
George Louis Mayer from New York City

Good comments. NY Times reports 10% price cut for the rich and a 25% rise for the poor in its new pricing (The cheapest seats go from $20 - $25 - the only price increase. WHY? Do I detect a Republican agenda?

Feb. 27 2013 03:35 PM
Vera from St.Petersburg

True, deep and interesting notes. Can't agree more with the comment about Ferruccio Furlanetto who is of course unsupassed as Philip, Fiesco and Silva but also as Boris Godunov. Luckily I was present at his Moscow performances in Bolshoi Theater. And it was stunning success, with great reviews in the press, there was special program on TV. Bolshoi wants him back in upcoming seasons... He is the only westerner who sung this signature Russian role at Mariinsky Theater in St.Petersburg and in Moscow.
So of course it is great pity that Met overlooked the greatest Boris of our time... This is true. And I think his "cameo" appearance as Gremin would be also great...

Feb. 27 2013 03:31 PM
beachsiggy from NJ/NY Metro

IMO, all in all a lackluster season. Looks like I'll be going elsewhere to get most of my opera fix next season. Parsifal in Chicago with Paul Groves is #1 on my list.

All the more reason people like me, who go to opera for enjoyment and not out of habit or social compulsion, do not buy subscriptions.

Feb. 27 2013 09:45 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Instead of "Two Boys", "Die Fledermaus" and "The Enchanted Island", I would have liked to see the 100th anniversary of Montemezzi's "L'more dei tre re" which turns 100 this April. The lineup certainly offers variety and interest, with the exception of the lack of Wagner, which I think is deplorable. It's long been my feeling that the verismo era operas aren't served as well by most of today's singers; the fact that so many bel canto era operas are to be staged proves that for this era the Met is casting from strength.

Feb. 27 2013 06:47 AM
Craig from San Francisco

You're so diplomatic, Fred! It's refreshing to read in Planet Opera commentary. The new season is rather shocking with the absence of Wagner, so little Verdi, and the repeat HD broadcasts of Tosca and Boheme (albeit with different singers from the last time). Falstaff seems to be the featured opera for Verdi's bicentennial. My hometown company, San Francisco Opera, and the relatively nearby Los Angeles Opera are both producing it. Sigh. There are so many rarely examined corners of the repertoire that deserve to be seen.

Feb. 27 2013 03:19 AM
Simone from Kansas

What happened to Reimann's "King Lear"?

Feb. 27 2013 12:30 AM
Martha

Tosca? Boheme? Again?. Why? The absence of Wozzeck and Andrea Chenier is very disheartening.

Feb. 26 2013 11:37 PM
Suzanne

The absence of Rene Pape this season has left me completely uninterested in the other offerings. And not HDing the Wozzeck and Two Boys is the biggest mistake of all.

Feb. 26 2013 07:22 PM

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