Maestros I Would Like to See (and Hear) at the Met

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 05:00 PM

L-R: Gustavo Dudamel, Riccardo Chailly, Zubin Mehta L-R: Gustavo Dudamel, Riccardo Chailly, Zubin Mehta (Silvia Lelli, Hiroyuki Ito, Oded Antman)

I have often said that I think that, in general, the quality of conducting at the Metropolitan Opera has been high. It helps that the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is an outstanding group of musicians who are flexible and versatile in many styles. One of their many strengths is that they are superb listeners, so they play with one another and with the singers. 

Much of the orchestra’s consistency and continued excellence owes to James Levine’s 43-year association with the company. He has built and rebuilt the orchestra three times and has imparted his wisdom, which the musicians then transmit to younger colleagues. This season, Levine has come back from injuries in grand style with Cosí fan tutte, Falstaff and Wozzeck, and it is heartening that he is scheduled for six operas in the 2014-2015 season

Excellent maestros who are frequent visitors include Marco Armiliato, Harry Bicket, James Conlon, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Jurowski, Fabio Luisi, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Gianandrea Noseda and David Robertson. I am very pleased that Alan Gilbert, who conducted Doctor Atomic in 2008, is returning next season for Don Giovanni.

With the recent death of Claudio Abbado, I deemed it a loss for New Yorkers that he only conducted seven performances of Don Carlo at the Met in 1968 and never returned. I don’t know why. He had a brilliant career in Europe as the head of La Scala and the Vienna State Opera, but it would have been wonderful to hear him work with the Met Orchestra. 

Abbado’s passing set me to thinking about conductors whom I would love to hear leading performances at the Met. Some are quite young, others are venerable elders who still have much to offer. Each of these maestros would bring passion and specialization in certain repertory that would energize audiences and musicians alike. Some of them might not be the easiest people to get along with, but all have distinct artistic personalities that make for compelling nights at the opera. Here are my picks, listed alphabetically, including operas they might perform at the Met:

Richard Bonynge (age 83) is, for many people, linked to the career of his late wife, the peerless Joan Sutherland, and they fail to recognize his considerable achievements on his own. He still conducts and teaches. I would love to hear him do Verdi’s I Masnadieri or Massenet’s Cleopatre with Elina Garança or Magdalena Kozená in the title role.

Riccardo Chailly led a new production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Met in 1982 and has never been back. He has done excellent orchestral conducting in Amsterdam and Leipzig (including a marvelous recent recording of the Brahms symphonies with the Gewandhaus Orchestra). He has done distinguished opera conducting in Zurich and is about to become the next music director of La Scala. How about Il Trittico at the Met?

Gustavo Dudamel would attract big audiences, as he has shown in Los Angeles and in Europe, and is game for meaningful repertory. I propose a revival of Janacek’s From the House of the Dead.

Daniel Harding (right) is a talented British conductor who has distinguished himself at La Scala, Salzburg and with the New York Philharmonic. I would be glad to hear him lead the Met’s outstanding productions of Billy Budd or Ariadne auf Naxos. Photo: K.MIURA

Philippe Jordan led Die Fledermaus, Don Giovanni, Carmen and Le Nozze di Figaro at the Met between 2002 and 2007. Born in 1974, the Swiss conductor became the music director of the Paris Opera in 2010. Last December I heard him lead an excellent Elektra there. For the Met, how about Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, not heard in the house since 1934?

Zubin Mehta conducted nearly 100 performances at the Met between 1965 and 1971 with hall-of-fame casts in Verdian classics plus Carmen, Turandot and the world premiere of Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra in 1967. While New Yorkers might think of him primarily as a symphonic conductor after his long tenure at the New York Philharmonic, Europeans know him as an opera conductor through his relationships with the companies in Munich and Florence. Let’s have Der fliegende Holländer.

Andris Nelsons, who has just become the principal conductor of the Boston Symphony, led Turandot and Queen of Spades at the Met between 2009 and 2011. His recent Salome with the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall was so phenomenal that I want to hear him do it at the Met.

Antonio Pappano led the premiere of Robert Carsen’s production of Eugene Onegin at the Met in 1997 and has since had a brilliant career in Brussels and then the Royal Opera in London, where he has worked wonders. He was superb in Salzburg’s Don Carlo last summer and has done an outstanding job as the head of Rome’s Accademia di Santa Cecilia. We need to hear him again at the Met in just about anything he would want to do. I would ask for Otello.

Nello Santi conducted nearly 400 performances at the Met between 1962 and 2000 and is a grand old maestro (age 82) who was the mainstay of the Italian wing. He is still active, mostly in Zürich. Singers and audiences love him. How about L’Amore dei Tre Re or Iris?

Christian Thielemann, the exacting Dresden-based conductor, led Der Rosenkavalier, Arabella and Die Frau Ohne Schatten between 1993 and 2002. I would ask him for a revival of Moses und Aron.

Alberto Zedda, age 86, is the heart and soul of the Rossini Festival in Pesaro. Last time I checked he was in fine fettle and bringing his remarkable knowledge of Rossini to performances and coaching there. He has worked with most of the top singers in this repertory and I would love to see him lead the Met premieres of either Il Turco in Italia or Tancredi. Failing that, a gala Rossini concert to raise money for the company’s endowment with singers such as Daniela Barcellona, Cecilia Bartoli, Lawrence Brownlee, Diana Damrau, Michael Fabiano, Vivica Genaux, Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Angela Meade, John Osborn, Luca Pisaroni and any other young talent Zedda has discovered.

Which conductor would you like to hear at the Met who is not a regular?

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Comments [13]

Richard Grant from New York City

I am mystified why a talented New York based generalist like Maestro Joseph Rescigno (Music Director of Milwaukee's Florentine Opera whose grandfather played in the Met Orchestra)is yet to conduct at the Met. I have heard him in excellent form in productions of Die Walkure, Falstaff, Der Rosenkavelier, Madama Butterfly (at the NYCO), and Tristan Und Isolde.

May. 01 2014 10:39 AM
Helga Kramer from Boca Raton, FL

My first and foremost suggestion would be the young conductor Evan Rogister, who has been gathering experience in the US and abroad. He would make a superb addition to the Metropolitan's roster of conductors.

Mar. 30 2014 10:24 AM

Bernard Haitink and Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting any bloody thing they want to do.

Back in the eighties Haitink conducted the best Fidelio I ever heard in the 48 years I have been listening to that opera. It wasn't the best sung, alas (Johanna Meier's radiant Leonore was undone by Edward Sooter's dreadful Florestan!), but the conductor inspired the orchestra to play with a degree of insight and fancy that the pedestrian Levine could never even conceive of. Naturally, Levine's cabal never invited him back.

The choice of Harnoncourt ought to be self-explanatory. There has not been a conductor whose work has opened ears and minds to never-imagined musical vistas and possibilities since the heyday of Mengelberg. The closed-mindedness and sheer bigotry of the New York musical establishment have made this incomparable and towering artist a virtual stranger on these shores for half a century.

Mar. 15 2014 03:05 PM
Fred Plotkin from New York

To Bernie from the UWS: I agree that we should see more women conductors (who are referred to as Maestro too, by the way, not Maestra). Glover did a great job with The Magic Flute. Do me a favor and suggest operas that you think each of these women should conduct at the Met. How about Dialogues of the Carmelites for Marin Alsop?

Mar. 15 2014 12:24 AM
Minnie from Sacramento

What ever happened to Daniel Oren. I think he is a wonderful Puccini conductor.

Mar. 14 2014 04:29 PM
Anziano from Brooklyn

Just a note regarding why Claudio Abbado never returned to the Met. As a rule, he was not fond of the U.S. for two reasons: union rules prevented him from rehearsing as he pleased (he sometimes complained that everyone had to go home just as he was finally "really ready to work"); and he disliked American politics. He was a leftist and quite "green".

Mar. 14 2014 10:39 AM
Bernie from UWS

How about a woman conductor for a change? This year Jane Glover became the 3rd woman in the history of the Met, but I see none on this list. Even the title reinforces the perception that it's doomed to be an men-only profession. Susannah Malkki would be great to hear at the Met. Or how about Marin Alsop? JoAnn Faletta? There are plenty of fine candidates.

Mar. 14 2014 07:32 AM
Jim Lieberthal from Minneapolis, MN

Daniel Ettinger in anything he would like. Nello Santi is a FAVORITE of mine, so yes to him doing early Verdi, Riccardo MUTI of course, conducting Verdi, Wagner and anything else he might pull out of the timebag that's rare, and Daniel Barenboim conducting a RING.

Mar. 14 2014 12:24 AM
Anu Bose from ottawa

Antonio Pappano, Kent Nagano and Bernard Labadie.

Mar. 13 2014 02:42 PM
LeRoy Lees from Ottawa Canada

Julia Jones. We saw her conducting The Magic Flute in Dresden October 2013. She was so enjoyable to watch.

Mar. 13 2014 10:34 AM
Raymond Menard from New York

Riccardo Muti led performances of Attila a few years ago and was loved by the performers and crew for his attention to detail, commitment to excellence and his clear love of the music. I would look forward to hearing anything he might care to do.

Mar. 13 2014 08:03 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Wonderful choices, all, but I'd like to hear Riccardo Chailly conduct "La Cenerentola" at the Met, based on the performance he conducted some time ago with Ann Murray and Franciso Araiza. It was either at Covent Garden or Glynedebourne, if memory serves. I've never heard him conduct Puccini, so that, too, would be of great interest.

Mar. 13 2014 06:43 AM
Paul Capon

How about Pierre Boulez - Dukas' Ariane et Barb-blue, Szymanowski's King Roger,Roussel's Padmaviti.

Mar. 12 2014 11:44 PM

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