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Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Look Ahead: 2014-15 at The Metropolitan Opera

Superconductor gives a first look at next season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Marcelo Àlvarez and...Marcelo Àlvarez bring the tragedy as the Met unveils a new
Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci (and five more new productions) for next season.
Photo by Anne Deniau © 2014 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera's 2014-15 season was announced today at 6pm. Recent seasons have been conservative (2012-13 with its abundance of Verdi and Wagner) or experimental (2013-14 with the return of Russian and Czech opera and a new work by Nico Muhly). 2014-15 looks to fall between two stools, presenting modern works by John Adams, Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich against a slew of Verdi operas and traditional repertory favorites.

As always in the Peter Gelb era, there are six new productions. This year, two of these are double bills. Technically, the Met is mounting eight new operas, including two that are new to its stage. The other major thread: James Levine is scheduled to return to full-time duty, conducting six operas including the season's Opening Night.

The new season kicks off Sept. 22 with a Russian-inflected Le Nozze di Figaro starring Marina Poplavskaya as the Countess and Ildar Abdrazakov's return to the title role. This new production by Richard Eyre (Carmen) also stars Marlis Petersen, Peter Mattei and Isabel Leonard as Cherubino.

The other five new opera productions are:

The Death of Klinghoffer: John Adams' controversial 1991 opera recreates the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro and the murder of the wheelchair-bound tourist Leon Klinghoffer by terrorists. This new production is a collaboration with the English National Opera. It marks the opera's Met debut and the first production by Tom Morris (War Horse.) Opens October 20.

The Merry Widow: Once again the Met will start off the New Year with a Viennese operetta rendered into a new English translation by house "poet laureate" Jeremy Sams. Renée Fleming stars in the title role for the winter run, and Susan Graham sings the role in April. The production is by Susan Stroman (The Producers) in her Met debut. Opens Dec. 31.

Iolanta/Duke Bluebeard's Castle: A double bill of Tchaikovsky and Bartók, this production (originally from Baden-Baden) features Anna Netrebko in the first-ever Met performances of Iolanta, the blind princess who finds true love and her sight. This cheerful tale is paired with Bartók's only opera, an unflinching examination of the perils of matrimony. Opens Jan. 26, 2015.

La Donna del Lago: Joyce DiDonato is the reason to see this Santa Fe import, a rare Met performance of this brilliant late Rossini opera. As the singer brought down the house at the 2013 Richard Tucker Gala with the final Rondo from this work, you can expect this new production to get a similar reaction. Opens Feb. 16, 2015.

Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci: Speaking of marriage problems, they are at the heart of this pair of verismo tragedies. Marcélo Alvarez will sing the roles of Turiddu and Canio in this bloody double bill. David McVicar directs. Opens April 14, 2015.

The Repertory: In addition to these eight operas, the Met will offer 18 operas in what we opera types call the generale--that is the rest of the season. Here's the list in order of openings, with quick notes and opening dates for each.

La Bohème: The regular Met season starts with Franco Zeffirelli's larger-than-life version of 19th century Paris. A superb cast with Bryan Hymel singing his first Rodolfo. Opens Sept. 23.

Macbeth: Verdi's Shakespeare drama is a substitute for the Met's failed Dez McAnuff staging of Faust. Anna Netrebko is Lady Macbeth in the first hot ticket of the new season. Opens Sept. 24.

Carmen: The Richard Eyre staging returns as does Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role. She'll platoon with Elīna Garanča. Opens Sept. 30.

Die Zauberflöte: Mozart's mystic Masonic opera (presented in Julie Taymor's puppet-powered production) is better (and funnier!) in the original German. Opens Oct. 6.

Aida: Violeta Urmana is now relegated to the role of Amneris, but the presence of Lyudmila Montyrskaya, Latonia Moore and new Ukrainian sensation Oksana Dyka gives Verdi lovers a reason to go back to the desert. Opens Oct. 30.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: The opera that enraged Josef Stalin and triggered the Soviet artistic purges of the 1930s. No, really. See it for yourself. Eva-Marie Westbroek sings the title role. Opens Nov. 10.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Lawrence Brownlee, Christopher Maltman and Isabel Leonard team up in Bartlett Sher's hilarious comic-book take on Rossini's beloved opera. Only six performances for some reason. Opens Nov. 18.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Probably your last chance to see the Met do a traditional Otto Schenk/Gunther Schneider-Siemssen staging of a Wagner opera. (Rumor has it that a new Meistersinger and possibly a Tannhäuser are planned for future seasons.) James Levine conducts, which means it's worth the six-hour length. Opens Dec. 2.

La Traviata: The Met's Willy Decker "clock face" staging gives opera-goers plenty to argue about on the rush line--and still sells tickets. Opens Dec. 11.

Hansel and Gretel: Cannibalism. Child abuse. Waiters with fish heads. Special Holiday Presentation in English. Who's hungry? Opens Dec. 18.

Les contes d'Hoffmann: Bart Sher's head-trip of a production gets a revival. The strong cast includes Hibla Gerzmava doing triple duty as the three loves of Hoffmann's life, and Thomas Hampson playing the Four Evil Geniuses. Opens Jan. 12, 2015

Don Giovanni: Can New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert pump life into this 2012 production? Maybe, but it still looks like it takes place in a decaying New Orleans motel. Opens Feb. 4 2015.

Manon: Jules Massenet's good-time girl goes out on the boards again. This time, Diana Damrau gets to sing the famous gavotte. Opens March 9, 2015.

Lucia di Lammermoor: Depending on who you ask, Mary Zimmerman's production is either a total success or a travesty. But the singing is marvelous, with Albina Shagimuratova warbling in the title role. Opens March 16, 2015.

Ernani: Rejoice, Angela Meade fans: the bel canto specialist reprises her Elvira in this old-school staging. With Placido Domingo as Don Carlo--which sort of means that the tenor-turned-baritone will be effectively playing his own grandfather. (I'll explain later.) Opens March 20, 2015.

Don Carlo: Verdi fans, throw up your hands. The Met was supposed to mount Carlo this year in the original French. At least this revival is conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and features the return of Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip II. Opens March 30, 2015.

Un Ballo in Maschera: This unloved 2012 production is back. Director David Alden continues to associate political assassinations with the movies of Ingmar Bergman. The cast features Sondra Radvanovsky as Amelia. Piotr Beczala sings his first Gustavo at the Met. Opens April 23, 2015.

The Rake's Progress: Igor Stravinsky's lone full-length opera deserves better than being relegated to the first week of May: the Met's gulag for important modern opera productions (Dialogues of the CarmelitesThe Makropoulos Case, Billy Budd) that it doesn't know what to do with. Just three performances. Opens May 1, 2015.

Superconductor will publish the full 2014-15 Metropolitan Opera Preview this summer.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.