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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Season Preview: The Metropolitan Opera 2015-16

Six new productions, nineteen revivals and as usual wilderness of mirrors.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
(l.-r.) Aleksandrs Antonenko, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Aleksandrs Antonenko,
Aleksandrs Antonenko, Aleksandrs Antonenko, and Aleksandrs Antonenko
star in Otello. Photo by Kristian Schuller © 2015 The Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera unveiled its 2015-2016 slate at 1pm today, with a roster of operas and new productions that veers toward the conservative for America's largest opera company.

So without further ado, the Opening Night (Sept. 21, 2015) is a new production of Otello by Bart Sher. The award-winning Broadway director turns his hand from light bel canto comedies (The Barber of Seville, L'Elisir d'Amore) to the much heavier Shakespearean tragedy by way of Giuseppe Verdi. Tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko will deliver the opening "Esultate!" and Sonya Yoncheva is the hapless Desdemona. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.


In addition to Otello, there are five other new productions scheduled. Four of them are imports from other opera houses in London, Baden-Baden and Aix-en-Provence. In a drop from years past, the generale consists of 18 shows although one is the standard double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci making for a sum tota of 25 operas.

The most eagerly anticipated event of this season is the complete triptych of Donizetti's Three Queens operas: Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and for the first time ever at the Met, Roberto Devereux. This last is a new production and all three are directed by Sir David McVicar. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will sing the roles of Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor and the older Queen Elizabeth, a feat not done onstage in New York since the glory days of Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera. Less excitingly, the generale features two additional Donizetti operas (L'Elisir d'Amore and Don Pasquale), something of a record for this melodious bel canto composer.

This year features new productions of two comparative rarities. The first: Puccini's Manon Lescaut stars Jonas Kaufmann and Kristine Opolais. The old Met staging was so antiquated that it featured in the Woody Allen movie Hannah and Her Sisters. The new one is by Sir Richard Eyre and will probably feature the Met turntable and lots of moving walls.

The second of these is Les Pêcheurs de Perles, ("The Pearl Fishers") a gorgeous Bizet opera that was last staged at the Met in 1916 with some guy named Enrico Caruso in the lead.. A century later it returns on New Year's Eve, with a starry cast (Mariusz Kwiecien, Matthew Polenzani, Diana Damrau) and Gianandrea Noseda conducting.

There's still a healthy portion of German opera on the schedule. New stagings of Richard Strauss' Elektra (conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen in a dimly lit production by the late Patrice Chéreau) and Berg's Lulu (by the brilliant William Kentridge) joining the Met rotation. The latter features Marlis Petersen in the title role. Also on the list: Wagner's Tannhäuser, (the last Otto Schenk Wagner production in the Met rotation) with tenor Johan Botha being forced to walk from Thuringia to Rome and back during the second intermission. Who said opera isn't good exercise?

Other revivals this season include:

  • A James Levine-conducted run of Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Albina Shagimuratova and Paul Appleby.
  • Last year's Richard Eyre-directed Le Nozze di Figaro features Luca Pisaroni as the Count Almaviva.
  • La Donna del Lago, the Rossini opera that just opened this week.
  • Simon Boccanegra with Plácido Domingo still trying to convince listeners that a fading tenor can succeed in the daunting title role. Angela Gheorghiu sings Amelia in three of the performances.
  • The 2013 production of Die Fledermaus, retooled with Jeremy Sams' dialogue severely trimmed and Susan Graham a welcome presence as Prince Orlovsky. Chacun à son goût.
  • Speaking of unpopular productions, the Met has scheduled another grind-through of the Luc Besson Tosca with Bryn Terfel's malevolent Scarpia. (Hopefully this is the last one--a new production is in the works.) 
  • The aforementioned revival of Cav/Pag with Roberto Alagna. It is unknown if he will sing both operas. 
  • Anna Netrebko and Angela Meade square off in Il Trovatore, sadly not at the same time. They'll split the Leonoras.
  • The best thing that the Met did in the last ten years--Anthony Minghella's glorious Madama Butterfly returns for another well-deserved revival. 
  • The "Verdi goes to Vega$" Rigoletto returns with three tenors rolling the dice as the Duke. Olga Peretyatko is a sure bet as Gilda.
  • For the younger set, Rossini's The Barber of Seville in its Bart Sher incarnation, with free lollipops for every kid who sits through their haircut. (Actually, the lollipops will cost $25 at the Revlon Bar.)
  • Finally for the tourists and traditionalists, the overstuffed Franco Zeffirelli productions of Turandot and La Bohéme are on their way to the Met workshops and will be spiffed up and dusted off for next year.

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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.