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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018-19 Metropolitan Opera Season Preview: Meet the New Boss

The Met crowns Yannick Nézet-Séguin as its Music Director...two years early.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads a rehearsal of Der fliegende Holländer at the Met in 2017,
unaware of the neon crown hovering overhead added by this blog's author.
Photo by Richard Termine © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera. Crown inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The Metropolitan Opera announced its schedule today for 2018-19, along with the blockbuster news that Yannick Nézet-Séguin, currently in the middle of a successful run of Wagner's Parsifal has been official crowned as the company's music director. This enthronement is two years ahead of schedule.

To paraphrase Albert Einstein: "Insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again" (even in the world of grand opera) "and expecting different results." With that (hopefully) in mind, the Peter Gelb-led Met has finally made some long overdue changes.

There are four new productions on the schedule (all in the first half of the season) instead of the usual six. They are as follows:

Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns (opens Sept. 24, which is also Opening Night.)
This new staging of the Biblical drama seems like an odd choice to start the year, but who are we to argue? This Old Testament cross between an opera and an oratorio (bring on the dancing Philistines!) arrives in a new staging that (judging from the first press photos) updates the opera to a modern style with the famous Biblical hairstylist reimagined as a noir femme fatale. Roberto Alagna and Elina Garança should strike sparks the way they did when they opened the Met's 2009 Carmen.
Met Live in HD performance on Oct. 20.

Marnie by Nico Muhly (opens Oct. 19)
Nico Muhly brings his third opera to the stage of the Met: an adaptation of the ultra-neurotic Alfred Hitchock classic Marnie. Isabel Leonard sings the title role. In the proud tradition of George Lazenby, baritone Christopher Maltman replaces Sean Connery as the male lead.
Met Live in HD performance on Nov. 10.

La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi (opens Dec. 5)
Mr. Mayer, the man who sent Rigoletto to Las Vegas, will present a neo-traditional La Traviata replacing the controversial Willy Decker "clock" production that (like the aforementioned Rigoletto) had outstayed its welcome. Diana Damrau returns as Violetta, and Juan Diego Flórez pushes his fach as the feckless Alfredo. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.
Met Live in HD performance on Dec. 15.

Adriana Lecouvrer  by Francesco Cilea (opens Dec. 31)
This is a late (Puccini-era) Italian opera is the lone success by the otherwise forgotten Cilea. It is also a victory lap for sopranos, who take on this challenging title role when they are (hopefully) at the very peak of their profession. Anna Netrebko premieres the new production on New Years' Eve, opposite tenor Piotr Beczala.
Met Live in HD performance on Jan. 12, 2019

All the new productions are in the fall this year, to accommodate the return of the Robert Lepage production of Wagner's Ring Cycle and its giant "Machine" set. Happily, it comes with a switch back to the old, beloved format of one "weekender" cycle (to premiere the four operas in matinee performances) and two "festival" weeks where Wagner addicts (like me!) can see all four operas in a "Bayreuth-style" compressed schedule. Philippe Jordan conducts a cast featuring Christine Goerke, Michael Volle and Stefan Vinke as Siegfried.

Der Ring opens with Das Rheingold on March 9.
Die Walküre (also the Live in HD broadcast) opens March 30.
Siegfried opens April 13.
Götterdämmerung opensApril 27.

Here is a list of the generale (everything else) in chronological order, with opening dates of each opera. Full opera previews will run on Superconductor starting in July.

La bohéme by Giacomo Puccini (opens Sept. 25). The Zeffirelli production takes the boards again.

Aida by Giuseppe Verdi (opens Sept. 26, second run starts Feb. 28 2019). Probably the last appearance of this beloved '80s production.

La fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini (opens Oct. 4). Supertenor Jonas Kaufmann returns to sing the most rootin' and tootin' of Puccini roles: the suave but unfortunately named Dick Johnson.

Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (opens Oct. 25, March 18)
The safe "net-traditional" production (yes, I like that word, I'm using the hell out of it) comes back with Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role. Jennifer Rowley takes the flying leap in the spring.

Carmen by Georges Bizet (opens Oct. 30, January 9) Bizet's femme fatale takes the boards in the form of mezzo Clémentine Margaine.
Met Live in HD performance on Feb. 2, 2019.

Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito (opens Nov. 8)
The devil you say! Christian van Horn puts the traditional horns on to sing the title role in this sulphuric spin on the Faust legend. Angela Meade is Marguerite, and Michael Fabiano is Faust. The dark horse of the season.

Les Pêcheurs de Perles by Georges Bizet (opens Nov. 14) Pretty Yende puts on the sacred tiara in Bizet's opera exotique set in far away Sri Lanka. Javier Camarena and Mariusz Kwiecien star.

Il Trittico by Giacomo Puccini (opens Nov. 23)
Three, count 'em three Puccini operas in three acts in a single (long) evening. First, the bloody Il Tabarro, then the tragic Suor Angelica. As dessert, the delicious comedy Gianni Schicchi. Il In Puccini's only comedy, tenor-turned-baritone Placido Domingo (who celebrates 50 years at the Met in a gala later this season) sings the title role. Clearly, Mr. Domingo is attempting to prove that, like the composer of Il Trittico, he can do anything.

Otello by Giuseppe Verdi (opens Dec. 14). A tenor people really like, Stuart Skelton sings the title role in a (fairly) new Bartlett Sher staging that nobody really likes.

The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (in English) (opens Dec. 19). The Met's holiday offering this year is their redacted and shortened "Magic Piccolo" version which trims Mozart's masterpiece to one act and ninety minutes. Sigh.

Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy (opens January 15). Paul Appleby and Isabel Leonard sing the star-crossed leads in Debussy's lone opera. However, the real star is newly minted Met music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who will conduct these performances. This is one of the hottest tickets of the winter.

Iolanta/Duke Bluebeard's Castle by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Béla Bartók (opens January 24). The Met revives this popular production that pairs two very fractured fairy tales. Sonya Yoncheva and Gerald Finley sing  the respective title roles.

Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart A variety of casts return in the Met's dark and unlovely staging of Mozart's wonderful opera. The Don deserves better than this but nobody said dramma giocoso was easy.

La Fille du Régiment by Gaetano Donizetti (opens Feb. 7)Pretty Yende and Javier Camarena take on the third and last of the great Donizetti stage comedies, with the tenor singing the explosive aria "Ah, mes amis" with its nine high C's in a row.
Met Live in HD performance on March 2.

Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi (opens Feb. 12)
The Met rolls the dice on its Vegas Rigoletto, starring a new jester: baritone Roberto Frontali. This run includes performances by Bryan Hymel as the Duke (starting March 6) and Nadine Sierra as Gilda.

Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (March 2)
A Verdi-heavy spring continues with the composer's last opera. Heavyweight baritone Ambrogio Maestri returns as Shakespeare's corpulent knight.

La Clemenza di Tito by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (opens March 30)No, this isn't about the henchman in The Godfather. Mozart's last opera is a healthy rage of Roman politics, planned political assassination and old fashioned vocal firepower.

Dialogues des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc (opens May 3)The last revival of the season is the most powerful: Poulenc's stark tale of the martyrdom of the Carmelite nuns in the Reign of Terror. They went to the guillotine singing. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts an all-star cast.
Met Live in HD performance May 11.

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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.