Thursday, May 10, 2012

Met Scene: Season Preview with Peter Gelb

Every year, Patrons of the Metropolitan Opera gather in the auditorium to listen to General Manager Peter Gelb as he presents next season's new productions.  This is a great way to get some insight in what will be on stage next year, and it sometimes makes it easier to understand what is going on when the actual opera premieres.

The 2012-2013 season will open with a new production of L'Elisir d'Amore by Donizetti.  Because seasons get planned so far in advance (the Met is now working on the 2017-2018 season), many things can go wrong and change in the intervening years.  L'Elisir was not meant to be the season opener, especially since it had such a great revival in March with Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau, but it will be great to see a fresh and new production by Bartlett Sher.  The story will be set in 1836, and the main focus will be the relationship between real and unreal; in this case, for example, real water but fake houses.  Anna Netrebko will once again open the season, together with Matthew Polenzani.  Mark your calendars for Opening Night on September 24th, because there is nothing like Opening Night at the Met.

In October, the Met will have its premiere of Thomas Ades' The Tempest.  The Tempest is a modern opera, it had its premiere in London in 2004, and this will be the third production of it since then.  The Met's production by Robert Lepage is set in La Scala of the Eighteenth Century.  The production will be filled with lots of theatrical magic, which can be expected of a production by Lepage, who was also the mastermind behind the Met's new Ring Cycle.  There will be lots of acrobatics and very imaginitive costumes.  The story is based on Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. 
Thomas Ades will conduct his own masterpiece, starring Simon Keenlyside as Prospero.  Also on the roster is Alek Shrader, winner of the 2007 Grand Finals and who you may remember from the documentary The Audition.  

The third premiere of the season will be David Alden's new production of Un Ballo in Maschera, which will be the first new production in twenty years.  The action of the opera is set back in Europe, just like Verdi intended it.  Verdi had to set his own Ballo in Boston due to censorship in Italy.  This was because the main component and inspiration for the opera was the political assassination of Gustavo III of Sweden in 1792.  Alden places this production in the early Twentieth Century, in a dreamlike and nightmarish environment.  Look for similarities with Icarus.  I am very excited for this production because it stars Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and I just fell in love with him last week when I saw him perform in La Traviata.  His voice carried me away.  He will be joined by Marcelo Alvarez and Kathleen Kim, among others, who is also one of my favorites after I heard her in Les Contes d'Hoffman (in the Doll Song).

Next up will be part two of Donizetti's 3 queen operas, Maria Stuarda.  David McVicar will tackle this production, and like Bolena, his interpretation will be historically accurate. However, this opera will be more abstract: free and romantic.  The storytelling should happen mainly through the music, and the librettist took some creative liberty with regards to this.  In the opera, Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I meet, but this never actually happened.
This Bel Canto opera will have its premiere on New Year's Eve.  Joyce DiDonato takes on the role of Mary, while Elza Van Den Heever plays Elizabeth I.

Rigoletto is finally up for a new production as well; the old one dates from 1989.  The first technical rehearsals will begin in a few weeks on the Met stage.  A technical rehearsal is when all the technical aspects of the production are tried out on the stage, but no singing is involved yet.  Peter Gelb brings famed Broadway producer Michael Mayer to the Met stage.  He searched for a period in history that will make the story timeless and universal, and he found it in the neon-lit Las Vegas of the sixties.  It makes sense to the story, which opens in a casino: the Duke is a Las Vegas star and Rigoletto is his hang on guy, kind of like the Rat Pack.  The cast will consist of Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala and Željko Lucic.

Parsifal will receive its first new production in 24 years by film director Francois Girard.  Jonas Kaufman will be the star of the production, which will feature a minimal staging, consisting of a dry earth with one stream of water running through it.  The environment will be mystical, spiritual and timeless; eventually the water will turn to blood.
It is very hard to explain an opera in a few sentences, and that seems to be the case with Parsifal, but the season brochure describes Parsifal as "the innocent who finds wisdom."  It will be a must-see production, as this is another one of Wagner's masterpieces.  Also starring in this production are René Pape and Peter Mattei.

The last new production of the season is Giulio Cesare, a Baroque piece by Handel which will also be staged by David McVicar.  This is a very entertaining production, and features a variety of tunes: romantic, comic, adventurous... The story is a fictional account, but it somehow remains true.  It will be a playful account, even with some Bollywood influences.
The amazing countertenor David Daniels, who you might have seen in this season's The Enchanted Island, will sing the title role.  He will be joined by Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra.

In addition to these seven new productions, there will also be sixteen revivals.  There will be seven Verdi operas next season, in celebration of his bicentennial.  Les Troyens is finally being brought back to the stage as well.  It is not often performed because it is a very expensive production to mount.  

In the future, we should expect to see many more new productions.  Peter Gelb believes in new productions, and every opera should receive an update every few years.  For people who have a problem with the more minimalistic and modern productions, La Traviata, for example, was always supposed to have been set by Verdi 100 years later than what he eventually managed to bring to the stage.  As is often thought, minimalistic sets are not used to cut costs, the best way to do that is by making co-productions with other opera houses around the world.  I happen to like the new productions on the Met stage; it is just important to have an open mind.

If you are as excited about next season as I am, check out the online brochure and order your subscription right now.  You are sure to find a whole bunch of Grand Finals winners on the roster next season.

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