On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Opera announced a new season filled with stars and co-productions that seemed more eager than ever to make a good impression — as if the mission of offering a new direction for opera has yielded, to a certain degree, to the aim of so many other companies around the country, desperately hoping to draw people to the box office.
There are five new productions, down from past seasons: three pieces from the standard repertoire, one previously announced new work (Thomas Ades’s “Exterminating Angel,” a co-production with Covent Garden and Salzburg, where it had its premiere last year), and one Met premiere of an old work, Massenet’s “Cendrillon,” in the Laurent Pelly production seen at Santa Fe in 2006, with Joyce DiDonato in the title role.
Sir David McVicar will remain as busy as ever at the Met, with two of the new productions. The season opens with his new “Norma,” starring Sondra Radvanovsky, with Angela Meade (who won the Met auditions with “Casta diva” in 2007) taking over later in the run, and DiDonato and Jamie Barton offering high-profile star wattage in the role of Adalgisa. Joseph Calleja will sing Pollione. McVicar will then go on, on New Year’s Eve, to replace the Luc Bondy “Tosca,” an early Peter Gelb project that drew a lot of heat, with a new one starring Kristine Opolais, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel, conducted by Andris Nelsons; in April, Anna Netrebko will take over the title role.
The other standard opera to get a new production is “Cosi fan tutte,” which will arrive in the Phelim McDermott production that opened at the English National Opera in 2014, set on Coney Island, with Amanda Majeski as Fiordiligi and the Broadway star Kelli O’Hara as Despina, under David Robertson’s baton.
Other notable facts: The Met’s music director emeritus James Levine, contrary to some fears, is very much in evidence, conducting four (count them) concert performances of the Verdi Requiem, and productions of “The Magic Flute,” “Il Trovatore,” and “Luisa Miller,” the last a relative rarity, in which Piotr Beczala will sing Rodolfo and Placido Domingo will take on the baritone role of Miller. Domingo will also be conducting: He leads the revival of the new “Romeo et Juliette,” with Ailyn Perez and Bryan Hymel.
The real interest on the conducting front, however, are two revivals led by Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the Met’s music director designate: the Francois Girard “Parsifal,” with Klaus Florian Vogt, and the acclaimed Patrice Chereau “Elektra,” with Christine Goerke.
Another notable revival is Rossini’s “Semiramide,” with Meade, Elizabeth DeShong, and Javier Camarena, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Among the standard-repertoire pieces, I’d like to see Pretty Yende and Matthew Polenzani in “Elisir d’amore” (little as I care for the Bartlett Sher production), a “Lucia” with Olga Peretyatko or Yende opposite Vittorio Grigolo or Michael Fabiano, and possibly even “Thais” with Perez and Gerald Finley. There’s also “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” (featuring Grigolo and Tara Erraught in her Met debut) “Butterfly,” “Turandot,” “Boheme,” “Cav/Pag” (with Roberto Alagna, with Nicola Luisotti conducting; probably worth a look), “Nozze di Figaro,” and Susan Graham as “The Merry Widow.”
Overall, there’s not much that’s new or adventurous here, with the Ades holding up the whole mantle of opera written in the last 50 years, though there are, as one would hope, some things I’d like to see. As if to remind everyone of its not-very-prominent commissioning program, the Met included an update in the news release to remind everyone of just what’s cooking on that front: Still in progress, according to this release, are Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Intimate Apparel,” with Lynn Nottage; Jeanine Tesori’s “Grounded,” with George Brant; Matthew Aucoin’s “Eurydice,” with Sarah Ruhl; and as-yet nameless projects by David T. Little, with Royce Vavrek, and Joshua Schmidt, with Dick Scanlan, the last based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater.”
It’s nice to hear that these things are still in the works. Now, how about giving us more of a taste of all that new work on the program?