Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera's 2010-11 Season

Since I heard about it a few weeks ago, I have been pleased with most of the Met's upcoming season; indeed, I told a friend one day recently, "Except in the case of the premiere of John Adams's Nixon in China, there is not a bad production to be shown at the Met in terms of the cast and the opera." My prejudice against American opera was nakedly present in that remark, but, from the small amount of experience that I have had over the years with this genre, I have gained the knowledge that I dislike most American opera. Of course, there are the new productions, which one must ever anticipate with the mixed emotions of excitement and regret, especially in the retirement of Franco Zeffirelli's gorgeous production of La Traviata, of which we are uncertain, but their casts may make up for whatever the theatricality lacks.

Some of the events for which I am elated are as follows. William Christie, best known as the conductor of Les Arts Florissants, being a skilled conductor of the Baroque repertoire, makes his Met debut conducting Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, the cast of which includes Danielle de Niese, Isabel Leonard, Miah Persson, and Nathan Gunn. While Mozart is not very far removed from the Baroque period, and one can hear some of its influence in his music, I could not help but to wonder if this might have been a good time to revive or premiere one of Handel's magnificent operas. I should like to see them assemble a cast of Handelians to rival their 2004-05 production of Rodelinda, and, yes, I am quite aware that Renee Fleming is not considered an Handelian, but one only has to listen to her Handel album to know that she sounds divine singing his music.

Sir Simon Rattle also makes his Met debut next season, and he lends his baton to performances of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande. He recently married mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, and she is starring in this opera alongside Stephane Degout and Gerald Finley. If my interpretation of the surnames White and Palmer are correct, then we should also be seeing Felicity Palmer and Wendy White in this opera as well. Kozena is a singer with whom I have only recently acquainted myself, but I first heard of her from a Met broadcast, the title of which I do not recall, for it was rather long ago. I came to know her better through the release of her Ah mio, cor disc of Handel arias, and it was through that release that I heard her sing Lascia chi'o pianga, and I immediately adored her ornamentation of the aria. Her voice seemed so light, yet it was not weak, and she clearly seemed to perform on the level of Cecilia Bartoli, with whom I was then infatuated through her Vivaldi album, in that aria. Ever since I have wanted to hear her again at the Met, and next season I am granted my wish.

Renee Fleming is scheduled to reprise her role as Rossini's enchantress in Armida in February 2011, and what makes this even more impressive is that I shall be there to see it! I have longed to see my favorite soprano perform live in an Italian opera for so long, and if nothing happens to make her cancel the run, I will finally have that opportunity. She is also singing Strauss's Capriccio, which promises to be most memorable if the 2005 TDK DVD release from the Opera National de Paris is to be of any indication in this case. The fact that I will see an opera performed on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera of New York starring my favorite soprano makes the possibility of anything going wrong seem fantastic, and I cannot wait until I am at the entrance of the Met taking in all of the excitement, anxiety, and sheer magnificence of that moment, which will endure for some three hours and continue in my memory for the remainder of my life.

This year's annual offering of La Boheme stars Maija Kovalevska, Krassimira Stoyanova, Piotr Beclaza, Peter Mattei, Ramon Vargas, and Joseph Calleja. This production is timeless, and I hope that the Met does not intend to retire it anytime soon. It would be wonderful to see Franco Zeffirelli either refresh one of his earlier productions or design a completely new production for the Met. It would be magnificent, and I am sure it would sell out quickly. I am glad that the Met offers La Boheme so very often. With so many distinguished casts presenting it, it has become a learning experience for me every year.

Bartlett Sher, who has won a warm place in the opera aficionado's heart for his recent productions of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Les Contes d' Hoffmann, returns with what promises to be another hit new production in the 2010-11 season. Turning his talents towards the music of Rossini, he is heading Le Comte Ory, and the cast is incredible; it includes Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau,and Joyce DiDonato. Maurizio Benini conducts this run of performances. Who could ask for a better cast for a Rossini opera? I immensely enjoyed Damrau and Florez in this season's broadcast of La Fille du Regiment, so I cannot wait to see what Joyce DiDonato adds to this pair's fabulous vocal display.

Nicholas Hytner makes his debut directing a new production of Verdi's Don Carlo next season. This production has already been shown in London, so it is probably one that has plenty of merit, but here is another production that the Met might have retained. I did not ever see this production, but the costumes alone from the photographs I have seen are enough to make me want to keep the production. Marina Poplavskaya and Roberto Alagna head the cast for this opera. An interesting, engaging young conductor from Canada, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who may be remebered for conducting this season's Carmen, returns to the Met podium with this Verdi masterpiece. I look forward to how the orchestra sounds under him in this opera.

Since I am likely to ramble at length about the remainder of the season, let it suffice for me to merely provide a few remaining highlights from the rest of the repertoire presented. Natalie Dessay returns to her portrayal of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor next season. Julie Taymor's abridgement of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) is again presented as their Christmas offering, and Nathan Gunn and Erika Miklosa reprise their roles of Papageno and The Queen of the Night, respectively. Miklosa's Queen of the Night is breathtaking, and in a few years I should like to hear Kathleen Kim sing this role. Nevertheless, i would like to hear more of Miklosa at the Met. I recall that new production of Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride from a couple of seasons ago with great pleasure, and Susan Graham, Placido Domingo, and Paul Groves are scheduled to reprise their individual roles in this opera next season. It will be interesting to compare this run with the prior one, for it is not often that one is granted such an opportunity as this to hear the exact singers sing a performance again two years later. Despite the demerits of the production, David Daniels, Kate Royal, and Lisette Oropesa join forces to present Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. I am thrilled to see a countertenor return to the Met, and to hear him in this rolewill be most entertaining. I have wanted to hear Kate Royal ever since her Midsummer Night album received such an impressive review in Opera News, and it seems the Met has catered to my taste or desire yet again.

If I may digress from the subject of my title, it bears reference that I shall see the Met's Live in HD presentation of the new production of Rossini's Armida, starring Renee Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee, Barry Banks, and Kobie van Rensburg on May 1st, and I am naturally elated at the prospect. Two weeks from thence I am scheduled to see soprano Sarah Coburn perform with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and I am even more excited to attend that performance. It promises to be an auspicious, formal evening, and Coburn will be singing selections from the Baroque, Bel Canto, and later periods during this recital. While I am speaking of her, I must admit that I wish that she would sing at the Met again soon. While they are not detrimental to her career, I would much prefer to hear her singing Verdi or Donizetti over these world-premiere American operas that continue coming her way.

I thank all of you for reading this long post, and may God continue to bless you. I greatly enjoy thinking that there are people who enjoy reading my opinions on opera, and I am blessed to have such a great amount of them.