The Metropolitan Opera announced their new season today. Unlike last season, there appears to be a few bright spots amid all the dross.
What I am excited for:
‘Maria Stuarda’ with Joyce DiDonato - After the success of ‘Anna Bolena’ - the only interesting thing the Met has staged this season - I’m totally pumped to see the untouchable, charismatic Joyce DiDonato take on one of Donizetti’s most complex heroines. ‘Stuarda’ is definitely my favorite of the three ‘Tudor Queen’ operas, and it will be nice to see the role, rightfully, returned to a leading mezzo soprano. I was actually a fan of David McVicar’s gritty, inky production of ‘Anna Bolena,’ but I hope he takes a fresh approach to this new ‘Stuarda.’
‘Rigoletto’ transplanted to Las Vegas - Finally, we can bid adieu to Otto Schenk’s drearily realistic production, which has been long overdue for retirement. Director Michael Mayer has provided some of my most pleasurable theatergoing moments but, as we all know, brilliant theater directors do not equal brilliant opera directors. Still, the idea of transplanting the tale of the hunchback jester to a seedy Las Vegas setting is just too tempting. Let’s hope Mr. Mayer is brave enough to realize his concept all the way through, instead of the usual timidly half-assed approach that has become the norm at the Met. Željko Lucic is one of the most elegant baritones working today, and Diana Damrau should make an excellent Gilda!
‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ by David Alden - Finally, an edgy “Euro-trash” director at the Met! David Alden, much like his brother Christopher, is famous for his bold, courageous reinterpretations of operas. I must admit that I am not really a fan of ‘Ballo,’ which is a hot-mess of plotting and themes. But given the right treatment, even the most problematic works can really take flight in the hands of a brilliant director. Mr. Alden is a pro with a distinct vision; he understands what makes opera tick, and is capable of providing a riveting theatrical experience.
What I am, tentatively, anticipating:
Thomas Adès’s ‘The Tempest’ - This is one brilliant fucking opera that deserves to be seen! I love all things Adès - whom I think is a genius, and one of the best composers of our generation - and his deeply personal take on Shakespeare’s comedy is thrilling and truly touching. What’s more: Simon Keenleyside, who created the role of Prospero, is back with his winning portrayal. Unfortunately, Robert Lepage is directing, so there is every chance that the production will swallow the drama and the music. After all, if Wagner couldn’t triumph over Lepage, what chance does Adès have?
‘L’Elisir d’Amore’ directed by Bartlett Sher - J’adore Bart Sher! Honestly, his work on ‘Light in the Piazza’ and his luminous ‘South Pacific’ were two of the most emotionally devastating (in a good way) pieces of theater I’ve had the privilege of witnessing. But, Sher’s track record with opera has been more varied. Anna Netrebko proved she was one of the toughest bitches around with her stunning ‘Anna Bolena’ earlier this season. Under the guidance of a good director, she can be one of the most truthful, nuanced actresses in all of opera. But one of her worst, most embarrassing performances came courtesy of Mr. Sher in his muddled ‘Contes d’Hoffmann.’ Let’s hope Mr. Sher has a plan going in this time, and that he gets plenty of rehearsals with his leading lady.
Handel’s ‘Giulio Cesare’ - I’d rather chew my arm off than sit through a Handel opera - make that any Baroque opera. ‘The Enchanted Island’ was a particularly punishing night at the opera. But Natalie Dessay could sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and make it interesting, and La McVicar has, apparently, worked wonders with this opera. It’s unfortunate that this is the only Dessay appearance of the season, but this might end up being a delightful surprise.