The problem with galas is that they higgledy-piggledy touch too many parts of the opera experience. Pleasure comes from the past, the present, sound, drama, and not least the social occasion. But few enjoy all of these in equal proportion; if there's something for everyone in a gala, there's usually also something to dislike for everyone. It's part of the dizziness: under what lens is each particular bit supposed to make sense? In what context?
At any rate, I don't think a "who missed and who scored" roundup is the most fruitful approach (though I find Maury's valiant effort interesting), and in fact misses the point as much as not. Best, maybe, to start from what was preserved (next week's telecast) and go from there. (One thing that may not be evident on TV, incidentally, is that Frederica von Stade's solo number was noticably if semi-discreetly miked.) I plan a post on that, as well as some thoughts on the Volpe era.
Still, one bit of perspective. Though he was running much behind-the-scenes activity before, Volpe officially took over in 1990. Karita Mattila had made her Met debut that spring, as Donna Elvira. Just two years before -- in 1988 -- Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, and Ben Heppner had won the Met Council auditions, and Deborah Voigt (a Met Council winner in 1985) had gained prominence from winning Pavarotti's competition in Philadelphia. So that was the beginning, and the backbone of both the current roster and the gala itself.
1998, then, was the midpoint of Volpe's tenure. In the spring, Kiri te Kanawa appeared in her last staged production here: the house premiere of Capriccio. Voigt and Heppner opened the controversial (and lately triumphant) Robert Wilson Lohengrin. In the fall, the eternal Placido Domingo and Olga Borodina -- who had just debuted the previous year! -- opened the season in Samson et Dalila. Mattila took her first turn as Elsa (after having done Musetta just two years before). And Fleming starred -- with not-quite-Met-regulars Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel -- in the then-new production of Figaro that's with us today.
And in 2006...