Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Met 2009-2010 season lineup, annotated

Somewhat against my better judgment, I'm offering quick reactions to each of next season's announced productions and casts at the Metropolitan Opera, in order of first appearance. I'll do a more general preview this fall before the season starts.

Note that not every cast combination is listed below -- just most of the recurring ones.

Tosca (new Luc Bondy production)
Mattila, Alvarez, Uusitalo / Levine (opening night through October)
Mattila, Kaufmann, Terfel / Levine (April)
TBA, Giordani, Gagnidze / Auguin (end of April-May)
Is Karita Mattila the new Domingo? Not in ubiquity, more of which from her would be welcome, but in using her clout to put a lesser performer before the Met audience. For Domingo it's himself as conductor; for Mattila -- well, perhaps it's coincidence that consecutive seasons' star vehicles have featured not only her but fellow Finn and disappointingly ordinary baritone Juha Uusitalo (though he does, at least, sing to a professional standard). I'm quite curious about the in-transition voice of Marcelo Alvarez (though next week's Manricos will tell much) but those going only once should certainly see the April cast. The last cast? Don't expect much.
As for opening night itself, I expect those yearning for a specific Puccini sound will complain as they did about Mattila's Manon Lescaut. But Tosca has been a star singing actress' part for a long, long time, and Bondy has inspired Mattila to some of her best work.

de Niese, Relyea, Bell, Skovhus, Leonard / Ettinger (October)
Oropesa, Pisaroni, Dasch, Tezier, Leonard / Luisi (November-December)
John Relyea is intolerable in the title part, and as curious as I am about unknown debutant Dan Ettinger, I'm sure Fabio Luisi will impress in the pit here. Wait until November and Lisette Oropesa's likely less-affected Susanna.

Magic Flute
Kühmeier, Klink, Miklósa, Maltman, Zeppenfeld / Labadie (September)
Kleiter, Polenzani, Shagimuratova, Gunn, König / Fischer (April)
Full of names I can neither identify nor spell.

Urmana, Zajick, Botha, Guelfi / Gatti (October)
Urmana, Zajick, Margison, Guelfi / Carignani (end of October-November)
Papian, Zajick, Licitra, Guelfi / Carnignani (April)
Not bad casting -- and some fairly promising conductors -- if you crave the Met's grand Aida. So much for the internet rumor of Salvatore Licitra being finished at the Met... Though I do think Johan Botha is the better bet here.

Barber of Seville
DiDonato, Banks, Pogossov / Benini (October)
DiDonato, Banks, Vassallo / Benini (end of October-November)
Damrau, Brownlee, Vassallo / Benini (February)
I saw the amazing Joyce DiDonato in this production two years ago with Lawrence (the sometime DJ) Brownlee as Almaviva and Russell Braun as Figaro: a pleasant show all around, though DiDonato's was the only major star instrument on display. I suspect these casts will do similarly, though I wouldn't sell Barry Banks short. Conductor Maurizio Benini has grown on me a bit.

Der Rosenkavalier
Fleming, Graham, Persson, Sigmundsson, Vargas / Levine (October)
Fleming, Graham, Schäfer, Sigmundsson, Cutler / Levine (January)
Librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal rolls over in his grave as Renee Fleming reprises her emo Marschallin. The rest of the cast is promising, though, particularly in October. This Strauss opera has never been one of James Levine's strong pieces.

Damnation of Faust
Borodina, Vargas, Abdrazakov / Conlon (October-November)
What a cast! Too bad about the production.

Guleghina, Giordani, Poplavskaya / Nelsons (November)
Lindstrom, Giordani, Poplavskaya / Nelsons (November)
Guleghina, Porretta, Poplavskaya / Nelsons (November)
Guleghina, Licitra, Kovalevska / Nelsons (January)
The Met is doing 16 performances of this (in)famously over-the-top Zeffirelli version of Puccini's opera, all but one conducted by the young Latvian newcomer Andris Nelsons. But to see this show without seeing Latvian soprano Maija Kovalevska as Liu would be criminal.

From the House of the Dead (new Patrice Chéreau production)
White, Margita, Mattei, Streit, Hoare / Salonen (November-December)
Janacek+Dostoevsky+Salonen+Mattei = must-see+great press+empty seats

Il Trittico
Racette, Lucic, Blythe, Corbelli, Antonenko / Ranzani (November-December)
Racette, Lucic, Blythe, Corbelli, Licitra / Ranzani (December)
Patricia Racette stars in all three operas in Puccini's triptych, and -- with Stephanie Blythe, who stole the show last time -- may finally bring Jack O'Brien's literal production to life. Very promising, though debuting conductor Stefano Ranzani is unknown to me.

Tales of Hoffmann (new Bartlett Sher production)
Villazon, Pape, Garanca, Kim, Netrebko, Gubanova / Levine (December, including first night Gala, and January)
Villazon, Pape, Garanca, Kim, Netrebko, Gubanova / TBA (December)
Early rumors had Anna Netrebko attempting all the heroines in this, but she's wisely left high-coloratura Olympia to Kathleen Kim and mezzo-ish Giulietta to Ekaterina Gubanova. Rene Pape and Elina Garanca are singing in all the parts, of course, but the real question is: who's going to be singing Hoffmann when December rolls around?
Sher's first production at the Met wasn't so impressive, but perhaps he's learned from it. Obviously Levine's performances are the ones to see; his sciatica-induced cancellation drained the life out of an excellently cast (Shicoff, Swenson, Terfel, Mentzer) 2000 revival.

Bullock, Voigt, Palmer, Schmidt, Held / Luisi (December)
Luisi did well with Strauss' Helena, and he plus the excellent supporting cast should make much of the show whether or not debuting English soprano Susan Bullock crashes or triumphs in the name part -- and whether or not Voigt, who is no longer the creamy-voiced marvel of the 90s (as in the telecast with Behrens), can make Chrysothemis work in her new voice.

Hansel and Gretel
Persson, Kirchschlager, Langridge, Plowright / Andrew Davis (December-January)
This is a pretty starry lineup for a kids' presentation (with attendant 11AM matinees).

Carmen (new Richard Eyre production, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon)
Gheorghiu, Alagna, Frittoli, Kwiecien / Nézet-Séguin (New Year's Eve Gala through January)
Borodina, Jovanovich, Kovalevska, Kwiecien / Altinoglu (end of January-February)
Borodina, Jovanovich, Kovalevska, Rhodes / Altinoglu (February)
Gheorghiu, Kaufmann, Kovalevska, Kwiecien / Altinoglu (April-May)
Yes, Angela Gheorghiu's first Carmen attempt onstage anywhere. A better fit for her temperament than Micaëla, but a stretch for her voice. Barbara Frittoli sounded sufficiently poor in her 2007 Suor Angelica that I've wondered why she's still getting big engagements here. In the other cast, Olga Borodina can certainly sing Carmen but seemed bored in her last one: perhaps the new production -- and not injuring her foot -- will energize her a bit. 2007 Tucker-winning tenor Brandon Jovanovich makes his debut opposite, which should be interesting, and Kovalevska's Micaëla has already outshined Borodina once. Much will depend on the two debuting conductors.

Cura, Marambio, Dobber, Ens / Domingo (January)
This obscure Verdi opera was only moderately interesting when Domingo was actually singing in it and James Levine conducted. Now, account for the mind-boggling gap between Levine and Domingo-as-conductor... A definite miss.

Simon Boccanegra
Domingo, Pieczonka, Giordani, Morris / Levine (January-February)
Domingo sings baritone! -- and not just any baritone part, but the great title role of this Verdi opera. Whether it works or not, it's an event -- though I'll be surprised and cheered if it's as good as the last revival.

Ariadne auf Naxos
Stemme, Ryan, Kurzak, Connolly / Petrenko (February)
Low-glamour but high-promise cast in a great opera and production. Kirill Petrenko's conducting last time was routine.

La Fille du Régiment
Damrau, Florez, Palmer, Te Kanawa / Armiliato (February)
If you want to hear this Donizetti piece again, the singing here's bound to be good. Dame Kiri is in a non-singing role, however.

La Boheme
Netrebko, Beczala, Cabell, Finley / Armiliato (February-March)
Netrebko, Beczala, Swenson, Petean / Armiliato (March)
Will get a lot more press than this season's revival, but won't necessarily be as good. The role of Mimi suits Netrebko's current voice, though.

Attila (new Pierre Audi production)
Abdrazakov, Urmana, Vargas, Alvarez / Muti (February-March)
Abdrazakov, Urmana, Vargas, Alvarez / Armiliato (March)
This is not only conductor Riccardo Muti's Metropolitan Opera debut but the house premiere of this Verdi rarity. Don't miss it, and buy your tickets to Muti's performances early. Intense young tenor Russell Thomas has one performance (March 19) in place of Ramon Vargas -- both should be interesting.

The Nose (new William Kentridge production)
Szot, Geitz, Popov / Gergiev (March)
This is the Met premiere of this early Shostakovich piece, and the debut of all three principal singers as well as the production team. If Gergiev makes you nauseous these days, there is one performance (March 25) led by his fellow Mariinsky conductor Pavel Smelkov. Very interesting, though by no means a sure bet.

Hamlet (new production imported from Geneva)
Keenlyside, Dessay, Larmore, Morris, Spence / Langrée (March-April)
Another Natalie Dessay showpiece, with another Natalie Dessay mad scene. Who can resist?

La Traviata
Gheorghiu, Valenti, Hampson / Slatkin (end of March-April)
2002 Met Council Finals winner James Valenti finally makes his company debut as Alfredo. Gheorghiu's Violetta and Hampson's Germont are likely familiar, but by the time of this revival it will have been a dozen years since Leonard Slatkin conducted at the Met.

Armida (new Mary Zimmerman production)
Fleming, Brownlee, Ford, Zapata, Banks, van Rensburg / Frizza (April, including first night Gala, and May)
Fleming in her element -- Rossini's take on Tasso. Don't miss, and buy your tickets early.

Flying Dutchman
Uusitalo, Voigt, Gould / Ono (April-May)
See note on Tosca. Tenor Stephen Gould's debut is interesting, but this revival's likely a miss unless Uusitalo shows well in the Puccini.

Petersen, Lehman, von Otter, Morris / Levine (May)
The greatest, most gorgeous (particularly when Levine conducts it) modernist opera gets a surprisingly starry cast.


  1. You wouldn't sell Banks short? Very funny. (snark). I like this singer a lot; I'm going to the final performance of "Sonnumbula" to see him, rather than the Florez performances.

  2. Mr. Banks is very underrated. He's been singing for this long, there has to be a reason.

    I was very excited about Armide before the Met's official announcement, why the Met changed the cast of Rinaldo? Eric Cutler would have been more convincing as Rinaldo. Brownlee probably has easier high notes. Speaking of being short, I always think Armida as The Witch and the six dwarfs.

    Is Kwiecien ready to sing Escamillo? I have no doubt he can act the role.

    Der Rosenkavalier has such luxury casting: Sr. Vargas as the Italian tenor (I would like to hear Cutler too) Also Sir Tom?

    Why there is No Mr. H? Perhaps the MET should give him some performances of Boccanegra.

    Mr. Mattei seems love new challenge, the empty house part makes me sad. I'd rather hear him sing Hamlet. Well, maybe next time (Mr. H supposedly to sing the next revival, no?)

  3. The third unhyped Scarpia, George Gagnidze, was very impressive in the semi-staged production of Tosca by the NY Philharmonic last June.

    He gave a wonderfully thuggy and elegant performance, and I'm excited to see him with Karita Matilla next season.

  4. Actually, I think Brownlee is even shorter than Banks. ;)

    Per Brad Wilber, Hvoro is doing Boccanegra the season after.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.