Friday, February 16, 2018

The face

This year's Met season announcement wasn't even headlined by the season, but by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, currently mid-run of Parsifal. As one might expect after the Levine scandal, the company got the French-Canadian conductor's schedule cleared so he could go from Music Director Designate to Music Director this fall instead of 2020. So a new era begins... even if most of the particulars are old. (As usual, some one-off cast combos are omitted.)

Samson et Delila (new Darko Tresnjak production)
Alagna, Garanča, Naouri, Azizov, Belosselskiy / Elder (opening night to October)
Antonenko, Rachvelishvili, Naouri, Konieczny, Groissböck / Elder (March)
A new guy-from-Broadway's production, presumably visually striking in the current fashion and color palette, replaces the visually striking one in the '90s fashion from Elijah Moshinsky. There isn't a whole lot to this piece beyond vocal-dramatic display, which makes the spring cast rather more interesting.

La Boheme
Car, Blue, Grigolo, Dupuis, Luciano, Rose / Gaffigan (September-October)
Pérez, Blue, Fabiano, Piazzola, Rock / Gaffigan (November-December)
New Yorker (via Europe) James Gaffigan debuts in this eternal Zeffirelli show alongside Aussie soprano Nicole Car and Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis. Ailyn Perez - outstanding this fall in Thais - and Michael Fabiano lead the excellent alternative cast.

Netrebko, Rachvelishvili, Antonenko, Kelsey, Belosselskiy, Green / Luisotti (September-October)
Wilson, Rachvelishvili, Antonenko, Kelsey, Belosselskiy, Green / Luisotti (October)
Radvanovsky, Zajick, Lee, Frontali, Kowaljow, Howard / Luisotti (January)
Radvanovsky, Petrova, Antonenko, Kelsey, Kocán, Howard / Domingo (February-March)
More star power in this warhorse than usual, and though the ideal lineup of Radvanovsky, Rachvelishvili, Lee, Kelsey, and Luisotti never appears together, both the first and third iterations should bring enough excitement to be worthwhile (Netrebko did pretty well in Trovatore). It's sad to have one of the best conductors of this rep replaced at the end by the worst, however.

La Fanciulla del West
Westbroek, Eyvazov, Lučić / Armiliato (October)
Westbroek, Kaufmann, Lučić / Armiliato (October)
Nicola Luisotti's transcendent conducting saved an iffy cast the last time this Puccini work was revived. This time the star power is more heavily weighted to the singers... at least if Jonas Kaufmann actually shows up.

Marnie (new piece by Nico Mulhy, production by Michael Mayer)
Leonard, Kelly, Graves, Davies, Maltman / Spano (October-November)
Muhly addressed the biggest flaw of his previous work by getting a new librettist - dramatist Nicholas Wright, no stranger to opera - and using a novel/film adaptation as material; whether this will result in actually dramatic music is unclear (I haven't seen the ENO performances). Incidentally, a suite from this piece will be part of the Philadelphia Orchestra's opening night for 2018 - conducted of course by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Radvanovsky, Calleja, Koch / Rizzi (October-November)
Rowley, Calleja, Koch / Rizzi (March-April)
As much as I loved seeing Radvanovsky and Calleja in last fall's Norma, do we have to keep getting Carlo Rizzi in the pit when they sing? Jennifer Rowley is an interesting alternative in her own right - though I missed her Toscas, she really impressed by the end of the Trovatore run this month - and heldenbaritone Wolfgang Koch is likely being eased in before doing big Wagner here.

Margaine, Yu, Lee, Ketelsen / Wellber (October-November)
Margaine, Kurzak, Alagna, Vinogradov / Langree (January-February)
Yonghoon Lee and Roberto Alagna reprise their intense Don Joses opposite Clementine Margaine, whom I missed last spring. Israeli conductor Omer Meir Wellber debuts in the first run, while the second has Aleksandra Kurzak as Micaela, apparently marking her full departure from the light high stuff in which she made her name (she's doing Desdemona and Liu in Vienna in the next months).

Van Horn, Meade, Check, Fabiano / TBA (November-December)
This production - which I saw at its last Met appearance but frankly can't remember - was the one that toured the country three decades ago as Sam Ramey's personal showcase. Christian Van Horn doesn't exactly have Ramey's name recognition at the time, but the cast seems strong enough even without a set conductor. One interesting thing is that usually the same soprano (Veronica Villaroel, whom I do remember, last time) sings both Marguerite and Helen of Troy, but here Jennifer Check is listed separately in the latter part. Boito's opera, besides having great high-octane set pieces for the leads and chorus, is probably the most faithful to Goethe's original and definitely worth seeing.

Les Pêcheurs de Perles
Yende, Camarena, Kwiecien, Teste / Villaume (November-December)
Good cast for a good show. The final night (December 8) features Amanda Woodbury, who was the best part of the premiere run.

Il Trittico
Wagner, Blythe, Álvarez, Gagnidze, Opolais, Mkhitaryan, Ayan, Domingo, Muraro / de Billy (November-December)
The outer two casts look promising. Who knows whether Kristine Opolais, scheduled to premiere the new Tosca but replaced by Sonya Yoncheva, will actually sing in the middle piece, though. The production has seen some success but depends quite a lot on the electricity of the performers.

La Traviata (new Michael Mayer production)
Damrau, Florez, Kelsey / Nézet-Séguin (December)
Hartig, Costello, Rucinski / Luisotti (April)
Hartig, Costello, Domingo / Luisotti (April)
Finally! Never mind that Damrau has never much connected in the Italian rep, or that Quinn Kelsey's huge (and hugely impressive) instrument will be mismatched with the lead couple's, or any of that. After almost a decade of having its worst production monopolizing this most central part of the house's repertory, the Met finally brings relief with this new staging. Nézet-Séguin had musical success even in the previous production, so the fall shows should be an event, but the overall cast of the spring shows - with Puccini master Nicola Luisotti conducting his second Verdi of this season - looks likely to be more satisfying.

Skelton, Yoncheva, Lučić, Dolgov / Dudamel (December-January)
Two of the three premiere leads return with Stuart Skelton (last seen here in Tristan), the clarity of whose sound should work well as the Moor. Is there still hype for Gustavo Dudamel? I suppose so.

The Magic Flute (children's version in English)
Morley, Lewek, Bliss, Ryan, Gunn, Walker, Robinson / Bicket (December-January)
As usual, a very good mostly-American cast for these kids' shows. Most interesting to me: 2013 Met Council winner and standout Sydney Mancasola appears (I think for the first time) in the alternate cast of January 3.

Adriana Lecouvreur (new David McVicar production)
Netrebko, Beczala, Rachvelishvili, Maestri / Noseda (NYE-January)
Rowley, Beczala, Rachvelishvili, Maestri / Noseda (January)
A concert performance of this rarity in 2011 with Angela Gheorghiu was one of the most surprisingly revelatory shows of the past decade, perfectly melding part and performer in a way one always hopes for but all-too-rarely sees. I doubt whether the Anna Netrebko of 2019 can personify the intertwined humility and grandeur that makes the title part, but at least the rest of the cast should be a pleasure. (Rachvelishvili and Maestri repeat the parts they sang that night.) Perhaps Jennifer Rowley is an answer? In her case I'm unsure of the grandeur, with Netrebko the humility.

Pelléas et Mélisande
Appleby, Leonard, Ketelsen, Lemieux, Furlanetto / Nézet-Séguin (January)
A good cast and Nezet-Seguin's second appearance of the season for Debussy's masterwork should make for a great run... if revival director Paula Williams doesn't recreate the reductive stage dynamic of the 2010 revival. (To be fair, it might have been determined by the singers of that run, none of whom return this time.)

Iolanta / Bluebeard's Castle
Yoncheva, Polenzani, Markov, Azizov, Kowaljow; Denoke, Finley / Nánási (January-February)
Running almost together with Pelleas is what should be the other turn-of-the-century monument to unspannable human distance - Bluebeard's Castle by Bartok. Unfortunately Mariusz Treliński's schlocky production gets the piece entirely backwards, with Bluebeard as some horror-movie villain instead of the victim of Judith's relationship-destroying jealousy. (Yes, she's Golaud.) At least it's a shorter failure than his Tristan... The Iolanta half isn't bad, though, and the cast is excellent and led by new Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási.

Don Giovanni
Pisaroni, Abdrazakov, Willis-Sørensen, Byström, Garifullina, de Barbeyrac, Cedel, Kocán / Meister (January-February)
Mattei, Plachetka, Yu, Phillips, Malfi, Breslik, Sim, Belosselskiy / Meister (April)
Mattei, Plachetka, Yu, Phillips, Malfi, Appleby, Sim, Belosselskiy / Meister (April)
As I sadly left my review post at the time incomplete in draft, let me start with this: Swedish soprano Malin Byström, who sang the part here in fall 2016, is the best, most perfect Donna Elvira I have ever heard, live or on record. Even with the Don Giovanni headlining the April run, the winter performances - which also are the debuts of German conductor Cornelius Meister, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, and French tenor Stanislaus de Barbeyrac, along with the first significant part for 2013 Met Council winner Brandon Cedel - may therefore be preferable.

La Fille du Régiment
Yende, Blythe, Camarena, Corbelli / Mazzola (February)
Yende, Blythe, Camarena, Muraro / Mazzola (February-March)
Good cast, silly production. Fun?

Frontali, Sierra, Grigolo, Zaharia, Kocán / Luisotti (February-March)
Frontali, Sierra, Hymel, Zaharia, Kocán / Luisotti (March)
Gagnidze, Feola, Hymel, Zaharia, Ivashchenko / Luisotti (April-May)
I'm not sure there's an ideal lineup here, with Frontali maybe getting old for the part, Sierra not the best at playing innocent, and Hymel not really an Italianate lyric tenor. But with Nicola Luisotti in the pit for his third Verdi opera of the season, you should probably catch at least one of these... perhaps the spring performances with debuting Italian soprano Rosa Feola.

Maestri, Schultz, Pérez, Cano, Lemieux, Demuro, Rodríguez / Farnes
Everyone has turned over since the premiere of Carsen's glorious production except Ambrogio Maestri and Jennifer Johnson Cano... but I don't doubt that it will triumph nonetheless. (How Carsen went from this to his misguided Rosenkavalier, who knows...)

Das Rheingold
Grimsley, Harmer, Barton, Cargill, Ernst, Siegel, Konieczny, Groissböck, Belosselskiy / Jordan (March)
Volle, Harmer, Barton, Cargill, Ernst, Siegel, Konieczny, Groissböck, Belosselskiy / Jordan (cycles II and III)
Last time Philippe Jordan was here, he was a thirty-something young "son of" conducting a disappointly disjointed revival of Figaro. Now, over a decade later, he's the recently-appointed music director of the Vienna State Opera and taking over Ring duties. I have no idea how it's going to go, but the singing part seems in good hands. Much will depend - for the entire cycle - on revival stage director J. Knighten Smit, whose job is to fill in the huge holes left by Robert Lepage's utter lack of interest in personenregie.
(Incidentally, Tomasz Konieczny - the Alberich for this revival, with Eric Owens having moved on to Hagen - was the emergency replacement John the Baptist for that unforgettable 2014 Vienna Phil Salome at Carnegie.)

Die Walküre
Goerke, Westbroek, Skelton, Barton, Grimsley, Groissböck / Jordan (March-April)
Goerke, Westbroek, Skelton, Barton, Volle, Groissböck / Jordan (cycles II and III)
With Katerina Dalayman's successes from 2009 to 2013 the house has not lacked good Brünnhilde performances, but Christine Goerke's monstrously easy-sounding performance in Elektra (finally reaching the Met in a few weeks) and her notices with the Ring in Houston tease perhaps one of those epochal assumptions. Especially with Volle in the single-week cycles rest of the cast looks loaded at every part... so perhaps the uncertainty of conducting and directing (J. Knighten Smit is joined by Gina Lapinski for this installment) won't matter.

La Clemenza di Tito
Polenzani, Fang, van den Heever, DiDonato, Murrihy, Van Horn / Koenigs (March-April)
Every few years the house revives the Ponelle Clemenza. Every time it's an emotional-musical triumph, one of the glories of the season. And every time it's hideously undersold and barely noticed in the press. Perhaps DiDonato's name recognition can change the latter, as this looks something like an ideal cast (though 2008's performance - perhaps Susan Graham's finest moment here - could hardly be bettered).

Vinke, Goerke, Morley, Cargill, Siegel, Volle, Konieczny, Belosselskiy / Jordan (cycles I and III)
Schager, Goerke, Morley, Cargill, Siegel, Volle, Konieczny, Belosselskiy / Jordan (cycle II)
I've already mentioned the conductor, revival director (Stephen Pickover joins Smit here), the Brünnhilde, and Volle's Wotan/Wanderer, but Siegfried rises and falls on the tenor. Here two performances are by Stefan Vinke - apparently the Siegfried of choice at the big European houses - and one by Andreas Schager, who impressed immensely as Apollo in Strauss's Daphne in concert a few years back. Again, cause for much hope.

Goerke, Schager, Haller, Connolly, Nikitin, Konieczny, Owens / Jordan (cycles I and II)
Goerke, Vinke, Haller, Connolly, Nikitin, Konieczny, Owens / Jordan (cycle III)
Eric Owens moves, as mentioned before, from Alberich to Hagen, while the very promising Brünnhilde and Siegfrieds repeat from the third installment. J. Knighten Smit, revival director for all four installments, is here joined by Paula Williams for the most herculean of fix-up jobs. Here they have to struggle not only with Lapage's absurdly literal stage translation (which got weaker and weaker as the series progressed) but Wagner's least-polished, all-too-Meyerbeer libretto. But the principals - including debuting Italian Wagner soprano Edith Haller - seem strong, though Sarah Connolly is an odd choice for Waltraute.

Dialogues des Carmélites
Leonard, Pieczonka, Morley, Cargill, Mattila, Portillo, Croft / Nézet-Séguin (May)
I think I just have to list the cast for the third of Nézet-Séguin's shows this season. Karita Mattila returns!

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.