Opening night at the Met is one of my favorite days of the year. A new season connotes discovery, excitement, and a whole other slew of exciting performances to look forward to. Especially after the Met’s unusually long summer break, a new season brings back that sense of currency and anticipation to the opera community. Since my season predictions are unusually late this year, let’s jump right in!
Le Nozze di Figaro (Opening Night): Richard Eyre, who directed a sleepy “Werther” last season, returns to the Met on what was a short-notice takeover from Michael Grandage. Fortunately, I’m not sure it’s possible to have a Figaro that looks sleepier than the recently-retired Jonathan Miller one. I’m especially looking forward to the lauded American soprano Amanda Majeski’s opening night debut, as well as the formidable bass/baritone duo of Ildar Abdrazakov and Peter Mattei. Am I the only person who’s tired of Isabel Leonard? The production returns later in the season with Danielle DeNiese, who should sparkle as Susanna, as well as Mariusz Kweicien and Erwin Schrott. It’s nice to have Levine back in the pit on a more regular schedule to conduct the first run of performances, with Edo de Waart takin over later. September 22- December 20
La Bohème: The Met must have set aside whatever feud it has with Angela Gheorghiu, because the notoriously-difficult Romanian soprano is back at the Met for the first time in over a year. Later in the season, Kristine Opolais makes a scheduled return to the role she sang on short-notice last spring. While a hugely convincing performer, Opolais’ voice lacks the sweetness and fluidity of many famous Mimis, like Gheorghiu. Met renor-of-the-moment Bryan Hymel and Ramon Vargas share Rodolfo and Riccardo Frizza conducts. September 23- January 24.
Macbeth: Anna Netrebko’s Lady Macbeth has arrived, and sooner than expected. Netrebko takes her second stab(pun very much intended) at the intense Verdi heroine in a cast for the ages. Zeljko Lucic is Macbeth, Joseph Calleja is Macduff, and Rene Pape is Banquo(can you say “luxury casting”?) in Adrian Noble’s WWII setting of the classic play-turned-opera. Fabio Lusis conducts. September 24-October 18
Carmen: In what must be the year of Richard Eyre, one of the more successful productions of Gelb’s tenure(Eyre’s 2012 Carmen) returns. Anita Rachvelishvili(you know that you’re getting good at what you do when you can spell that without looking at anything) and Elina Garanca present their two different interpretations of the eponymous gypsy. Their Don Joses are Aleksandrs Antonenko(a future met Otello, if the gossip is to believed), Roberto Alagna, and Jonas Kaufmann. Anita Hartig(a positively magnificent Mimi in Boheme last season) and Richard Tucker Award Winner Ailyn Perez makes her long-awaited Met debut in a mostly thankless role as Micaela. Massimo Cavaletti, Ildar Abdrazakov, and Gabor Bretz share Escamillo and Pablo Heras-Casado and Loius Langree share conducting responsibilities. September 30-March 7
Die Zauberflote: Julie Taymor’s puppet-full production returns to the Met in it’s original German for the first time in a few seasons. Most notably, Pretty Yende returns to the Met after her overnight success in “Le Comte Ory” last season to sing Pamina. Also in the cast are Marcus Werba and Toby Spence as Papageno and Tamino. Kathryn Lewek makes her MEt debut as the Queen of the Night later in the run. Adam Fischer conducts. October 6- November 8.
The Death of Klinghoffer: While Peter Gelb’s idea of new productions is important, it’s new, attention-getting works that will keep opera thriving in the 21st century. The Met’s programming of Klinghoffer, I believe, is the best artistic decision of Gelb’s tenure. A landmark opera by an American composer about a controversial topic can and will stimulate public discussion about opera the way it hasn’t in quite a long time and embodies everything the Met should stand for. Paolo Szot, a treat in any performance, is the captain of the Achile Lauro. Leon Klinghoffer is played by Alan Opie, and Micaela Martens plays Marilyn Klinghoffer. David Robertson conducts in an English National Opera co-production by Tom Morris. Here’s to putting opera back into the public eye! October 20- November 15.
Aida: If there’s anything that needs replacing at the Met, it’s that tired Sonja Frisell Aida. However, it’s back and the casts are notably excellent. Liudmyla Monastyrska, Tamara Wilson(making her debut replacing a pregnant Latonia Moore), and Oksana Dyka, a shimmering soprano who made met Met debut last season, share the title role. Olga Borodina and Violeta Urmana, who has sung the title role multiple times at the Met, sing Amneris. Marcello Giordani and Marco Berti share the role of Radames and Marco Armiliato and Placido Domingo conduct.
Lady Macbeth of Mtensk: You could say that I’m most excited to see the Lady Macbeths this upcoming season, and you’d be correct. Coming out of the mothballs is Graham Vick’s production and Eva-Maria Westbroek, a personal favorite, is ready to bring her most famous role to the Met. Brandon Jovanovich is Katerina Izmailova’s paramour, Sergey. James Conlon conducts the score that got Shostakovich in trouble with Stalin. November 11-29
Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Bart Sher’s best Met production(and that’s saying something) is back again, this time starring Isabel Leonard(feigned surprise) and Lawence Brownlee as Rosina and the Count. Christopher Maltman plays Figaro and Michele Mariotti conducts.
Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg: Otto Schenk’s picturesque production breaks the Met’s season-long Wagner fast with a case headed by Johan Botha as Walther, Annette Dasch as Eva, and James Morris and Michael Volle as Hans Sachs, taking over for Johan Reuter. Get ready for 6 hours of fun with James Levine conducting. December 2- 23
La Traviata: Marina Rebeka and Marina Poplavskaya(You can never have too many Marinas, can you?) share the central role of Violetta in Willy Decker’s production that has overstayed its welcome on the stages of the world. Stephen Costello and Francesco Demuro share Alfredo, and Ludovic Tezier sings Alfredo’s father. Since Poplavskaya cancelled her scheduled Countesses in Figaro at the Met and has not been in the best vocal health as of late, it is open for speculation whether or not she will cancel and, if she does, who will take her spot. Marco Armiliato conducts. December 11- January 24
Hansel and Gretel: The Met’s haunt-your-dreams frightening production FOR FAMILIES returns for the holidays. Christine Rice and Aleksandra Kurzak are the siblings and Robert Brubaker will do wonderfully as the Witch. Sir Andrew Davis conducts. December 18- January 8
Stay tuned for Part 2 in a few hours!