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More announcements: Wolf Trap, Virginia, the Met

Another raft of season announcements has come out: operatic ones. We now know that the Wolf Trap Opera will stage Mozart’s “Zaide,” Rossini’s “The Turk in Italy,” and Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this summer; that the Virginia Opera will put on “Rigoletto,” “Cosi fan tutte,” “Madama Butterfly,” and (ambitiously) “Die Walküre” (subscriptions in Fairfax won't go on sale til April 8) and that the Metropolitan Opera is opening its season with the start of its new Ring cycle, “Das Rheingold.”
(read more after the jump)

The Met’s season, announced on Monday, is naturally the most watched, though in this internet age, in a business where most casting is booked years ahead of time, many of the details had been leaked out well in advance of the announcement. The main news is a matter of opinion: “Met raises ticket prices” is one story line (an average of 11% for individual tickets, according to the press release); “Met borrows yet another production of a contemporary opera from the English National Opera” is another (“Nixon in China,” a Met Opera premiere, in the production by Peter Sellars who, incredibly, has never directed at the Met before).

I’m happy to see the Met turning to some proven opera directors rather than spoken-theater directors -- Peter Stein will stage “Boris Godunov” with René Pape; Nicholas Hytner’s “Don Carlo” co-production with Covent Garden and the Norwegian National Opera arrives with Roberto Alagna; Willy Decker’s Salzburg “Traviata” arrives modified for the Met stage -- though now that the Met audience has learned to boo this season, it will probably unleash its fury on everything that varies the slightest bit from its notions of faithful interpretation. (I am cranky at the Met audience after they booed Pierre Audi at last night’s “Attila” premiere; more on that tomorrow.) And everyone will be happy to see the continuing trend of bringing in major conductors: Simon Rattle makes his Met debut with the old Jonathan Miller production of “Pelléas et Mélisande,” and William Christie makes his with “Così fan tutte.”

Most visible, though, may be the start of the Met’s new Ring, directed by Robert Lepage; “Walküre” will also open, in April, with Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde. (The role is a better fit for her than Minnie in “La fanciulla del West,” which she sings under the Italian phenom Nicola Luisotti, with Marcello Girodani in what should be a fine role for him, Dick Johnson.) And the audience favorite is likely to be “Le comte Ory,” mounted for Juan Diego Flórez (with Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato) and directed by the new Met favorite, Bartlett Sher.

It’s James Levine’s 40th Met season, which will be celebrated with a documentary film, the first two “Ring installments,” and, less formally, “Wozzeck,” since Levine has made Berg’s fantastic operas a veritable end-of-season staple over the years. “Wozzeck” and “Nixon in China” are the only two even moderately contemporary works (“Wozzeck” is 85 years old), and there’s still no trace of any of the collaborations with the Lincoln Center Theater that were announced with great fanfare when Gelb took over: in short, it’s a largely traditional, big, padded, star-filled season, which is, evidently, just the way everyone likes it.

Innovation is left to the 11 HD movie-theater broadcasts, though let’s not be too innovative: “Capriccio,” a repertory production with Renée Fleming, will at least be air, but “Nixon in China” will not. (Neither will Decker’s “Traviata,” for the simple reason that it’s already available on DVD, from Salzburg, with Netrebko and Villazón; at the Met it will be sung by the less illustrious pair of Marina Poplavskaya and Matthew Polenzani.)

There are a lot more highlights, and question marks, than can be mentioned here; the Met’s website has the complete season. What are your thoughts on the Met season announcement: pleased; disappointed; disgusted or delighted at the lack of new opera?

(On a side note, I’m pleased about one scheduled Met debut: Younghoon Lee is alternating with Alagna as Don Carlo. I’m pleased because I got very excited about Mr. Lee when he was a student at Mannes singing Tamino in “The Magic Flute;" I said he sounded more like a Radames than a Tamino, but I never expected to hear him in Verdi in such a different setting quite so soon.)

By Anne Midgette  |  February 24, 2010; 6:23 AM ET
Categories:  news , opera  
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I may have let out a little squeal when I saw Pelleas, which I've never seen, and even though I knew it was coming I'm very excited about Nixon, which was the first opera I ever listened to beginning to end.

Posted by: ianw2 | February 24, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Let's not also forget the announcement from the troubled Philadelphia Orchestra, which needs all the support that it can get. Certainly, at least the "Damnation of Faust", a Dutoit specialty, with Susan Graham among the soloists is worth a trip to Philly.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | February 24, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I have wonderful memories of Berg’s ‘Wozzeck’ and ‘Lulu’ at the MET in 1979-80 (and R. Strauss’s ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ [The Woman without a Shadow] before that), the Houston Grand Opera production of John Adams’s and Alice Goodman’s ‘Nixon in China’ at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Opera House in 1986 (with Peter Sellars standing and giggling near where we were standing at the rear of the orchestra level), and a New York City Opera production of Britten’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Wolf Trap in the summer of 1990.

I thank James Levine for the dozens of wonderful 20th c. operas he led at the MET over the past 40 years, as well as wonderful Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, and Musorgski. (His failure to champion any American opera at the MET between 1974 and 1991 [Porgy aside] was a major disappointment; and one that I imagine he now shares.)

I am happy to see that younger and newer audiences will have an opportunity to see at least three of the Berg, Britten, and Adams operas this coming season; if not – this season – an awaited world premiere (or a regional premiere) of a new American opera such as Aaron Jay Kernis’s and Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” with Rene Fleming.

Now, if only the Washington National Opera had included an American opera this season, as the company promised Congress and the American people, instead of 14 performances of Madama Butterfly - now called the world's most popular opera by the WNO. (Like the Philadelphia Orchestra, I guess the troubled Washington National Opera also needs our support.)

Posted by: snaketime1 | February 24, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

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