On February 16, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City held a multi-media press conference to announce the details of the 2011-2012 season of performances. General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine announced plans for twenty-six operas, including seven new productions, two of which will be Met premieres: Gaetano Donizetti's Anna Bolena and the world premiere of The Enchanted Island, a brand new Baroque-era pastiche with an original libretto by Jeremy Sams and music culled from scores by Handel, Rameau, Vivaldi, and others. Of the 26 titles, eleven productions will be featured in the Met's immensely popular series of HD 'moviecasts' – operas broadcast live into movie theaters around the world.
In addition to the programmatic details, Peter Gelb offered several tantalizing bits of additional information, including a uniform shift in curtain time from 8:00 pm to 7:30 pm for most weekday evening performances. The longest operas will continue to begin even earlier, as has long been the tradition. He also noted that the average age of the Met's audience has decreased slightly over the first five years of his tenure as General Manager. "Our audience is in transition and our presentations are intended to please both its older and younger segments." With this in mind, the cost for the lowest-priced tickets ($25) will not be increased. However, there will be a modest increase in ticket prices overall, averaging 2.7% on subscriptions and 4.2% on single sale prices.
The Met's award-winning series of live transmissions into movie theaters, will enter its sixth season in 2011-12, and now reaches more than 1,500 theaters in 46 countries. In the 2009-10 season, 2.4 million tickets were sold in more than 1,200 theaters in 43 countries, and to date, more than 7 million tickets have been sold worldwide to The Met: Live in HD series. The 2011-12 season will begin on October 15 with Anna Bolena, followed by Don Giovanni (October 29), Siegfried (November 5), Satyagraha (November 19), Rodelinda (December 3), Faust (December 10), The Enchanted Island (January 21), Götterdämmerung (February 11), Ernani (February 25), Manon (April 7), and La Traviata (April 14).
Looking at the new productions, the season will open on September 26 with the Met premiere of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, starring Anna Netrebko in the title role and conducted by Marco Armiliato. Gorgeous mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca is Giovanna Seymour – a role she has sung with much success recently alongside Edita Gruberova in Barcelona. American tenor Stephen Costello will tackle Lord Percy and the mercilessly high tessitura Donizetti concocted for Giovanni Battista Rubini, and Ildar Abdrazakov will offer a properly imposing Enrico (Henry VIII). Lovers of the bel canto composers will surely be rejoicing at the news that Donizetti's first international breakthrough (1830) is finally making it to the stage of the Met.
Adding to the excitement, Peter Gelb confirmed that Anna Bolena is the first of a trilogy of Donizetti's operas based on the lives of Tudor-era queens that David McVicar will be directing at the Met in coming seasons. Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux are the other two titles: all three operas will be Met premieres. McVicar's production team for Anna Bolena includes set designer Robert Jones, costume designer Jenny Tiramani, lighting designer Paule Constable, and choreographer George Andrew. Jones and Tiramani will be making their Met debuts.
The second new production will be Mozart's Don Giovanni, directed by Tony Award winner Michael Grandage in his Met debut. Aside from Donna Anna (sung in all performances by soprano Marina Rebeka in her Met debut), the remaining roles are all double-cast with highly accomplished Mozart singers. James Levine and Andrew Davis will share conducting responsibilities, with Mariusz Kwiecien and Gerald Finley in the title role; Barbara Frittoli and Annette Dasch as Donna Elvira; Mojca Erdmann and Isabel Leonard as Zerlina; Ramón Vargas and Matthew Polenzani as Don Ottavio; Luca Pisaroni and John Relyea as Leporello; Joshua Bloom and Shenyang as Masetto; and Štefan Kocán sharing duties with James Morris as the Commendatore. Grandage's production will feature the Met debuts of Christopher Oram (set and costume design) and Ben Wright (choreography), with lighting design by Paule Constable.
The third new production will be the third installment in the Met's new Ring Cycle. Robert Lepage's production of Siegfried opens October 27, with James Levine conducting and Gary Lehman in his first Met performances of the title role. Singers from earlier operas in the Ring cycle also appear, including Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde, Patricia Bardon as Erda, Bryn Terfel as the Wanderer, and Eric Owens and Gerhard Siegel as Alberich and Mime, respectively. For Siegfried, Lepage introduces a new 3D technology as part of the projections that transform the set into startlingly dramatic images that readjust as the scenery moves and changes shapes. The production team also includes associate director Neilson Vignola, set designer Carl Fillion, costume designer François St-Aubin, lighting designer Etienne Boucher, and video image artist Pedro Pirés. The final opera in Wagner's epic cycle – Götterdämmerung – will be unveiled the following January. Deborah Voigt and Katarina Dalayman will share the role of Brünnhilde and Gary Lehman and Stephen Gould will share Siegfried. The cast also includes Waltraud Meier as Waltraute, Eric Owens as Alberich, Hans-Peter König as Hagen, Wendy Bryn Harmer as Gutrune, and Iain Paterson as Gunther.
In November, Des McAnuff will direct a new production of Gounod's Faust. Jonas Kaufmann sings his first Met performances of the title role, with Gounod specialist Angela Gheorghiu as Marguerite, baritone Russell Braun as Valentin, and popular bass René Pape as Méphistophélès. The charismatic conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will conduct, following on his successful Met outings with Carmen and Don Carlo. Later casts include soprano Marina Poplavskaya, tenors Roberto Alagna and Joseph Calleja, bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, and conductor Alain Altinoglu. Designers Robert Brill (sets) and Paul Tazewell (costumes) make their Met debuts with this production and will be working with Peter Mumford (lighting), Dustin O'Neill (video), Kelly Devine (choreography), and Stephen Rankin (fight direction).
On New Year's Eve, the Met will give the world premiere of The Enchanted Island, a new pastiche of Baroque music set to an English-language libretto by Jeremy Sams. Sams collaborated with conductor William Christie in combining musical excerpts by many composers, including Handel, Rameau, Vivaldi, Campra, Leclair, and others. The opera combines characters and plot elements from two Shakespeare plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. The cast includes Joyce DiDonato as Sycorax, Plácido Domingo as Neptune, Danielle de Niese as Ariel, Lisette Oropesa as Miranda, David Daniels as Prospero, Anthony Roth Costanzo as Ferdinand, and Luca Pisaroni as Caliban. The production team includes director Phelim McDermott, associate director and set designer Julian Crouch, costume designer Kevin Pollard, lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, choreographer Graciela Daniele, and animation and projection design company '59 Productions'.
For the seventh and final premiere of a new production, Anna Netrebko portrays Massenet's Manon, beginning on March 26 in her second new production of the season. Piotr Beczala will be her Chevalier des Grieux, with Paulo Szot as Lescaut, David Pittsinger as the Comte des Grieux, and Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi in the pit. Laurent Pelly will direct and design the costumes. The remainder of the production team includes Chantal Thomas (sets), Joël Adam (lighting), and choreographer Lionel Hoche. Manon is co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, New York; the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Teatro alla Scala, Milan; and Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse.
Having premiered Wagner's Siegfried and Götterdämmerung earlier in the season, the Met will present three complete cycles of Lepage's Der Ring des Nibelungen in April and May 2012. The cycles will be the 108th, 109th and 110th presented at the Met since the first cycle in the Western Hemisphere premiered at the house in 1889. James Levine will conduct all three. The complete cycles will star Bryn Terfel as Wotan/The Wanderer, Deborah Voigt and Katarina Dalayman as Brünnhilde, Gary Lehman and Stephen Gould as Siegfried, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde, Wendy Bryn Harmer as Freia and Gutrune, Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, Patricia Bardon as Erda, Karen Cargill in her Met debut as Waltraute, Jonas Kaufmann and Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Stefan Margita as Loge, Gerhard Siegel and Robert Brubaker as Mime, Eric Owens and Richard Paul Fink as Alberich, Iain Paterson as Gunther, Hans-Peter König as Fafner, Hunding and Hagen, and Franz-Josef Selig as Fasolt.
Cycle 1 will open April 7 (Das Rheingold) and continue on April 13 (Die Walküre), April 21 (Siegfried), and April 24 (Götterdämmerung). Cycle 2 is scheduled for April 26, 28, 30, and May 3; and Cycle 3 will take place on May 5, 7, 9, and 12.
In addition to the Ring Cycles and the remaining five new productions, there will be seventeen revivals, comprising the usual mixture of standard repertoire (73 total performances of Aida, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Boheme, L'elisir d'amore, Madama Butterfly, Nabucco, Tosca, and La Traviata) and more adventuresome fare. In addition to the four Ring operas, Music Director James Levine will conduct only a single title, sharing duties for the new production of Don Giovanni with Andrew Davis. There will be two podium debuts: Robin Ticciati (Hansel and Gretel) and Mikko Franck (Tosca). The long list of returning conductors includes William Christie, Fabio Luisi, Marco Armiliato, Andrew Davis, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Alain Altinoglu, Maurizio Benini, David Robertson, Louis Langrée, Donato Renzetti, Yves Abel, Kirill Petrenko, Gianandrea Noseda, Placido Domingo, Jiri Belohlávek, Paolo Carignani, Harry Bicket, and Dante Anzolini.
As usual, there will be many noteworthy Met debuts this season. These will include tenors Javier Camarena and Alexey Kudrya in Il Barbiere di Siviglia; sopranos Marina Rebeka as Donna Anna and Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina in Don Giovanni; countertenors Iestyn Davies and Anthony Roth Costanzo as Unulfo in Rodelinda; bass Matthew Rose in La Bohème; soprano Malin Byström in Faust; baritone Laurent Naouri in Madama Butterfly; tenor Misha Didyk as Andrei and bass Anatoli Kotscherga as Ivan Khovansky in Khovanshchina; soprano Nadja Michael in Macbeth; mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill as Waltraute in Götterdämmerung; Johan Reuter as Jaroslav Prus in The Makropulos Case; and tenor John Daszak as Captain Vere in Billy Budd.
There will also be plenty of the biggest names in opera on hand for revivals of popular productions. The long list includes Renée Fleming and Andreas Scholl (Rodelinda); Natalie Dessay and Matthew Polenzani (La Traviata); Karita Mattila (The Makropulos Case); Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Flórez (L'Elisir d'Amore); Maria Guleghina (Nabucco); Thomas Hampson (Macbeth); Hei-Kyung Hong (La Bohème); Violeta Urmana, Stephanie Blythe, and Marcelo Álvarez (Aida); Olga Borodina and Ildar Abdrazakov (Khovanshchina); Richard Croft (Satyagraha); Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Ernani); Nathan Gunn and James Morris (Billy Budd); Marcello Giordani (Madama Butterfly); Aleksandrs Antonenko (Tosca); Zeljko Lucic and Yonghoon Lee (Nabucco); Isabel Leonard, Peter Mattei, and Samuel Ramey (Il Barbiere di Siviglia); Robert Dean Smith (Madama Butterfly); Nino Machaidze and Lawrence Brownlee (La Fille du Régiment); and Kate Lindsey and Aleksandra Kurzak (Hansel and Gretel).
The entire Met press release with all dates and casting details can be found here:
The full online brochure can be found here:
Photos: Peter Gelb by Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times; Marina Rebeka from marinarebeka.com.
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