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Meet the Met 2010: Go for the Gelb

jj_thumgIntern JJ here, ready to go with live coverage of the Met’s 2010-2011 press announcement, which will begin in about 30 minutes.

See you there, cher public! Latest coverage begins after the jump.  

4:10: Here’s the complete Season Press Release and the 2010-11 Repertory and Casting complete as of today.

4:00: Over at the Rubinstein Atrium now, where the WiFi is free and (more to the point) operating. A summary of what’s up at the Met next season is on the Times website, scoopers that they are.

Some impressions of the event: it was VERY well attended. List Hall was packed, with people standing in the rear, though some of these were Met (press office and some video, photographers, etc.)

Peter Gelb is most comfortable working from prepared notes. It’s a bit of a fool’s errand asking him a searching, penetrating question as he is just going to duck it anyway. At least he is pleasant and civil in his evasiveness.

The mood seemed a lot more optimistic than last year, even though they seem to have 86ed the idea of having singers from next season’s productions making a personal appearance. (This is perhaps because by far the most engaging of the personalities at least year’s event was Angela Gheorghiu, who, well, you know how that turned out.)

The look of next season seems sort of cautiously modern; the Boris, Traviata and Don Carlo look fairly plain, open-boxy. We didn’t get any look at the Comte Ory, just the Sher talk, and the discussion with Lepage suggests he is not one of the world’s great talkers, not much more than that. It did seem that he has a solid grasp of what he wants to do with the Ring, and in this venue at least he is very respectful of the work. Idea I hd not heard before (Lepage): “In an opera production, the conductor is in control of time, and the director of space.”

I met Margaret Juntwait, who is quite charming in person, sort of a very scaled down version of her radio personality.

I apologize for the connectivity thing, cher public: next year, 3G for backup for sure.

Back to Sunnyside.

3:30: As is traditional at these events, the WiFi cut out the minute Peter Gelb started his introduction. I’ll continue to type, we’ll get this online as soon as possible

James Levine 40th anniversary will be marked with releases of CDs, DVDs and a tour to Japan.

Seven new productions, 11 HD telecasts.

A clip from the Carmen HD (as seen by 360,000 audience members.)

The new productions are as predicted before: Rheingold, Walkure, Boris Godunov, Don Carlo, Traviata, Nixon in China and Le Comte Ory. Joyce DiDonato is in the Ory.

We also will see other directors on video.

Maestro Levine: Going into my 40th season. During the first three seasons working with PG, the effort to build a new audience required refocus, hard work. One of the things most striking: conducting roster is best in JL’s memory. The future looks very bright. One other thing: the Ring. Really a new Ring, a new way of dealing with this story that has never been seen before, but it does deal with the story in great detail. “This may be very, very wonderful.”

PG: 2011-2012 first cycle of Ring. The construction of the Ring set (more machine than set).

“Impressionistic” video of some of the ideas of the design for the Lepage Ring. There will be acrobats on bungee cords and flying on rings. Robert Lepage is live on video from Vancouver.

RP offered the Ring several times before, never felt companies could commit to time & resources necessary. “The big story is always an echo of the small story.” He brings singers as close to the audience as possible. Spectacle in the background points to the small story in the foreground. Designs and staging will push voices forward, singer-friendly. The set is a living thing that breathes (metaphorically, one hopes.). Meeting between traditional stagecraft and state of the art technology, in the spirit of the motifs of the Ring, constantly reinventing and blending set elements. Coups de theatre are created organically. His take based on imagery of the Icelandic Eddas; some of the costumes will recall the first production at Bayreuth which also reflected this source material. The Ring is not “Avatar.”

Levine seems genuinely enthusiastic about the stagecraft. is this the most expensive production the Met has ever done? PG: Ours is less expensive than the one in Los Angeles. Since it’s all contained in one giant piece of scenery, it’s not significantly more expensive than (say) four Boris Godunovs.

Video presentations of new productions. Peter Stein top of Gelb’s list of directors to be invited to the Met.

Nicholas Hytner directs the Don Carlo (this is as seen at Royal Opera, met is a co-producer).

Willy Decker directs Traviata. Entire chorus is dressed as men. The set is being redesigned for the proportions of the Met proscenium. Decker: “A set has to be a clear background for strong characters.” Dr. Grenvil is onstage almost through entire production because he represents mortality. The production is otherwise tightly focused on Violetta as “outcast.”

“Nixon in China” is Peter Sellars’ overdue debut at the Met. One hates to say this but in middle age Sellars is looking a lot like a pineapple. “What distinguishes the performances of Maddalena and the others is that they are so humane.” “Nixon in china coming to the Met is sweet, we made it as an anti grand opera, and now at the Met it can be genuinely grand.”

PG: very supportive intro of Bart Sher.

BS re Comte Ory: “Dessert at the end of the meal. A French pastry made by an Italian chef. The most beautiful music Rossini ever wrote: the trio.

Questions: Will any new opera achieve the popularity of Boheme or Tosca?
PG: Always looking for ways to revitalize standard repertory. There isn’t enough repertory.

Question: Are there any singers or conductors you still want to go after?
Always looking. Nina Stemme a holdout for many years, we’re working on her. Cecilia Bartoli we would love to have back at the Met, not for lack of trying.

Q: Levine’s take on reception to Tosca?
Levine: i don’t have a take. My mind is in a development state; some things I live, other things I don’t like so much. I prefer for people to use their own mind and feeling, not “Jimmy said this.”

Q: Are we ready to tolerate a production of Traviata that strips away everything? Can’t adjust to the lack of romance.
PG: Many Americans saw this at Salzburg, liked it. If we didn’t think audiences would like it, we wouldn’t bring it here.

JL: We asked Peduzzi and Bondy for original work, not something they did before. It’s very important to let artists work and for me it isn’t always about agreeing with what they do.

PG: We are not about “minimalism” – we are after productions that tell the story well.

Q: How has the success of HD productions changed “what you tell directors” because of closeups, etc.

Levine: HD is clearly live, but medium is electronic. Artists don’t change what they do for it; the point is for the HD to pick up what we are doing. If anything, the HD day only increases he sense of occasion. The company, under huge continuous pressure, rise to the occasion magnificently.

PG: The Met is too complicated, with limited amount of time: we can’t rework productions for HD. What we do is this: after production has opened, we analyze how HD will do “reportage” of the live performance.

Q: Is operating budget reduced in current climate?
PG: Most of budget is function of costs we have no control of (unions, etc). We have made millions of dollars in cuts.

JJ and La Cieca will edit all this stuff a little later, but now you know!

2:07: A hush falls over the house. Not really. But first tidbit is: 11 HD telecasts in 1010-2011.

2:00: And here we are. Recognized are Bartlett Sher, director of next season’s Le Comte Ory, and Mercedes Bass, who presumably is not directing anything, but still.

No guarantees on any of this, but if you have ideas for questions to be asked at the presser, email to

Back in 15 minutes!


  • The Comte is very well cast, though needs a master of style, like Jesus Lopez-Cobos

    Rene Pape as Boris -- bad, bad idea. Not his thing at all.

    Don Carlo -- Poplavskaya -- ugh. Keenlyside -- too lyrical even for European houses. Does Furlanetto still sing?

    Rheingold -- Bardon, Blithe, Croft -- great. Siegel super great. Terfel -- nope.

    TRaviata -- Poplavskaya -- well…. Meli is really mediocre. Could have been a good comprimario in the 50s.

    Walkuere -- Westborek debut in one of her best roles. Exciting. Voight -- why? Either Jennifer Wilson or Irene Theorin would have been super great. Kaufmann may have trouble with this.

    Ariadne -- great to see DiDonato as the compser. Great role for her.

    Armida sounds exciting, a good role for La Fleming if she can drop the cooings.

    Boheme -- Stoyanova is exciting.

    Capriccio -- Very promising all around

    Carmen -- Kuhmeier will have a blast in this. Very happy. Cabell undercasting.

    Cosi -- Persson as Fiordiligi is a very funny idea. I see she is intent on ruining her voice. I know she has performed this all around but it’s really not her music.

    Pasquale looks very nice though I think by this stage it’s not Netrebko’s territory. But she’ll get through.

    Fanciulla -- Voight as Minnie -- we’ll see.

    Iphigenie -- when will they learn to cast tragedie lyriques with French people? Graham is known for her francophone affiliation but Delunsch IMHo is much better. Domingo as Oreste? Oh no, and when they have the best Oreste in the world cast as Rodrigue ! Bah.

    Magic Flute -- Ying Huang is still active?

    Pelleas -- Kozena totally miscast. Not her thing. And Graham as Iphigenie? Huh? Shame, because the rest are super.

    Pikovaya Dama -- Mattila as Lisa, well we’ll see… Good to have Galouzine.

    Romeo -- Gheorghiu should stay away of the role by this stage of her career.

    Boccanegra -- Hvorostovsky interesting as Simone, but needs a younger soprano to sing with him.

    Exciting to see Radvanovsky as Tosca and Leonora. Cornetti is a total undercasting. I like Dima as di Luna.

    Wozzeck -- Goerne as Wozzeck very, very interesting, but needs a different Marie. Maybe Stemme.

  • Hugo Santos says:

    I’m very happy to learn that our dear Elisabete Matos is making her MET debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West. She is the first portuguese singer to make it to the MET after Nico Castel.

    • Regina delle fate says:

      She was trashed for her Welsh National Opera Toscas! Possibly too strong meat for delicate Britcritics’ sensibilities. Apparently she sang very loudly, so maybe Fanciulla at the Met will suit her fine.

      • Hugo Santos says:

        Dear Regina,

        I’m very sorry to know her Toscas in Cardiff didn’t go so well. She has indeed a big instrument, sometimes not very subtle nor much flexible, by these days. However, she has artistry to spare, in my opinion. At her best, she is someone to watch. Wish her a wonderful debut.

  • CwbyLA says:

    why is Fleming doing two Armidas in back-to-back seasons? Was there something else planned and got canceled?

  • Constantine A. Papas says:


    The Eurotrash you’re referring to has become a classic, albeit not to everybody’s taste. The original DVD with 2 discs was sold out fast. lists one original copy-new- for $1,050.00, and a used one for $950.00! The commoners and plebeians and not the blue-blooded patricians keep opera going and make the superstars. The purists, trained professionals, and critics can listen to LPs of the golden era of opera and watch grainy VHS of traditional productions. For me the 2005 Salzburg production- after having seen many Traviatas live and on VHSs and DVDs, showed me the emotion, the passion, and the raw human condition like no other. And the response of the public was enormous. This was one-time event with a unique although not perfect Violetta-Netrebko. Can another singer do the same? I doubt it. Not even Netrebko can, and that’s why, wisely, she withdrew from the production.

    • honorary virgin says:

      that’s odd. i just went on amazon and the salzburg “traviata” dvd set is on sale for $28.99 ($26.49 for blu-ray).

      permille, whatever you’re having, make mine a double.

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    I meant the original Deluxe edition of 2-CD set. I just checked now and the price has come down to $425.00! Go to, type La Traviata on the search tub and click on search. It shows pages of all La Traviatas on DVDs and CDs available for sale, new and used ones.

    • Zerbinetta says:

      I have the two disc version. The documentaries are seriously not exciting. When I bought it, it cost $5 more than the regular one and I was secretly hoping it included a bitchy commentary track with Zeffirelli, Lindoro, Betsy, and La Scoopenda.

    • Donna Carlo says:

      Caro Constantine,

      Amazon didn’t completely clear up the issue for my addled brain, so I turn to you for expert appraisal. Just pretend you’re hosting Antiques Roadshow:

      I have in front of me a two-disc DG DVD of the Saltzburg Traviata with “Premium Edition” at the very top of the front cover. Disc 2 includes a 44-minute documentary about the rehearsal. Is this the insanely sought-after set that the muchtoorich are paying big $$$ for?

      I bought it when it first came out for 30 bucks, watched it once, was unimpressed (don’t hit! don’t hit!) and had consigned it to a pile that I planned to donate to the local library.

      But Sweet Son of a Carpenter, je me fous de la bibliothèque if I can win some cash and go shopping once again. I drool (don’t look!) over a dozen DVD reissues of much-loved productions that are currently dying (like Violetta, with tussive sighs) on my exhausted VHS tapes.

      Efkaristo para poly!

  • m. p. arazza says:

    The press release seems all but obsessive on the subject of role debuts. Interesting. I don’t remember this kind of archival emphasis in Met announcements in earlier years, when did it begin?

    Couldn’t find any details on the Levine CD & DVD releases. Was any of this announced? Any new stuff?

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    Donna Carlo, parakalo!

    You can list with your Salzburg deluxe DVD edition of La Traviata while the price is is still hot. Mine will never be for sale.

  • Lucky Pierre says:

    wow, CF, thanks for turning me on the fura del baus ring in valencia. that looks amazing! i found the whole thing on youtube, it looks like they uploaded every single minute of the cycle there. some of the singers are … eh… but the look is stunning.

  • Virgilio Guardepassa says:

    ELISABETE MATOS???? Where on earth did she come from??? She has been broken for 5 years. I witnessed the Parma public deliver the most enthusiastic whistling in my life as she lurched her way through Abigaille several years back. Ah, the fine hand of Mario Dradi……

  • Chirper says:

    I just received my--if you’ll excuse the expression--”renewal packet” in the mail, and I definitely want some of what they apparently smoke in the MET scheduling office.

    Just a few observations--

    Screw the Brit hate. The MET roster should be billed as “Moscow on the Hudson”.

    Next season will have more people playing out of position than the New York Mets.

    Milk that cash cow, Peter Gelb! Seventeen--count ‘em--seventeen (17) performances of “La Boheme”, thirteen of “Carmen” and fifteen of “Rigoletto”, while “Nixon in China”, which has inexcusably taken forever to come to the MET, gets six.

    The subscription series suck because half of each is saddled with either crowd pleasers or performances with impossible casting. The last time it was this bad was during Joe Volpe’s last season and I wound up not renewing. When the MET sees a big drop in renewals, I’m sure they’ll blame it all on the economy, but we know better.