Cher Public

Saint Peter

La Cieca hears that for coming seasons at the Met, Peter Gelb plans to mix a little religion in with the opera, or non-opera as the case may be. A couple of projects reportedly in the hopper for circa 2015-16 are the company premiere of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise, to be directed by Robert Lepage, and a staged version of Handel’s Messiah, probably in the Deborah Warner production seen at the English National Opera in 2009.

  • honorary virgin

    Great news! Now we can replace all the kvetching about the Met’s failure to stage St. Francois with kvetching — once people have actually seen it — about the piece itself. I enjoyed it in San Francisco in 2002, but the fact remains that it’s been staged in numerous cities since its premiere back in 1983
    and, far as I can tell, hasn’t built up much of a constituency. Certainly I’ve never heard any opera-loving Bay Area friends complaining about its absence for the past decade. We’re talking here about a five-hour opera with an almost all-male cast and no romantic element that calls for an enormous orchestra and augmented chorus. I’ll bet my fellow Parterrians right now that, after it opens at the Met (if it does), you’ll hear this: “Why did they spend so much effort and money on this when they could have stage Huguenots or (fill in your favorite neglected blockbuster here); something people actually want to see?”

    • thirdlady

      “No constituency”? I, along with several thousand people, saw the Teatro Real production of “St. Francois” in the Madrid Arena and we all seemed utterly enthralled. Frankly, even though I live in New York, I am planning to spend as much time as possible next season seeing opera anywhere other than the Met. Preferably Madrid. See you at the Haneke “Cosi”!

  • oedipe

    Well, I have a feeling the Lepage Saint François will look nothing like this:

  • Will

    St. Francois is NOT five hours long. The Nagano recording comes in at 239 minutes and 9 seconds which is four hours of music — shorter by 20 minutes than Gotterdammerung (that many if not most Parterrians willingly sit through) or Siegfried or Billy Budd (the first almost all-male and the second definitely all-male) that are very regularly performed and endured.

    For that matter a lot of other Wagner tops out as long or longer than St Francois as does Les Troyens. The Met will have some early matinee and evening curtains and all will be well.

    • Henry Holland

      So that’s 3 out of the 9 operas that Gerard Mortier was going to do in his first season at NYCO (the other being Pelleas et Melisande which hadn’t been done since 2000 and Nixon in China which hadn’t been done there before, both done in 2011) that Gelb will have done at the Met since then.

      [puts on Pedantic HH hat]

      Thank you for pointing out the “five hour” thing. It annoys to me no end when people write stuff like “Berg’s 4 hour Lulu….”. No! It’s 2:50 long, the intermissions are irrelevant considering how often the specified number are ignored these days (see: Die Tote Stadt).

      Don’t know why you mentioned Billy Budd, that’s ca. 165 minutes = 2:45.

      [/hat off]

      As for the “no romantic element”, I’ll quote the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick: “There’s more interesting things to write about than love”.

      That said, St. François share the dramatic limitations of many contemporary operas: it’s pageant–a series of tableaux, not plot driven. One of my pet peeves!

      Could you name names please, I’d love to hear them! :-)

      It seems pretty much all operas written by Americans are based on plots and linear narratives. Of course, stuff like Pintscher’s fab L’espace dernier or Bruno Mantovani’s L’Autre côté or GF Haas’ Die schöne Wundeare are fairly non-linear, but there’s still a kernel of a plot there. It’s a small kernel, but still…..

      • operacat

        Another Mortier planned production I would love to see at the Met is a French DON CARLOS.

        • Henry Holland

          I’d love to see a French Don Carlos anywhere, but preferably in the US sometime soon. I know San Francisco did the 5 Act French version in 2003, but I couldn’t go.

          • Camille

            They are giving a Don Carlos at the Houston Grand Opera, commencing in about two weeks or so. I was thinking of going, and taking Straussmonster along for the ride, but I doubt I’ll make it.

            I just got my announcement of the Hollywood Bowl summer season:Rigoletto with The Dude on the 12th of August and a Dudamel & Domingo concert on the 19th. I know you will barf.Sorry.

          • Henry Holland

            Damn it all this poverty I’m mired in, I’d love to hear DC in French. Could you Don Carlos experts explain to me how this is possible (from the HGO website):

            The performance lasts approximately 4 hours, including two intermissions

            If, as Wikipedia notes, the French 5-act DC lasts 4 hours, and Houston is doing the French 5-act version but it’s going to have about 3:20 of music (4 hours -- 2 x 20 for intermissions), how is that possible? Is the ballet that long? Hideous, disfiguring cuts?

            I just got my announcement of the Hollywood Bowl summer season:Rigoletto with The Dude on the 12th of August and a Dudamel & Domingo concert on the 19th. I know you will barf.Sorry.

            I have no problem with Domingo’s singing career (his Parsifal at the Met in the 90’s was incredible etc.), I just want him 5,000 miles from the administrative offices of Los Angeles Opera, stat. From the blurb about the Domingo/Dudamel concert:

            The world’s greatest tenor joins Gustavo Dudamel for the first time in concert for an unforgettable evening of Latin songs and operatic arias

            “World’s greatest tenor”? Ha! He’s never sung Paul in Die Tote Stadt or Alviano in Die Gezeichneten or Gustave von Aschenbach = PR hype FAIL. It’s the “Latin songs” part of the program that makes me think I might have a socks drawer to re-arrange that evening. :-)

            As for The Dude, I’m not convinced. I’ve heard him conduct 5 times and he’s wildly inconsistent, even within the same concert. I’ll never forget hearing him conduct Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and it was HORRIBLE, a 15-year conducting student could have done better, then coming back after the intermission and knocking my socks off with an incredible complete Daphnis et Chloe. To me, he’s in the exact same place Salonen was in their LAP tenures: conductors with limited repertoire using we Angeleno’s as guinea pigs. Gawd, Salonen’s early Beethoven *shudder*

            Rigoletto at The Bowl could be fun, I love the opera and the Bowl is always fun to puff & drink & bask in the lovely summer nights at, any opinions from the Verdians here on the cast:

            Željko Lu?i?, Rigoletto
            David Lomeli, Duke of Mantua
            Olga Peretyatko, Gilda
            Alexander Tsymbalyuk, Sparafucile
            Ryan McKinny, Count Monterone
            Craig Verm, Marullo

          • Cher Henry, you should be glad you missed that Don Carlos in SF; it was ghastly bad. Only Urmana (a wonderful Eboli) and Lloyd & Milling (splitting Filipo) could sing worth a damn. Mesheriakova, badly underpowered; Duffin, ghastly and a last-minute replacement for a tenor who hadn’t bothered to learn the French; Skovhus, unmemorable; Jun, terrible.

            (I’ve seen DC three times, and the last two were bad enough that I’m sure the first, in the 1980s, must have been better.)

      • oedipe

        Bruno Mantovani’s Anna Akhmatova -which was produced last season at the Paris Opera- has a wonderful plot, subtle, poetic, with great insight into the intricacies of an artist’s life under communism. It played at the Bastille to reasonably full houses, considering it’s a new opera. This did not prevent the French music critics -some of whom are Mantovani’s sworn enemies- from badmouthing both the libretto and the music. Pretty sickening reception, if you ask me! And then we wonder why new operas fail…

        • Henry Holland

          Yes, it’s a fine opera, I have a pirate of that production that I’ve listened to once. Time to pull it off the shelf for another listen, as well as the earlier L’Autre côté.

      • Will

        I mentioned Billy Budd, as I explained, not for the length thing but the all-male cast thing.

        • Henry Holland

          Sorry about that, I was doing 4 things at work and I didn’t read that part carefully enough. Britten had pressure on him to make the novice a female role but I’m so glad he resisted. One of my very favorite operas…

  • Buster

    The score of Saint François is gigantic! Ingo Metzmacher had to pick up pile after pile when he conducted it in Amsterdam. He had it arranged in four neat towers next to him. I found the work to be enthralling from start to finish – I’ll never forget Camilla Tilling as the angel, nor Rod Gilfry as Saint François.

    The scene that struck me most was the sermon to the birds– Audi had a group of children on stage for that, quietly drawing birds on the floor while listening to Saint François. A serene moment, but very powerful.

    I would never want to see it after a day at work, you really have to be fresh for it. It got me into a trance-like state of concentration no other opera performance ever had me in. Incredible piece!

  • Chanterelle

    Great news indeed! It’s brilliant music that takes you on a real journey, and the Met Orchestra should still be up to it 3 seasons from now, especially with the right conductor.

    That said, St. François share the dramatic limitations of many contemporary operas: it’s pageant--a series of tableaux, not plot driven. One of my pet peeves! Satyagraha at the Met worked because the production was so good, but IMHO it’s not a work that succeeds no matter what you do to it. As Buster says, it’s a tough sit after a long workday.

  • I’m glad that Gelb is getting his money’s worth out of Le Machine.

    Seriously speaking, Saint Francois has always been a work that I’ve wanted to see, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to make a trip to the Met (or perhaps it will be an HD broadcast).

  • Signor Bruschino

    Deborah Warner is a great director (her angel project in NY, while not typical ‘theatre’ is still etched in my mind) but even more exciting would be if it was the Claus Guth Messiah… I have sadly resigned myself to the fact that we won’t be seeing any Guth or Herheim at the Met- but get ready for lots more Sher, LePage, Zimmerman, McAnuff… yeahhhhhh

  • Camille

    Did anyone else here attend the chunk of Saint Francois d’Assise that was done at BAM about ten years ago?

    I remember it as interminable, but perhaps the staging of it will help. It was reviewed in the New Yorker or Times by Paul Griffiths.

    • brooklynpunk

      Yes, Camille..

      I was still living in SF at the time, and my partner had just died, so I figured this was the perfect moment to fly the coop , from the City by the Bay , for a while… to see this, at BAM--AND IT WAS WONDERFUL.. it hooked me fer Messiaen, for good..!

      (little did I know, then, that it would be coming to SF, years later…but , at that point I was living back in NYC..BUT..flew out to The Coast , just to see it again…..)

      • Camille

        Oh, I see, brooklyn. I’m glad you found the link.

        I did not like it at the time but can no longer recall what it was that I didn’t care for.

        As I do like a bit of Messiaen, I will give it another hearing when/if it appears at the Met, however. I am glad for you that you got as much as you did out of it, too.

        regards from me. C.

  • operacat

    I have always found SAINT FRANCOIS mesmerizingly beautiful and will definitely plan to be there. I agree with Signor Bruschino that I wish they were doing the Guth MESSIAH. . .another profoundly moviing experience. Thanks to the Met for both experiences in advance. Now if NORMA with Netrebko, Garanca and Kaufman will be playing at the same time as the SAINT FRANCOIS, it will be a great trip!!

    • OC:

      Now if NORMA with Netrebko, Garanca and Kaufman will be playing at the same time as the SAINT FRANCOIS, it will be a great trip!!

      Amen to that!

  • Satisfied


    By the time this comes around, it’ll be the seventh Lepage. Is this some sort of record? I’m not even that big of a Lepage-hater (loved his The Nightingale and Other Short Fables at BAM…Damnation of Faust wasn’t horrible either…), but why does this director carry so much clout at Met? I too would just *die* to see Guth, Herheim, or Warlikowski direct in the house but I would also be satisfied with the more conservative works of Richard Jones, Willy Decker, Pierre Audi, or Andreas Kriegenburg.

    Mr. Gelb: some diversity please!

    • Henry Holland

      I’m having a lot of fun using the Met opera archive:

      Robert Lepage has only five productions to his credit: the Damnation of Faust from 2008 and, of course, the Ring, 2 if you count the Ring as one production in 4 parts.

      First name I thought of when you asked if there were more productions by one person than Lepage was Jean-Pierre Ponnelle but he only had six productions at the Met: L’Italiana (1973), Fliegende Hollander (1979), Idomeneo (1982), Clemenza di Tito (1984), Le Nozze di Figaro (1985) and Manon (1987).

      There’s probably someone who many more than Ponnelle, back in the days before directors got their names above the composers.

      • operacat

        According to the Archives, John Dexter had 14 new productions and 2 revisions. His LULU, MAHAGONNY, BILLY BUDD and DIALOGUE OF THE CARMELITES are still very much with us. Herbert Graf is another name that shows up alot especially in the 40s and 50s.

        • Henry Holland

          Yes, John Dexter, thanks for the reminder.

      • sterlingkay


      • Often admonished

        Count The Ring as a mess not a production.

        Thus LePage has only done production at the MET

    • Feldmarschallin

      Well the Kriegenburg Ring sofar is pretty conservative so I cannot imagine that even the Met audiences would have a problem with him. Too bad Rheingold and Walküre were not like his brilliant Wozzeck.

      • Henry Holland

        Wow, the clips from this promo for his Wozzeck are fantastic:

  • cosmodimontevergine

    For once the Met is the right size for the Messiaen Saint Francois. Someone mentioned Huguenots -well yes, if it were a Stefan Herheim or Calixto Bieito production.

  • whatever

    Holy cr*p … was the SF Saint Francois really a decade ago!?! My husband is OLD!!!

  • I’ll be there if the Met really does put on St. Francois. I’m a Messiaen fan, but must say that I came out of the SF production looking stunned -- not in a good way -- and all I could say was that it made Parsifal look like Die Fledermaus.

    • Often admonished

      Exactly. There are livelier Buxtehude cantatas.

    • Henry Holland

      Hahahaha, you had the same look after the LAO Die Gezeichneten.

      • That was largely from having already been to Alex Ross’s 10 a.m. talk in SF and flying to LA, though, not because Gezeichneten was particularly….extreme.

  • honorary virgin

    i am happy that thirdlady enjoyed the Madrid St. Francois. But not everyone present shared her rapture. To quote one reviewer:

    “The unsuited Madrid Arena started out at perhaps three quarters available capacity. (Compare this to Munich, where scores of ticket seekers and press had to be turned away). After Act I it had cleared out to about two thirds of capacity, with the outward trickle continuing all through the second act. Early in the third act about half the auditorium still had bums on the seats, and when it was all over, after five hours and 52 minutes, not even that many. But those who stayed were the hardened, appreciative core and they gave a five minute-long, very warm reception, especially to conductor, orchestra, and Camilla Tilling.”

    I think it’s fair to say that an opera that drives away a third (or more) of its audience over the course of an evening is not building a constituency.

    • thirdlady

      sorry, but the performance i attended had nothing like that sort of exodus. and please bear in mind that the capacity of the arena is around 12,000.

  • NO ONE has mentioned the staged Messiah (tee hee). Here is the trailer from ENO:

    It looks pretty but could it possibly be as wonderful, campy and thought provoking as Guth’s Easter production?

    On the other hand, it’s been on the tubes forever and released on Blu-Ray, etc. Sort of like the Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare.

    • whatever

      thanks for the clips.

      maybe the met will use it as their special holiday production — nothing says “happy christmas” like a bunch of dour faces at a protestant funeral!!!

      • yes, dour faces at a funeral definitely make for a better “Happy Easter.”

    • whatever

      did the ENO production use a countertenor in the alto “role”?

      • whatever

        “alto Catherine Wyn-Rogers”

        never mind.

        it’s a thought, though …

  • m. croche

    A staged Messiah, St. Francois…

    … are they gonna go all in and do Death in Venice, too?

    • Henry Holland

      I’d hitchhike to NYC if they did the Deborah Warner production of DiV from ENO that’s been at La Scala and will be in Amsterdam in June 2013. It was last at the Met in 1994, I loved it: Anthony Rolfe Johnson (RIP) as Aschenbach, Thomas Allen in the baritone roles and Jeffrey Gall as the voice of Apollo.

      When heroes have flourished, eros has flourished too…….

      • Henry Holland

        “It was last at the Met” = DiV, not the Warner production.

  • justanothertenor

    Let’s also remember that 2013-2014 will probably also see a new production of “The Death of Klinghoffer” in the very successful ENO staging (the programme book there said it a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, so we should expect to see it here very soon!)