Cher Public

Master of the house

Incoming Met music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin “plans to open his first season with a new production of Verdi’s Aida starring Anna Netrebko and to start the following season with Ms. Netrebko as Strauss’s Salome.” [New York Times]

  • Liz.S

    Anna’s Salome… that’s something

    YNS’s strategy to make most of the assets of his Philly connection makes sense. I didn’t get the impression he’s a world premiere type of maestro from his activities at Kimmel Center but that’s something we’ll see bloom at the Met, I hope.

    Meanwhile Boston announced the line-ups for the next season (which includes the promised collaboration with the folks from Gewandhaus.)
    For opera heads, there are Dutoit’s Damnation (Graham, Groves, Relyea) and Andris’ Tristan Act II (Nylund, Kaufmann, Fujimura, Zeppenfeld, et al.)

    • Cameron Kelsall

      Philadelphia Orchestra is doing a semi-staged concert of Tosca next season, starring Yoncheva (role debut) and conducted by Yannick. In light of this interview, it’s hard not to imagine this is a dry run for the Met.

      • Liz.S

        He’s done Salome with Phil Orch a few seasons ago also -- so Tosca, hopefully again with Yoncheva, sounds something very likely to head to NYC to me, too. More to look forward to :-)

    • chicagoing

      We had those same principals in a staged production of Damnation here in 2010, which was also a LOC premiere and the first Berlioz opera presented at the house. Susan Graham was especially memorable. It was my first opportunity to hear her in an opera and I regreted that it seemed it would be my last opportunity until she came to the rescue and returned here this season in Les Troyens.

  • grimoaldo2

    That’s exciting news!
    I also like ““What does Yannick like about productions? Am I a traditionalist, or am I modern?” I am both. I just want beauty.”

    • That kind of media comment makes me uneasy. Personally, at the opera or any other artistic event, I don’t necessarily only want “beauty” in art, as I’ve had to try to explain many times when people have complained that artworks I’ve bought lacked it.

      • Yes, NPW-Paris, it may be that YNS was simply rattling off things. But I don’t know. I hear him often and am not impressed. He has high competence but he’s not interesting or greatly accomplished as a conductor in my experience.

        The best thing I heard him do was The Symphonic Dances of Rachmaninoff — a really spectacular rendition of a nice but let’s face it, hoary piece. It seems to me his sympathies are with that late Romantic style. When he invokes Jennifer Higdon whose Cold Mountain is the worst new opera I’ve seen in years (along with Oscar) I have to wonder. She is certainly distinguished but when asked about composers of opera there are many others far more accomplished. He did mention Breaking the Waves, which I loved but I wonder if he had seen it? (Heard the broadcast maybe). How about Written on Skin? I think he doesn’t know a lot about new operas — there are a number of impressive American composers and not only Americans it would have been reassuring to see him list.

        As for Tosca in Philadelphia — my God! Who would have thought? Who DOES Tosca? How special, how unique! Tosca in concert! We NEVER get to see it. I saw the Salome and though it was best for Alan Held’s wonderful John the Baptist. Nylund, although she didn’t have tons of tone, worked well in concert and solved the dance very well (the concert staging was quite effective). Yes, the orchestra played wonderfully, but I thought YNS was just OK.

        I wondered about all that sub nonsense about the amateur, Peter Gelb. Another awkward question given a placating answer, perhaps.

        As to his skills — Beethoven series was poor to OK with a notably bad Eroica. At the talk back I was surprised that a number of people brought out their scores (I hid mine) and confronted him with the really stupid decisions he had made, including cutting the first mvt’s repeat (very special in this symphony) and asking how with his background he could have missed that the Funeral March in in a French style of the period, not the quasi not well sustained German style he chose. (He turned beat red and fled.)

        The new orchestra music he’s done has all been very conservative, to the point of outlandish derivativeness and easy listening. I thought his Bartok was bland, his Mahler pro forma. One can go to many concerts and not hear a spark of anything.

        Yet, the gushers will gush…

        • I haven’t yet heard him conduct. It was just the thing about “beauty” that’s a bit of a bugbear of mine.

          • NPW-Paris, everything is a sit com now. That one can be profoundly moved, appalled, terrified by a work of art, that it reflects not just a reassuring fantasy but the ugliness and terror of life as we all live it has all been lost. Most people in America and I suspect increasingly in the “first world” have lost a sense that art is dangerous, that we can’t be sure at the start that we will find comfort or “beauty” in the experience. We Americans live in the land of the lie now, and have done so for years.

            It has led to a cosmetic opera here where always everything is somehow denied or obscured. The horrendous Kentridge Lulu praised by all the idiots DENIED and clouded the horror of the story, that Lulu was a trafficked child found and handled by Schigolch (the only survivor, who will be out looking for other girls), sold to and used as a girl by Dr. Schoen, was entirely lost to the profoundly stupid, distracted by all the projections. That she is only loved for herself, not as a male fantasy, by The Countess who is brutally murdered trying hopelessly to protect her was SABOTAGED in the opera house by an inept staging and all the arty frou-frou, the triumph of incomprehension and self promotion. Yet ALL the morons who wrote about it, LOVED IT.

            YNS has bought into this horseshit judging from that quote and I suspect it was not merely fobbing off a reporter, I think from his music making and other statements he has made, that the pretty is his idea of art.

            • “That one can be profoundly moved, appalled, terrified by a work of art, that it reflects not just a reassuring fantasy but the ugliness and
              terror of life as we all live it…”

              Thank you. I wouldn’t have known how to put it so well.

            • Magpie

              Ugh….another hour spent trying to figure this out. I love the score but in the only staging of Lulu I have seen 10 yrs ago, she was a secretary or a beautician or circus girl who wanted to ravage men every chance she had and got her comeuppance at the end for all her “sins”. Sadly, I never revisited the opera after that evening since I felt somewhat a dislocation between the music and the visual.
              So I was thinking that MJC had sipped some fermented chamomile tea and his ranting about the child trafficking was just, well, a mild seizure or something.
              So thank you once again MsJC. I looked up the opera, and read the Erdgeist play on which Lulu is based. I don’t know if the libretto is as open ended as the play, but in the play, not only is it clear that Lulu was whored out as a child, but the bilateral, or rather the almost monologue like interactions between Lulu and the men, give you a chilling understanding that humanity is pretty much absent- from both sides. The Countess might be the only exception.
              I liked how Lulu is painted as an essence that cant quite be defined; adaptive and chameleon like, intelligent (as her monologue “If men have killed themselves for my sake”) yet also, inhuman. A good singing actress can destroy the stage with the material.
              So, YES, MsJohn Claggart, a bad staging can pretty much eviscerate an opera. Specially to a beginner. And thank you, I would have never thought to add the additional dimensions to Lulu until your comments prompted me to.
              Now, are there any good DVDs of Lulu? anyone?

            • Magpie, I like Graham Vick’s Glyndebourne production. It is strongly theatrical but tells the story clearly and effectively and is a good souvenir of Christine Schaefer in the title role. The amazing Barbara Hannigan is in the Krzysztof Warlikowski production. I love it, although it is busy and flamboyant. But it is utterly clear eyed in dramatizing what the opera is about — the sexual exploitation of young girls, the hypocrisy of the upper class — are all powerfully caught. These are the three act versions, most of act three completed by Franz Cerha but neither has his final thoughts. Andrew Davis (Vick) seems to me to do a better, more imaginative job with the gorgeous score than the good but less incisive Paul Daniel.

            • And where have YOU been, O Porgy Amor. I have felt deserted by ALL, PCally, young Fletcher (well, 30 seems young to me, a 345 year old woman) and YOU!!! (sob)

            • Porgy Amor

              There are several, Magpie. My favorite is the very stripped-down Loy production of the Royal Opera House with Agneta Eichenholz, Jennifer Larmore, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Michael Volle, Pappano conducting. Other productions I have preferred to the Met’s more recent one include Warlikowski’s (with the electrifying Hannigan); Vick’s (with Schäfer); possibly Dexter’s (although I am not wild about Migenes). I would bump Chéreau’s (with Stratas) way up the list if it were easily available, but it is not. It can be seen complete on the best-known video uploading site.

              I find it an addictive opera. I never bore of it.

            • Magpie

              Thank you Porgi! and also, MsJC.

            • Lulu seems to be lucky in its productions. I don’t recall seeing a bad one. But to me the best was Warlikowski’s. And something could be said for rooting out Chéreau’s 1979 production in Paris: is it available by any means these days?

            • I see Christoph Marthaler just directed Lulu in Hamburg, also with B. Hannigan. Good reviews. Almost certainly worth a look if available.

        • Liz.S

          What I’ve observed is actually in synch with some of your points, although I like to conclude -- despite of the past or the current state -- the young incoming MD always has possibilities of growth in the future.
          I haven’t been impressed with him neither at Kimmel center nor at the Met “yet” myself; haven’t found any depth of his music insights. I imagine your tone would be harsher, if you’ve attended his rehearsals. As for Symphonic Dances, I’d say it’s rather hard not to deliver it spectacularly with that band -- Rachmaninoff is in its DNA :-)
          Re: Tosca, Its a big deal for some of us because “Yoncheva is singing it” and could be repeated in NYC if following suit with Salome. Not sure if there are many out there that are crazy enough to react the silly way you portrayed just because Yns’ .conducting Tosca in Philly.
          As for new works, I also haven’t found him proactive even with symphonic repertoires. Perhaps he might have, but I haven’t noticed any occasions he picked up works that had not been performed (recorded) previously by other conductors. It sort of surprised me to read how he’s eager to take the challenges at the Met now. 2 out of the 4 composers he tossed haven’t written operatic works yet, though -- I’m not sure how soon and how likely his visions actually come through. At any rate, I only wish him the best.

          (Higdon has a very close tie with the phil orch -- “our dear friend” as he’s likely to put it. Her name came up perhaps in the broad context of him bringing in new goodies utilizing rich resources in Philly. Similar idea with Breaking the Waves, a recent success at Opera Philly?)

          • I have attended a fair number of rehearsals and factored that in. I don’t write him off although he’s not so young or so inexperienced that one can hope with great conviction that he finds what isn’t there in in his artistic make-up by now sometime in the future.

            I know all about Higdon. I’m not dismissing her either — except that her opera was both bad and so naive about the form that looking to her at the age of 54 for operatic work of great distinction in the future seems to me naive. Some composers have written great operas as older people but I don’t know of any who didn’t show a strong theater grasp when they were young even if it was unformed or crude. Missy Mazzoli is 37, and Breaking the Waves was neither her first opera (Cold Mountain — I shiver — was Higdon’s) or the first indication of a strong and distinctive theatrical flair in her work, even that written as a much younger person.

            I said that YNS’ choice of “new” or recent orchestral work has been in my opinion both poor and timid. And Higdon is stuck in the dated trap of neo-romanticism. Mazzoli has invented her own means and methods. We’ll see how far she goes but I’m more inclined to bet on her.

            I think Tosca at this stage is pretty dim stuff in concert form. This may be some kind of Met related ploy. But how wonderful (and shocking) would it have been had he done Der Ferne Klang, or the shorter version of Saint François d’Assise, or Three Sisters, an amazing work by Péter Eötvös or his wonderful Angels in America. One judges a conductor in earlier middle age (YNS is 42) by curiosity and daring, he doesn’t have either.

            • Liz.S

              Well -- to me it seems we are essentially on the same wavelength about him. Aren’t we? :-)

            • I think so, though I am a nasty sort, and I am sure a better case can be made for him. And none of us know the future. But somehow I don’t think the future is the past, for the Met or for any organization. YNS reminds me of a Kappelmeister (a more sophisticated Fausto Cleva?) who has technical skills and increasing experience but who is rather vacant when it comes to individuality and courage. They badly need new ideas, in my opinion, including a vibrant new (or newer) rep and a willingness (within reason) to take risks. He does not, I think, exemplify that.

    • Luvtennis

      “I am both. I just want truth.” There, I fixed it for him. ????

  • ER

    Also, while it is great to be able to bank on Netrebko’s star power, it is going to eventually have a shelf life. The MET has for a while been trying to manufacture the next big superstar soprano but none have that unique combination of vocal and physical glamor and that absolute star quality

    • I think Sonya Yoncheva has it all. I can’t say I’m looking forward to Netrebko’s Salome. Quite frankly I think she’ll be too mature-looking and sounding for the part. She’s a great singer but it’s neither a young-sounding voice or young-looking body.

      • I can hardly be termed a Netrebko “fan”: I saw her once and left at half-time. I hoped nevertheless to see her a second time, but she cancelled. But I realise she’s one of the world’s most sought-after sopranos, so if I the Paris opera offered me the chance to hear her as Salome, I think I’d probably buy tickets, however over the hill she may now be.

        • Greg Freed

          She’s 45 years old, you know. Tough room.

          • Kostelnicka and Klytemnestra for her, now, I think. And Countess in Queen of Spades.

            • You are very naughty, NPW-Paris.

              And no one who could actually sing Salome in a big house has EVER looked like a “teen vixen”. Welitsch certainly did not, as pictures confirm (just look at Google images, there are many). There have been some good looking though obviously adult Salomes who sang impressively, Borkh (a great actor), and Bjoner, in my experience (Welitsch was said to be very sexy). And one might mention She-Grace Bumbry, who was arresting looking and very slinky (not as loud as these others, though — and Welitsch was said to be able to project her tone with assurance).

              But Nilsson did remarkably well. For all that she was mature, she had worked through the role when she started with Goran Gentele, a great director. And all those years later she still projected the character’s sexuality, willfulness and fecklessness physically. And who would have missed Mara Zampieri — very impressive if not the very image of a nymph (and Madame Rysanek as Herodias walked right over her with her long cape). My favorite moment from Rysanek at the Met was her quasi-nude scene where she dropped her frilly draping at the end of the dance to show a voluptuous rump (her more fervent male fans covered their eyes). She didn’t do that in Munich but then, Madame Bjoner also singing Salome in that run was in the artist box with binoculars.

              The ones who appeal to a cosmetic taste can’t sing it — world star Nadja M — and although I personally thought she looked like a rat with a muff — Maria Ewing. Stratas is very good lipsynching to a studio recording where she is closely miked. But she could not have carried the role off live and never tried.

              Now, Anna…

            • Five years ago I saw Nicola Beller Carbone sing Salome in Brussels, possibly the nearest I’ve seen in looks to a “teen vixen”, but the production was a bit trashy and had her looking more, as I wrote at the time, “like a slightly squiffy high-society girl looking for cheap thrills”.

              But anyway… I know directors keep us from hearing some great singers because they want slender figures in little black cocktail dresses but really I’d much rather have the opportunity to suspend disbelief. I mean, I don’t think singers *have* to look the part, so long as the director helps them to act well enough to make it irrelevant.

            • I don’t have the exact quote but didn’t Strauss describe Salome as a role for “an Isolde in the body of a child”? He did say: “I am convinced that the decisive factor in dramatic effect will be a smaller orchestra, which does not drown out the human voice as does a large orchestra…The orchestra of the opera of the future is the chamber orchestra which, by painting in the background of the action on the stage with crystalline clearness, can alone realize precisely the intention of the composer with regard to the vocal parts. It is after all an important desideratum that the audience should not only hear the sounds but should also be able to follow the words closely.” That was from 1929. And his French version does thin out the orchestra allowing theoretically a lighter voice to sing it.

              I just think in a huge place like the Met, or opera houses where the orchestra is let rip, the opera needs a great deal of power and thrust in the singing. Having seen Nilsson on stage a bunch of times, I think a performer who can enlist the viewer’s imagination and understanding through will and skill and also sing phenomenally is the answer practically. But in America, reality TV has killed the joy in illusion on which live theater rests and made people unable to make the leap from say a mature looking woman, to buying into her conviction that she is still an alluring girl. (Of course, when she drowned out the entire Chicago Symphony under Solti, then sat down and powdered her nose was more about volume than mimesis!)

              The days when people wept for the youngsters at the core of Romeo and Juliet where those two roles and Mercutio were played by people obviously in their forties have gone.

            • kankedort

              “a sixteen-year old princess with the voice of Isolde”

            • ER

              I agree that her (Netrebko) voice has a ripe, sometimes-verging-on-matronly quality. But, she can still sound and look youthful convincingly (Onegin, Manon Lescaut, for example) and she has the gleam and power in the voice for the big moments.

              I think she could be a Salome for the ages.

            • PCally

              Inga Nielsen was a rare case of looking the character and singing the hell out of it, though maybe not in a big barn like the met (I saw her at the Berlin staatsoper).

            • WHERE have you been PCally? Mrs. Claggart has gotten lonely without you! I didn’t see Nielsen but I love her recording.

            • PCally

              Haha good to know I am missed. Work and family stuff has taken up the bulk of my time over the past week.

              Nielsen was totally riveting, she was past fifty when I saw her, but with a crystal clear tone that totally conjured up the aural equivalent of a teenager. Her rhythm was thrusting, pitch and intonation well nigh perfect, and her words perfectly clear even at top volume. Her voice completely shone through the orchestra at all times. All told, she was probably the only Salome I’ve ever heard who didn’t “cheat” her way through any of the role (the conversational moments were sung full out and the low notes were never barked or glowered). And she completely inhabited the role and only Mattila brought out the arc of the character the a greater extent (it helped that Nielsen was very small and rail thin).

              And I know your a Mattila agnostic, and ultimately I don’t think she had the real heft and stamina for some of the dramatic rep she was singing, but I do think that initial met run was pretty staggering and dramatically IMO a remarkably complicated and “complete” interpretation of the role.

            • Magpie

              Did our esteemed MsJohn Claggart ever see Caballé in the role?
              Although definitely not a “good looking” Salome, I saw Caballé 3 times in the role over 15 years. Her singing was absolutely ravishing every time while projecting -vocally only- a convincing Salome. The one characteristic that I remember about her singing that was unique was her ability to sing without “hurling” or pushing the notes at you like most interpreters. When she sang, the note appeared at full volume without that “attack”; it was beautiful. She seasoned the role with pianissimi everywhere, of course, and even switched dynamics here and there. I was surprised by how loud she actually was while maintaining the beauty of her singing. The final product was unusual but beautiful. In Barcelona (late 80’s??? My brain is soo fried!!) she sang spectacularly since she was part of a doll, static, while dancers mimed her. However, she did come down to kiss the head, with a most fun, chilling, and ambiguous smile…..
              I saw the Salome once more with some new Best-Salome-Ever! girl, whose name I have already erased, and she screamed, hurled, and vomited, every note out. Ugh. No more Salome live for me.

            • Magpie, I never saw Caballe do a staged performance but I did see her do the final scene several times in concert. The one with Levine at Carnegie was the best of those and one of her best nights in my experience of her. She had lost weight, wore her jet black hair long, and acted in her face to great effect. He drowned her at a few points but she did some wonderful soaring. I think there are at least two videos with her in the role, one earlier and one later. I should look at one. Someone very knowledgeable assured me Racette pulled it off live though not on broadcast. I only heard the broadcast…hmhmhmhmhm!

            • ines

              Actually, Mattila in the singers’ roundtable interview of her Lohengrin broadcast in 2006 ( she was 45 ) talked about her passion for Ortrud and the Countess

      • Greg Freed

        Oh for heaven’s sake. Many of the great Salomes neither looked nor sounded young. Welitsch stopped singing it some time ago and since then, people have settled for the likes of Nilsson and ever convincing teen vixen Leonie Rysanek.

    • Rowna Sutin

      I think Mr. Gelb has singled out Ms. Yende for future star potential as well as Ms. Yoncheva. He bet on AN and that turned out pretty well. I also have hopes for Ms. Sierra. And who knows who is lurking around the corner.

      • Daniel Swick

        I think Yende has a megawatt presence…She’s just so fucking pretty and she reminds of Dolly Parton in her unaffected graciousness. I’m just not convinced that she’s a great opera singer.
        Yoncheva is gorgeous and has such a glamorous sound…We need lots of her.

        • ines

          A great opera singer has you at the edge of your seat… for any reason… I would say Pretty Yende has that gift.

  • Speaking of Met “futures” Patricia Racette is out of the Cyrano and is replaced by Jennifer Rowley:

    • ER

      whoa. thanks for pointing out, Ivy. When did this change occur?