11:25: Connectivity restored. A quick catchup.

Levine called attention to “a very long list of very good conductors” this season, naming names. The feather in the Met’s cap next season will be Pierre Boulez, guest conductor of Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Richard Eyre on Carmen: She is an attractive and perverse woman. The set model is a visual metaphor of the bullring, a big fragmented cylinder. Angela says looking at the production “makes me so nervous.” She reminds us that she is not pretending to be a mezzo-soprano.

Attila will be super chic. Jacques Herzog (the birds’ nest stadium in Beijing) does the sets and Miuccia Prada the costumes. Herzog talks a lot about the quality of light taken from the jungle. Not sure what this has to do with Attila. The actual director is Pierre Audi.

William Kentridge: Archival footage makes the Nose into a low tech Zelig. No idea how this will sell, but it looks crazy and fun.

Fred Plotkin asks, Is there a Mozart opera you would want to add to the Met repertoire? Levine: Mitridate is great, but this kind of work has few world class performers at any time, so it’s difficult to revive. He uses Attila as an example of a less familiar work by great composer that is added because an artist wants to do it (Muti).

Gelb: We are in private discussions with union groups; results are not ready to be made public. Confirms 10% cut on senior and administrative staff beginning of new season. Endowment goes up and down, these days down.

Summer parks programs: what will happen with this? Gelb : not ready to announce ideas today. Looking at ways of adjusting costs of parks concerts. Will have some kind of program this summer.

What will happen to old Tosca and Carmen productions? Zeffirelli productions will be stored, with the possibility of revival later. An important reason for doing new productions is the need for stimulation, not just of audiences, but of the artists. Example: he implies that Mattila would not be doing Tosca if it were just a revival of the old Zeffirelli. Gelb adds that “Carmen not one of our most successful productions,”  which brings his opinion into line with the other six billion of us. Don’t worry, doily queens: Boheme isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Levine adds that there is also a musical importance in new productions, a chance to restudy the music with the artists, that is not feasible with repertory revivals.

A question about the cancellations of revivals next season: how much money was saved? Gelb offers no numbers, agrees that the operas he cut were very important, but the realities of the economic situation have forced cuts in many areas.

Another $ question, what is the change in the Met’s budget for next fiscal year? Gelb: Budget is work in progress, still making cuts. He notes that new productions have exciting celebrity factor, umbrella effect in repertoire around it, gets on-the-fence audiences (and media) to focus on the Met.

10:50: Bart Sher talks about the new Hoffmann production. Same team as “Barbiere di Sivighlia” as he pronounces it. The opera reminds him of A Christmas Carol, but the main attraction for Sher is Offenbach, his sense of being an outsider. The world around Hoffmann is suggested by Kafka, 1920s, silent films a la Chaplin. Designs look streamlined, light. So far as I can tell Giulietta is after Antonia. Levine on the musical edition: “one has to make choices; we don’t have an agreed upon finished version.” Will use “quite a lot” of “found” material. Calls it an “unfinished masterpiece.”

10:40: For Armida, we get a PR photo of La Fleming pouring sand on toy soldiers. Zimmerman will work with Richard Hudson on this production, using “mechanical” methods to do the magic instead of projections, etc. Zimmerman’s takeaway: “this opera is a machine for delight.”

Less focused on delight perhaps is From the House of the Dead. Patrice Chereau makes both Met and US debuts directing this production. Met is a co-producer. Video clip is shown: due to a glich it’s Hamlet again, which Gheorghiu thinks is very funny indeed.  Okay, now the right clip. Chereau makes a great case for the work, obviously believes in it totally. It looks gritty and well-acted, and should totally bowl over the Times since there is male nudity. An extra innovation in this work will be the projection of the text onto the scenery (Chereau’s idea) as done last year in Satyagraha.

10:30: Production presentation begins. Luc Bondy wants to see Tosca leaping. Mattila talks of working with Bondy and Levine: “two people with whom I felt something changed in my life in 1996.” She calls working with Bondy “very stormy in the best possible way.” Alvarez thanks Gelb and Levine for more invitations to the Met, because he believes in the “changes” here. He is off to rehearse Trovatore. Levine remembers Dorothy Kirsten who used to say, after the second act of Tosca, “Ah, now the singing!”

Thomas Hamlet, introduced by Mlle. Dessay. This production from Geneva and Covent Garden. Vehicle for Dessay and Simon Keenlyside. A video trailer is played, then Dessay suggests another take on the production will yield a deeper interpretation. For the Met they will do the “tragic” ending.

10:20: Gelb recounds successes so far: collaborations with visual artists, commitment to dramatic values of opera, more time from big stars, new tech ventures including Times Square telecast as outreach. Lucia HD passed the 1,000,000 mark for the first time.

Some painful cuts: the four productions we knew of. Also there are many financial cuts. “Committed to staying the artistic course we have set…. The only way for grand opera to flourish.”

10:10: Overheard — “Angela’s late, but that’s normal.” And so we begin. At the table: Angela Gheorghiu (not so late after all), Natalie Dessay (blonde), Maestro Levine, Karita Mattila (platinum bubble cut, leather blazer), Marcelo Alvarez and Mary Zimmerman. Gheorghiu is wearing a red toque. The spike-heeled boot is obviously this year’s fashion must-have.

Bartlett Sher is here too: he’s directing the new Hoffmann. Not in spike heels that I can see.

Peter Gelb quips he feels like Orfeo at the gates of Hell, due to the economic conditions.

10:00: Well, here we are in List Hall, noticeably less lavishly appointed than in previous launch events. Basically a screen with a word cloud of next season’s productions and major casting. Thus far La Cieca notices few surprises vs. the Brad Wilber predictions. We’ll be off and running in a minute or two.

Beginning at 10:00 AM, La Cieca will bring you the news as it happens of the announcement of the Met’s 2009-2010 season.