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.

Theatermania.com: 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 lacieca@parterre.com.

Back in 15 minutes!