Mystery score

Mystery score

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Season Announcement Season: Metropolitan Opera

If you read Parterre Box - c'mon, you do, you know - you've already seen some of the highlights and a lot of the bitching. I'm just going to highlight a few things, including items buried surprisingly deeply in the press release.


Let's start with the new commissions! Yes, the Metropolitan has commissioned a few new works, hooray, in addition to Nico Muhly's upcoming Two Boys and Michael Torke's Senna. Today, they announced the following (quoted directly from the press release):

  • Composer Michael John LaChiusa and librettist Sybille Pearson are collaborating on an original story loosely based on the Scheherazade tale. 
  • Composer Jeanine Tesori and playwright Tony Kushner are collaborating on a project based on an original story by Kushner. 
  • Composer Scott Wheeler is working on an adaptation of Romulus Linney’s play The Sorrows of Frederick, adapted by the playwright before his death in January. 
Note that the Met has commissioned a woman. Yay! The last opera they performed that was written by a woman was very likely Ethel Smythe's Der Wald, back in 1903. Let's hope they also pick up an opera, any opera, by Kaija Saariaho, hmmm? Or perhaps Peggy Granville-Hicks's Nausicaa?

The LaChiusa piece looks like a lot of fun too!

Now, I feel especially pleased to see Scott Wheeler's name up there. He was among my theory lab teachers when I was at Brandeis, and is a nice guy as well as a good composer. I gotta say, The Construction of Boston, which I have on CD, doesn't sound much like what I remember of his works from the 70s. It sounds a lot better and much more individual; it's stylish, with good vocal and text settings, and plenty of humor.  Congratulations, Scott, on this important commission! I am thrilled to see it.

(That's actually not my only one-degree-of-separation connection to the upcoming commissions: I went to high school with Michael Korie, librettist of the Torke commission, and his sister.)

The Met will have seven new productions:
  • Siegfried
  • Gotterdammerung
  • Faust (intriguing concept, great cast, even Jonas Kaufman would not get me in the door for this turkey)
  • Manon
  • Anna Bolena
  • Don Giovanni (great casts, could possibly get me in the door)
  • The Enchanted Island (amusing-sounding and well-cast pastiche)
Netrebko is in both Manon and Anna Bolena

My favorite revivals would be The Makropolos Case, with the winning team of Mattila and Bělohlávek and Satyagraha; also Rodelinda and Khovanshchina. I'm not a Barber of Seville fan, but I am a Peter Mattei fan. Hmm. Ernani looks strongly cast (and it is a terrific opera, or, well, it has a ton of terrific music despite the weak plot). I love the Pelly Fille du Regiment, a charmer if ever there was one, and if I could stand Elisir, Damrau, JDF, and the divine Mariusz would get me there. There's a revival of the Welsh National Opera's production of Hansel und Gretel, the greatest opera Wagner never wrote, with a fine cast that includes Robert Brubaker as the Witch. The brilliant Stefan Margita takes over Loge in Das Rheingold, yay, and you get the fabulous Eva-Marie Westbroek in  Die Walkuere.

Meanwhile, let's slap Robert Lepage around for this:
“Götterdämmerung is different from the other Ring operas because it is about society,” Lepage says. “The more the story progresses, the more it moves away from the realm of the gods to focus on the power and ambition of human beings. Götterdämmerung is about Brünnhilde in society, her journey as a character, and her role as the heroine who must restore balance to the world.”
Uh, did you notice the realm of the humans in Die Walkuere? I sure hope so.



12 comments:

Veit said...

Lisa,

"Let's start with the new commissions! Yes, the Metropolitan has commissioned a few new works, hooray, in addition to Nico Muhly's upcoming Two Boys and Michael Torke's Senna. Today, they announced the following (quoted directly from the press release):


Composer Michael John LaChiusa and librettist Sybille Pearson are collaborating on an original story loosely based on the Scheherazade tale.
Composer Jeanine Tesori and playwright Tony Kushner are collaborating on a project based on an original story by Kushner.
Composer Scott Wheeler is working on an adaptation of Romulus Linney’s play The Sorrows of Frederick, adapted by the playwright before his death in January.
Note that the Met has commissioned a woman. Yay! The last opera they performed that was written by a woman was very likely Ethel Smythe's Der Wald, back in 1903. Let's hope they also pick up an opera, any opera, by Kaija Saariaho, hmmm? Or perhaps Peggy Granville-Hicks's Nausicaa?

*****

And the mediocrity continues...

Should some of those composers even be mentioned as 'classical'?

Muhly?

I've said it once and I'll say it again: opera composition is currently going through a mini dark age.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Do you know any music by those composers?

If so, then please say what you find mediocre about them.

If not, why are you labeling them "mediocre" a priori?

Veit said...

Lisa,

Although I rarely agree with him I think Kaiser is absolutely right here:

"Today, far more inventiveness can be found in popular entertainment than can be found in the classic arts. The embracing of new technologies and the willingness to try new things seems to have become more the province of rock music and movies than of opera, ballet and theater. We are losing the attention of Americans because we are not producing work that is new, fresh and daring. No wonder so many newspapers are no longer covering the serious arts... The classical arts have simply not kept up. There is so little work that is new and daring.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-kaiser/what-is-wrong-with-the-ar_b_822757.html

************

Lisa Hirsch said...

Since you're not answering either of the questions I asked, I'll take that to mean "I don't know any music by these composers, so I'll outsource my response to Michael Kaiser's generalities."

Shrug. Condemning composers you don't know out of hand: intellectually dishonest.

Veit said...

Lisa,

Ok, I will admit that I'm waiting for the next Richard Wagner who was, despite his shortcomings, the greatest opera composer of all time.

His music is just bloody great, addictive and inexhaustible.

A friend of mine put it this way:

'In musico-dramatic terms I now know there has never been, nor is there ever again likely to be, a genius as all-encompassing prodigious and transcendent as that of Richard Wagner's who today still bestrides the domain of opera like a colossus, and whose music-dramas have since shaped or influenced the course not only of opera, but of all Western music..."

doug said...

I love a lot of Nico Muhly's work and I think he is to be taken seriously as a composer -- classical and otherwise -- and as a performer. I've never heard the others and, therefore, have yet to form an opinion.

I'm THRILLED that Satyagraha is coming back and this time on HD as well. I'm a fan of what Lepage has done so far, so I can admit to being excited to see the new Ring productions in the season. I'm so curious to see how the Enchanted Island works out.

Lisa, thanks as always for posting and for sharing your take. And yes, Saariaho is so overdue it pains me. And she's just one of many yet to be heard/seen at the Met!

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yeah!

Saariaho!

Birtwistle!

Schreker!

pjwv said...

Philadelphia also has a new Nico Muhly opera next season: Dark Sisters.

As for LePage's remarks, please don't slap him around too hard because I think what he said is basically true (or I guess you can slap me around too): he never said the human element wasn't present and important in Walkure, he said it became more present throughout the cycle -- in Walkure the gods are very much involved, and trying to control what humans do (and at this point, Brunnhilde is one of the gods; she doesn't become human until the end of Walkure when Wotan removes her divinity). They have receded from the action quite a bit by the time Gotterdammerung hits the stage. He maybe should have qualified his remark a bit more, but (was he speaking off the cuff?) I think his remark is valid and defensible.

Also: let's start complaining that Billy Budd and Makropulos were not given livecasts.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Mmmm. I think the human realm is very much present in Walkuere. Siegmund and Sieglinde's situations at the opening of the opera, the social structures that control Hunding's behavior both in seeking revenge on Siegmund and in sheltering him for the night, Siegmund's response to the Annunciation of Death...and his response's effect on Bruennhilde. That's where her process of becoming human truly starts.

Yeah, I join you in bitching about Billy and EM not getting their day on HD. But at least we're getting Satyagraha!

Veit said...

"As for LePage's remarks, please don't slap him around too hard because I think what he said is basically true (or I guess you can slap me around too): he never said the human element wasn't present and important in Walkure, he said it became more present throughout the cycle -- in Walkure the gods are very much involved, and trying to control what humans do (and at this point, Brunnhilde is one of the gods; she doesn't become human until the end of Walkure when Wotan removes her divinity.."

**********

Jeez, who the heck gives a damn about any of this or any aspects of the libretto ?!!

All you should be focusing on are the ORCHESTRAL AND VOCAL SOUNDS Wagner created !

Lisa Hirsch said...

Are you serious? If so, Wagner would disagree with you.

Henry Holland said...

Yeah! Saariaho! Birtwistle! Schreker!

I'm thrilled, obviously, with your continued advocacy of those three, but I'd argue that none of the works of the three except for maybe Die Gezeichneten are really "Met operas". That barn is too big, I'd say they're more "City Opera operas", the City Opera of the Keene era that is and also some fantasy point in time that the acoustics of the State Theater didn't suck.

You have to go to Toronto in 2/11 for their L'amour de Loin, you just have to.

Jeez, who the heck gives a damn about any of this or any aspects of the libretto ?!! All you should be focusing on are the ORCHESTRAL AND VOCAL SOUNDS Wagner created !

I think you have a contender for Dumbass Comment Of The Year and it's only February.

Only things of interest for me in the new Met season are Bllly Budd, Khovanschina and The Makropolous Case. John Dazak is the Captain Vere, I just got the recording of Respighi's La campagna sommersa and he's horrible in the lead tenor role, a wobble you could drive a truck through. Wonder if that was just an off night or a vocal crisis that he's since worked through?