The opera house and the composer were circumspect about why the project, which was more than a decade in the making, had been called off. The Met said in a statement this week that it had parted ways with Mr. Golijov because of “conflicting schedules” but would not elaborate. Mr. Golijov declined a request for an interview; his publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, cited an unspecified “difference in artistic vision” for the demise of the project.Let me hazard a guess that Golijov's ongoing creative block is what's responsible; he has been having problems following through on commissions for years now.
However, "more than a decade in the making" does not reflect well on the Met: other composers are able to deliver commissions within a few years, and the company must have given Golijov an unusual degree of latitude to let the project drag on for so long. Consider, for example, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec: he has deliver The Letter (2008), Danse Russe (2011), and The Shining (2016) in less than the time it has taken Golijov to not deliver a score to the Met.
In response to this news, Anne Midgette took a long, hard, look at the Met's commissioning program and concluded that it is boneheaded. Okay, that is not what she says, well, not directly, but she is completely right about how misguided it is. The big problem is that the program doesn't commit the Met to actually staging anything that they commission; they can run workshops until the cows come home, but composers are not guaranteed a performance, although they do get paid for their work.
This seems very unfortunately to be typical of the Met. Over a long period - their whole damn history, in fact - there's been a very slight degree of commitment to commissioning and performing new music. Here is a list of Met world premieres:
- La Fanciulla del West
- Monda (Parker)
- Cyrano (Damrosch)
- Madame Sens-Gen
- The Canterbury Pilgrims
- The Robin Woman: Shanewis
- The Dance in Place Congo (ballet)
- Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Suoer Angelica, Gianni Schicchi)
- The Temple Dancer
- The Blue Bird
- Cleopatra's Night
- The King's Henchman
- Peter Ibbetson
- The Emperor Jones
- Merry Mount (world stage premiere)
- In the Pasha's Garden
- The Man Without a Country
- The Island God
- The Warrior
- Antony & Cleopatra
- Mourning Becomes Electra
- The Ghosts of Versailles
- The Voyage
- Babbitt Piano Concerto (Met Orch at Carnegie Hall)
- The Great Gatsby
- An American Tragedy
- The First Emperor
- The Enchanted Island (pastiche)
Many of these works have sunk without a trace, although there are a few very bright lights in there....most of them written by Puccini. It's true that the Met has also performed a bunch of recent work not commissioned by the Met, including three operas by John Adams, Thomas Adès's The Tempest, and Nico Muhly's Two Boys.
Still, you could wish that the country's most prestigious opera company would taking some kind of lead in recruiting composers to compose operas, matching them with good librettists, and then following through by staging the resulting operas. They are certainly hamstrug by factors somewhat beyond their control: the enormous cost of staging opera in NYC, their gigantic theater, and the lack of a smaller, perhaps nonunion, venue - say a thousand seats? - where they could stage new opera at a lower cost and with much less risk, perhaps drawing on their young singers' program.
You should definitely read Anne's article, which goes into a lot of detail about issues with the Met program; also take a look at Justin Davidson's article about new opera at the Met. He's absolutely right that composers rarely get it right with their first opera (or operas); the exceptions include Mozart, Berg, and Britten, so you see.