Monday, February 13, 2006

Breathless ...

"Revolution is afoot at the Metropolitan Opera, the world's largest opera house, which has been plagued in recent years by declining attendance and budget woes.

Peter Gelb, who takes over in August as the Met's first new general manager in 16 years, has laid out broad-ranging plans to remake the venerable house, sharply increasing the number of new productions, commissioning more and different kinds of new works, bringing in a wave of high-profile theater and film directors and striding into the world of digital transmission.

This attempt to reconceive the Met as an institution more open to popular influences and more attractive to a wider public may well alarm opera traditionalists, who are the heart of the Met's audience. It is also a response to the long reign of the current general manager, Joseph Volpe, who has worked at the Met for 42 years.

"I told the board at the time of my choice that I wanted to take this great institution that had grown somewhat isolated artistically and reconnect it to the world," Mr. Gelb said.

Mr. Gelb's program calls for a collaboration with Lincoln Center Theater that will engage Hollywood directors like Anthony Minghella and Broadway directors like George C. Wolfe, as well as musical figures like the theater composers Michael John LaChiusa and Adam Guettel and the jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.... The Met will install a gallery for works by contemporary painters, extending its reach into the visual arts. The artists include John Currin, Richard Prince and Sophie von Hellerman....

Martin Bernheimer, the New York-based music critic of The Financial Times, said Mr. Gelb appeared to be "desperately looking for a new audience and a new kind of opera."


Mr. Gelb said he wanted to create a "constant kind of excitement" by staging a new production every month, raising the average from four a year to seven....


The first season fully planned by Mr. Gelb will be 2009-10. It will have seven new productions.

The season will open with a new "Tosca," possibly directed by George C. Wolfe, the former producer of the Public Theater. Karita Mattila will sing the title role for the first time. Angela Gheorghiu, a high soprano, will sing Carmen, a mezzo role. Matthew Bourne, a choreographer, and Richard Eyre will direct. The two collaborated on the musical "Mary Poppins," now playing in London." ...

Daniel J. Wakin "As Audience Shrinks, the Met Gets Daring" New York Times, February 11, 2006, Page A1.

Also see New Yorker music critic Alex Ross's reaction to this news at

"... An Osvaldo Golijov opera is a splendid notion, but not exactly daring; the composer had already talked to Joe Volpe about a commission. So what else? I'm not sure what to make of plans for a music-theater workshop with the likes of Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel, Wynton Marsalis, and Michael Torke. It's intriguing, but I have a hard time visualizing how music theater would play in such a huge house, and there's a long list of composers I'd have gone to first (though the choice of Rufus Wainwright may turn out to be inspired). The Met should be doing late twentieth-century classics like Messiaen's St. Francis, Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, Glass's Einstein on the Beach. It should have new grand operas by John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, Thomas Adès. It should have an avant-garde wing, in talks with Robert Ashley or Helmut Oehring or Björk or whom have you." ...


And, a few years back, I was called an fool for advocating that the MET Opera produce seven new productions each season.

[I will respectfully disagree with Alex that the MET should be reviving Glass's and Wilson's "Einstein On The Beach". Better, Glass's and Hampton's "Waiting For The Barbarians" or "Appomatix", in my view (Assuming the new Civil War opera, commissioned by David Gockley, gets favorable reviews in San Francisco).]

Emperor Montezuma II (born c.1480 and reigned 1502-1520)

Photo credit: (Site of The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection which is an international center for scholarship; and which provides resources for the study and publication of scholarly works in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies.)


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