Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Peter Gelb Theatens 'Partial Re-Nationalization' And Rebirth Of The Metropolitan Opera House By Mounting Back To Back American Operas In Spring 2008

"The Metropolitan Opera will present seven new productions next season, the most since it moved into Lincoln Center in 1966, and intensify its campaign to make opera hot — or at least mildly picante in a media-saturated world.

In an interview on Monday about his future plans, the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, said he was pressing forward with his strategy of bringing in co-productions of new stagings from other houses, effectively adopting the out-of-town tryout system of Broadway. That way the productions can appear more polished and dramatically effective in the big house off 65th Street.

An opera company’s pride often lies in presenting a production for the first time, he said, but for him, “the pride is in a great performance.”

So a production of Gluck’s “Iphigénie en Tauride” is to play at the Met next season after a run at the Seattle Opera. Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha” is receiving its start in workshops by the English National Opera. And Donizetti’s “Fille du Régiment” comes courtesy of the Royal Opera House in London.

The other new productions include Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” which will open the season, with the soprano Natalie Dessay; Verdi’s “Macbeth”; Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes”; and an English-language version of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel,” a Welsh National Opera and Chicago Lyric Opera production reconceived by the Met for special holiday performances.

Mr. Gelb, who is in his first season as general manager, has staked the Met’s future on deepening the theatrical presence on the stage, exemplified by his hiring of the film and theater director Anthony Minghella to direct this season’s opener, “Madama Butterfly,” which sold out and will return next season. While most of next season’s plans were already in place before his arrival, Mr. Gelb has made his mark by bringing in directors with mainly nonoperatic experience.

They include Mary Zimmerman for “Lucia,” Richard Jones for “Hansel” and John Doyle (who won a Tony Award for “Sweeney Todd”) for “Grimes.” The leaders of London’s theater troupe Improbable will direct “Satyagraha.”

The new productions brought in by Mr. Gelb are “Lucia,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “Satyagraha.” Mr. Gelb acknowledged that new productions are expensive but said that ticket sales and increased donations brought in by their buzz would make up the cost, and then some. He said ticket revenue this year already equals last year’s total....

Tan Dun’s sprawling new work, “The First Emperor,” which ran to mixed reviews but full houses this winter, will return at the end of the 2007-8 season for three performances. Mr. Gelb said he had asked Mr. Tan to make cuts to improve the dramatic flow. “He didn’t have the benefit of a rewrite,” Mr. Gelb said.

One reason for bringing the work back, he said, was to have it ready for a tour to China tied to the 2008 Olympics. The tour is not a sure thing, but Mr. Gelb said Chinese government officials had expressed strong interest, even promising financial support. “The Met would like to go,” he said." ...

Daniel J. Wakin "Met to Add Seven New Productions for 2007-8" New York Times February 27, 2007


Scene from Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton's recent opera, Waiting for the Barbarians, based upon novel by Nobel-Prize laureate [2003] J.M. Coetzee. The work -- which is, in part, a reflection on torture, power, and language originally set on the colonized shores of the Black Sea -- has been performed in Erfurt, Germany and Austin, Texas; but not in the major operatic centers of Europe/Russian Federation; North America; or Japan/China.

Photo credit: Agence France Press via www.geencommentaar.nl. With thanks.


Fernando Botero Abu-Graib painting [ca. 2003] on display at the Main Library of the University of California, Berkeley, through the middle of March 2007.


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