Metropolitan Opera to Expand New Productions, Movie Theater Simulcasts in 2007-08

Classic Arts News   Metropolitan Opera to Expand New Productions, Movie Theater Simulcasts in 2007-08
At a press conference this morning, Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb and music director James Levine announced that the company will offer seven new productions during the 2007-08 season, the most since the Met moved to its current Lincoln Center home in 1966.

The first, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, will open the season on September 24 with Natalie Dessay in the title role, alongside Marcello Giordani as Edgardo, Mariusz Kwiecien as Enrico and John Relyea as Raimondo. Directing will be Tony and MacArthur Award winner Mary Zimmerman, who has updated the story to the Victorian era.

Zimmerman's sets were inspired by her visit to Culzean Castle on Scotland's west coast, which she says "felt like a place haunted by madness, the setting for a ghostly Victorian tale." The production team also includes set designer Daniel Ostling, costume designer Mara Blumenfeld, lighting designer T. J. Gerckens, and choreographer Daniel Pelzig, all making their Met debuts.

As with last fall, the Met will simulcast the opening night performance in high-definition audio and video onto screens in Times Square and Lincoln Center's Josie Robertson Plaza. (At some later performances, Annick Massis will take the title role, with Giuseppe Filianoti as Edgardo.)

Adrian Noble, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare company, will stage Verdi's Macbeth, which opens on October 22. Zeljko Lucic and Andrea Gruber star as the murderous royal couple, with Levine on the podium. Later in the run, Lado Ataneli and Carlos êlvarez will sing the title role; John Relyea and Ren_ Pape alternate as Banquo; Dimitri Pittas, Roberto Aronica, and Joseph Calleja share the role of Macduff. Sets and costumes are by Mark Thompson.

November 27 brings the opening of the Met's first co-production with Seattle Opera, of Gluck's Iphig_nie en Tauride, which was last seen at the Met in 1917. Stephen Wadsworth will direct Susan Graham in the title role, with Plšcido Domingo singing Orestes (in the tenor version Gluck wrote for Vienna in 1781) and tenor Paul Groves as Pylades. On the podium, in his Met debut, will be Louis Langr_e, music director of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival. The production, set in a Greek temple, features sets by Thomas Lynch and costumes by Martin Pakledinaz.

On Christmas Eve, the Met will open its 2007-08 holiday presentation, a new English-language version by David Pountney of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. The staging by Richard Jones is based on a production shared by Welsh National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, with sets and costumes by John Macfarlane. Christine Sch‹fer and Alice Coote take the title roles, with Philip Langridge as the Witch; Vladimir Jurowski conducts.

John Doyle, who directed the acclaimed recent Broadway revivals of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and Company as well as Los Angeles Opera's current production of Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, will helm Britten's Peter Grimes, opening February 28, 2008. Tenors Neil Shicoff and Anthony Dean Griffey will share the title role, with Patricia Racette as Ellen Orford; Donald Runnicles will conduct.

Satyagraha, Philip Glass's 1980 opera about the early career of Mohandas K. Gandhi, receives its Metropolitan Opera premiere on April 11, a co-production with English National Opera in London, where it opens in April of this year. The opera is in Sanskrit, a language Glass said at the press conference he chose because no-one could understand it. (Although subtitles will change that.)

The production will be directed by Phelim McDermott and designed by Julian Crouch, co-artistic directors (along with Lee Simpson) of the London theater company Improbable, which is best known in New York for its musical theater version of the grotesque Shockheaded Peter. Richard Croft will sing the role of Gandhi; conductor Dante Anzolini will make his Met debut in the pit.

Dessay returns, along with superstar tenor Juan Diego Fl‹rez, for the final new staging of the season, of Donizetti's La Fille du r_giment, beginning April 28. The production is a collaboration with the Vienna State Opera and the Royal Opera (Covent Garden) in London, where Fl‹rez and Dessay helped make it the season's big hit last month. Marco Armiliato will conduct, with Felicity Palmer as the Marquise and renowned stage actress ZoêŠ Caldwell in the speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp.

Levine — who commented, "I don't want you to imagine for a moment that the musical side is not getting as much attention as the visual aspects" — will also conduct two revivals: Manon Lescaut (with Karita Mattila in the title role and Giordani as Des Grieux) and Tristan und Isolde (starring Ben Heppner and Deborah Voigt).

Lorin Maazel conducts five performances of Die Walk‹re beginning January 7, marking his first conducting appearance at the Met in 45 years.

Principal guest conductor Valery Gergiev leads revivals of Prokofiev's The Gambler and War and Peace. Other revivals include Bartlett Sher's new staging of Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia featuring the Met debut of mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca as Rosina, tenors Michael Schade and Jos_ Manuel Zapata as Almaviva. Anthony Minghella's production of Madama Butterfly also returns next season with Patricia Racette in the title role and tenor Roberto Alagna as Pinkerton. Mark Elder conducts. Ren_e Fleming will return in La Traviata and will also sing Desdemona in Verdi's Otello. Soprano Maria Guleghina will take on the daunting title role in Bellini's Norma. Tenor Marcelo êlvarez will sing Don Jos_ in Carmen for the first time at the Met, opposite Olga Borodina in the title role.

The Met also hopes to tour China for the first time with Tan Dun's The First Emperor, starring Placido Domingo, to coincide with the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The company's live high-definition simulcasts into movie theaters expand next season from six to eight transmissions following the success of the program this season. The February 24 simulcast of Eugene Onegin starring Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ren_e Fleming and Ram‹n Vargas and conducted by Valery Gergiev, attracted a record-breaking audience of over 50,000.

The HD lineup next season features Rom_o et Juliette (December 15), starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villaz‹n; Hansel and Gretel (New Year's Day); Macbeth (January 12); Manon Lescaut (February 16); Peter Grimes (March 15); Tristan und Isolde (March 22); La Bohme (April 5), starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ram‹n Vargas; and La Fille du r_giment (April 26).

One other major development announced today is that the Met plans to mount a new Norma in 2011 with Ren_e Fleming in the title role and a staging by Robert Wilson.

The box office is not necessarily a "thermometer of our success, but it's a good indication," said Gelb. The Met's box office is ahead of last season's by 9% in current sales and is experiencing its first increase since 2001. Sixty-one performances have sold out this season, including the entire runs of Madama Butterfly, Julie Taymor's abridged English-language version of The Magic Flute, and The First Emperor. (Twenty-two performances sold out last season)

More information (about the current season as well as the upcoming one) is available at

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