Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On The Met's 2016-17 Season

The Metropolitan opera has announced their 2016-17 season, and at a glance, I think it's a much stronger season than the current one. Let's break it down a little.

The current season consists of twenty-four operas:

  1. Anna Bolena
  2. The Barber Of Seville
  3. La Boheme
  4. Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci
  5. Don Pasquale
  6. La Donna Del Lago
  7. Elektra
  8. L'Elisir D'Amore
  9. Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail
  10. Die Fledermaus
  11. Lulu
  12. Madama Butterfly
  13. Manon Lescaut
  14. Maria Stuarda
  15. Le Nozze Di Figaro
  16. Otello
  17. Le Pecheurs De Perles
  18. Rigoletto
  19. Roberto Devereux
  20. Simon Boccanegra
  21. Tannhauser
  22. Tosca
  23. Il Trovatore
  24. Turandot
(I have to wonder: When the Met does The Barber Of Seville in English, that's what they call it, but when they do it in Italian, they call it Il Barbriere Di Siviglia. Same with Hansel And Gretel or Hansel Und Gretel and Die Zauberflote or The Magic Flute. So why don't they call their English-translated holiday production The Bat?)

That's sixteen tragedies, six comedies, and two not-quite-either.

By composer, we have the following:
  1. Puccini: 5 operas (Boheme, Butterfly, Manon, Tosca, Turandot)
  2. Donizetti: 5 operas (Anna Bolena, Don Pasquale, L'Elisir, Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux)
  3. Verdi: 4 operas (Otello, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Il Trovatore)
  4. Mozart: 2 operas (Die Entfuhrung, Figaro)
  5. Rossini: 2 operas (Barber, Donna Del Lago)
Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Strauss, Strauss, Berg, Bizet, and Wagner are all represented by one opera each. More than half the season is dominated by Puccini, Donizetti, and Verdi. (I think a joke has to be made here about how 99% of the operas are written by 1% of the composers.)

Eighteen of the twenty-four (a full three quarters of the season) are Italian. Of the remaining six, there are five German operas and one French. (This not counting both Barber and Fledermaus, which were written in Italian and German respectively, but performed in English.) The season contains six operas in the top ten most popular as ranked by Operabase, and half the season is in the top twenty-five. This is not necessarily a bad season, but it is a very safe season. This is good for them, but not so good for me. As an established opera fan who knows that it's only going to be two or three years max before Tosca and Trovatore pop up again, my eyes immediately jump to the more obscure gems. In this season, the ones that immediately jump up are Lulu, The Pearl Fishers, and the three Donizetti queens (Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux). Of the productions, five are showing up consecutively from the previous season (La Boheme, Barber, Cav/Pag, La Donna Del Lago, Figaro). Of these, the last three were new productions last season being immediately revived.

Here's the breakdown of the 2016-17 season:
  1. Aida
  2. L'Amour De Loin
  3. Il Barbriere Di Siviglia (Note the Italian)
  4. La Boheme
  5. Carmen
  6. Cyrano De Bergerac
  7. Don Giovanni
  8. Eugene Onegin
  9. Fidelio
  10. Die Fliegende Hollander
  11. Guillaume Tell
  12. Idomeneo
  13. L'Italiana In Algeri
  14. Jenufa
  15. The Magic Flute
  16. Manon Lescaut
  17. Nabucco
  18. I Puritani
  19. Rigoletto
  20. Romeo Et Juliette
  21. Der Rosenkavalier
  22. Rusalka
  23. Salome
  24. La Traviata
  25. Tristan Und Isolde
  26. Werther
Seventeen tragedies, four comedies, five not-quite-either, and I was on the fence for a number of these. So still very tragedy-weighted, but there are several more in that ambiguous zone.

Only four of the twenty-six are returning from the current season (La Boheme again, Barber again, Manon, and Rigoletto). Manon Lescaut is the only production new to this season that's being immediately revived.

Our composer breakdown:
  1. Verdi: 4 operas (Aida, Nabucco, Rigoletto, La Traviata)
  2. Mozart: 3 operas (Don Giovanni, Idomeneo, Magic Flute)
  3. Rossini: 3 operas (Barbriere, L'Italiana, Guillaume Tell)
  4. Puccini: 2 operas (Boheme, Manon Lescaut)
  5. Wagner: 2 operas (Dutchman, Tristan)
  6. Strauss: 2 operas (Rosenkavalier, Salome)
Saariaho, Bizet, Alfano, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Janacek, Bellini, Gounod, Dvorak, and Massenet are all represented by one opera each. (Actually, I should be fair. The 2015-16 season really only has 4.9 Puccini operas, and 0.1 Alfano operas, thanks to the last scene of Turandot.)

So clearly this season is more diverse at least on a composer-by-composer basis. On a language count, we've got eleven Italian, six German, six French, two Czech, and one Russian. (And for what it's worth, The Magic Flute, a German opera, will be performed in English translation.) Still weighted in favor of Italian, but that's just more representative of opera as a whole. The lack of French operas in this past season was particularly shocking to me, and in 2016-17 that seems to be rectified.

How does it rank on operabase? Well we've got seven in the top ten, and eleven in the top twenty-five. Pretty much the same. But casting the safety net aside for a moment, this season has a number of rare gems. L'Amour De Loin (a contemporary piece), Guillaume Tell, Cyrano and Jenufa, as well some not ridiculously rare but not exactly easy to find either works, including I Puritani and L'Italiana

And here's the part where I complain about the HD lineup, because of all those operas I just mentioned, only L'Amour De Loin is getting a broadcast. Not even Guillaume Tell, which is probably the best known of of the lot (thanks to the overture) is being broadcast, and it's a new production. And  there are currently no recordings of it from the Met (at least not that are on Met Opera On Demand). Same with Cyrano and Jenufa, which are even rarer operas than Guillaume Tell. I imagine Guillaume Tell gets some extra coverage because as often as the overture is played, occasionally someone remembers "Wait. Isn't there an opera that comes after that overture?" (More than once I have surprised someone with the fact that there is in fact an opera following that overture.)

Instead of Guillaume Tell and Cyrano and Jenufa, we are instead getting broadcasts of La Traviata (again), Don Giovanni (again), Nabucco (again) and Eugene Onegin (again). I forgive Rusalka, Der Rosenkavalier, and Romeo Et Juliette getting second broadcasts on account of this season having new productions. The one that really gets my goat is Eugene Onegin. Because not only have we had a broadcast of that very recently (this will be the third Eugene Onegin broadcast, although the first was an different production), it will star Anna Netrebko, who was in the last Eugene Onegin HD broadcast, and Dimitri Hvorostovsky, who was in the one prior. And it's not like Eugene Onegin is going to sell more on name recognition than Guillaume Tell -- to an opera newcomer, Guillaume Tell may even be the more familiar title! But I guess it was the only way to get Anna Netrebko in the broadcast season -- the other production she's appearing in next season will be Manon Lescaut, which is a new production this season that got a broadcast, with Kristine Opalais. And of course Anna Netrebko has to be featured in a broadcast. Never mind all the other fine sopranos lining the season, including Kristine Opalais in Rusalka, Diana Damrau in Romeo Et Juliette (who I daresay will be an improvement over the last soprano to be featured in an HD broadcast of Romeo Et Juliette -- Anna Netrebko), and, of course, Renee Fleming in Der Rosenkavalier (same Marschallin as last time, but then again, she might be retiring after this season -- although I seem to recall she's said that before).

Something else I find a little amusing about the upcoming Der Rosenkavalier cast is Matthew Polenzani playing the Italian singer. The Italian singer appears in one scene and does nothing for the plot of the opera. He's exactly what his name implies. Matthew Polenzani struck me as too big a name to be playing that role -- he'd be playing Octavian if Octavian were a tenor. I'd almost think Polenzani wanted so desperately to be in Der Rosenkavalier -- in the same cast as Fleming and Garanca -- that he was willing to take the only tenor role there was in the whole opera. Well, except for the gossip guy, but he's a character tenor. Polenzani will also be broadcast in Idomeneo, in a role more suited to his stardom, and the opera will also serve as a good vehicle for Nadine Sierra.

Of course Nabucco has got to be the subject of discussion, because it stars Placido Domingo in the title role. Now, I'm not going to open the kettle of fish about Domingo singing baritone roles now, but I do suspect he's the main reason Nabucco's being broadcast again this season. Although Ernani didn't get a broadcast when he played Don Carlo. I guess Nabucco has enough fame on its own to justify an extra broadcast with Domingo. But I'm not going to complain. He's earned it. But on the other hand, he's also played the title role of Cyrano -- couldn't he be doing that and get that broadcast instead? I'm sorry, but Cyrano should really be getting its due exposure!

But if I have one complaint about the upcoming Met season, it's the same as the complaint I have with every upcoming opera season -- it doesn't have Sullivan's Ivanhoe.

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