Wednesday, March 29, 2017
On Thursday evening, the Teatro alla Scala audience didn’t watch the familiar presentation of a “wayward woman” who overcomes moral inferiority only to be robbed of happiness when she finally deserved it. What Anna Netrebko, in her first assumption of the role of Violetta in La Traviata in seven years (12 years after her success in Willy Decker’s modernist production in Salzburg), delivered instead was the story of a woman who works, suffers, suffers again, and dies a painful, lonely death, all because of the decisions of the men around her. The ultimate result was an absolute operatic performance at turns illuminating and deeply unsettling. The singing, though, was only illuminating. Seldom does one see a characterization that both attempts and achieves so much. This complex, real Violetta was an even, nuanced melding of class, profession, illness, age, and spirituality. It transcended the “tart with a heart” stereotype and rendered a stark picture of the damaged, degraded life of a sick, insecure yet self-aware sex worker whose only out is suddenly taken from her. Not totally able to connect with her peers on account of her profession and heartily stigmatized illness, or view interactions with others, such as the one with Alfredo’s father, as much more than transactional, Netrebko’s Violetta seemed almost a reference to Alphonsine DuPlessis, the low-born courtesan who eventually achieved great fame and inspired Dumas-fils to write the book that inspired the opera. Urgently dragging the Baron Douphol center stage for a kiss after the Act I duet with Alfredo which obviously unsettled more than delighted her, this Violetta established herself both radically aware of her sexuality but also deeply insecure. She’s too good at a job she views as self-destructive, and it scares her. When she tried to turn Alfredo’s father away upon his entrance, asserting that her rebuffing was “più per voi che per me,” the “per me” was eked out in shame; Violetta sees herself as inferior, but by leaving Alfredo by her own volition, she can start to remedy that. Her resolve to leave and subsequent doubt of its efficacy were what made Netrebko’s Violetta so impacting. Though the announcement that Netrebko would reassume Violetta surprised me, as she last sang the role seven years ago and her voice has undergone changes, namely gaining in richness of tone and heft but seemingly losing some in agility, since then. There should be no worry, though. She sang with security and a refreshing freeness across her range throughout. The coloratura of the first act was capably dispatched with and fully-supported high notes (she did not attempt the high e-flat at the end of Act I nor the interpolated high note at the end of “È fors’ e lui” heard on this week’s recording from Paris) were reached with ease. In the subsequent acts, though, she infused her singing with drama to full effect. Her confrontation with Germont-père was sung with force, the outcome being on Violetta’s terms, no matter how difficult. “Amami Alfredo” was not a melodramatic swell, but a painful affirmation of love before a brisk goodbye, and “Alfredo, alfredo, di questo core” was wept in long, delicate phrases, a public lamentation over denouncement by the one man that had been kind to her. But the apex of the performance was without a doubt her “Addio del passato” which started with not a reading, but a pained recitation of a crumpled letter committed to memory. Over the following five or so minutes, Netrebko as Violetta bargained with God, mourning a wasted youth but begging that He accept her “anima stanca” after an honest search to right the wrongs she thought she committed. Her pleading, earnest reading of “accogliela, O Dio!” will forever stay in my mind. The well-deserved three minutes of applause that followed will, too. Netrebko was well-partnered with an all-Italian cast that had significantly more time to rehearse than she did. Francesco Meli, a singer popular at La Scala, is an old-school tenor right down to his imprecision of attack and tendency to croon when not singing full-out. With a shimmering, Italianate tone and limited capacity as an actor, his petulant Alfredo was sung with minimal strain and a fluidity not always heard among singers of his level. It’s a shame that the octogenarian conductor Nello Santi showed such little affection for the music of both Alfredo and his father, as he kept Violetta’s music (as well as the music during the party scenes, curiously) at an indulgent, dirge pace but forced the both the men through their arias as well as with progressive, inflexible tempi. This could have been at Netrebko’s request, but excerpts of a previous performance in the run with Ailyn Perez reveal a similar situation. Lengthy intervals and Santi’s lugubrious tempi brought the run time to an unnecessary three and a half hours that had me scrambling for the metro to Sesto before individual bows were taken. The other seasoned professional in the cast was Leo Nucci, singing Giorgio Germont 40 years after his initial Scala debut. Much of the voice now sounds dry and husky, but the base tone remains even and his lowest notes, even though slid up to, are still quite beautiful. Neither his authoritative, inflexible characterization nor Santi’s relentless conducting allowed for much of that wonderful Verdi legato singing we know he’s capable of. Baffled by a Violetta who responded so complexly when requested to leave Alfredo, Nucci’s Germont recoiled initially, but gradually came to appreciate Violetta if not understand her. His arc was satisfying to watch, but further rendered Alfredo a nonentity against Netrebko’s dominating dramatic prowess. The supporting cast was all pulled from Scala mainstay comprimarios. Chiara Isotton lent her svelte, throaty mezzo to Flora’s music and Chiara Tirotta was an especially vigorous Annina. Alessandro Spina’s rich Dottor Grenvil showed shades of a potential future Germont if he has an upper extension, though Costantino Finutti wasn’t much more than a ragdoll as Barone Douphol. The Act II party divertisments were joyfully danced by members of La Scala’s famous ballet corps and the Teatro alla Scala Chorus, despite sounding thin on the outset of the evening and grappling with glacial tempi, made a big sound during the Act II party. The Teatro alla Scala Orchestra responded to Santi’s choices with little discord though there was some occasional pitchiness from the winds. The hyper-traditional 1990 production by Liliana Cavani, an assumedly reactionary revival after Dmitri Tcherniakov’s season-opening production of the opera was poorly received in 2013, is beautiful to behold and allowed Netrebko a degree of artistic freedom. It got the message across with some effective touches (Violetta watches the revelers pass by her window, for example), though such traditional productions are most effective when they have ample rehearsal time like they do in Europe. From my seat at the back of a box, I could see where the brass was seated in the pit. After the sensational “Addio del Passato,” one trombone player turned to another, smiled, shook him, and said something lost in the crushing applause. They had been rooting for her. Netrebko’s engrossing performances have a duality about them; she renders tragic characters so effectively and believably, but her peerless singing and utter generosity somehow makes her success feel like our success. This Traviata was no different.
La Cieca is assured by one of her most reliable mavens that a 2018-2019 production of Lohengrin at the Met looks like a definite “go.” The Claus Guth staging (seen previously in Milan and Paris ) will be conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and will feature an opening night cast including Anna Netrebko, Stuart Skelton and Evelyn Herlitzius. [Future Met Wiki ]
Last week Anna Netrebko sang in concert Violetta’s first act aria from La traviata, an opera she will return to her repertoire at La Scala on Thursday of this week. You can hear that concert performance after the jump.
By Jacob Stockinger This posting is both a news story and a shopping guide for recordings you might like to give or get. It features the classical music winners for the 59th annual Grammy Awards that were announced last Sunday night. Music about the famed American writer Ernest “Papa” Hemingway (below), writing while on safari in Kenya in 1953), with cellist Zuill Bailey, turned out to be a four-time winner for Naxos Records. You can hear the opening movement — titled “Big Two-Hearted River” after the famous short story by Hemingway — in the YouTube video at the bottom. For more information about the nominees and to see the record labels, as well as other categories of music, go to: https://www.grammy.com/nominees On the Internet website, the winners are indicated by a miniature Grammy icon. On this blog they are indicated with an asterisk and boldfacing. As a point of local interest, veteran producer Judith Sherman – who has won several Grammys in the past but not this year – was cited this year for her recordings of the University of Wisconsin-Madison ’s Pro Arte Quartet centennial commissions, Vol. 2. So at least there was a local Grammy nominee, a rare event. Of regional interest, the non-profit label Cedille Records of Chicago won for its recording of percussion music by Steve Reich. And to those Americans who complain about a British bias in the Gramophone awards, this list of Grammy winners shows a clear American bias. But then that is the nature of the “industry” – and the Grammys are no less subject to national pride and business concerns than similar awards in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. At least that is how it appears to The Ear. Anyway, happy reading and happy listening. BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL *“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” — Mark Donahue & Fred Vogler, engineers (James Conlon , Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Patricia Racette , Christopher Maltman, Lucy Schaufer, Lucas Meachem, LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra) “Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord ; Les Citations; Mystère De L’Instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement” — Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony) “Reflections” — Morten Lindberg, engineer (Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene) “Shadow of Sirius” — Silas Brown & David Frost, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Jerry F. Junkin & the University Of Texas Wind Ensemble) “Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” — Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra ) PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL Blanton Alspaugh *David Frost (below) Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin Judith Sherman (pictured below with a previous Grammy Award. She came to Madison to record the two volumes of new commissions for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet) Robina G. Young BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE “Bates: Works for Orchestra” — Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony) “Ibert: Orchestral Works” — Neeme Järvi, conductor (Orchestre De La Suisse Romande) “Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 In B-Flat Major, Op. 100” — Mariss Jansons, conductor (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) “Rouse: Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero’s Rooms” — Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic) *“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” (below) — Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra) BEST OPERA RECORDING *“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” (below) — James Conlon, conductor; Joshua Guerrero, Christopher Maltman, Lucas Meachem, Patricia Racette, Lucy Schaufer & Guanqun Yu; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (LA Opera Orchestra; LA Opera Chorus) “Handel: Giulio Cesare” — Giovanni Antonini, conductor; Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Andreas Scholl & Anne-Sofie von Otter; Samuel Theis, producer (Il Giardino Armonico) “Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Emily Fons, Nathan Gunn , Isabel Leonard & Jay Hunter Morris; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra; Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program for Singers) “Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro” — Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Thomas Hampson, Christiane Karg, Luca Pisaroni & Sonya Yoncheva; Daniel Zalay, producer (Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Vocalensemble Rastatt) “Szymanowski: Król Roger ” — Antonio Pappano, conductor; Georgia Jarman, Mariusz Kwiecień & Saimir Pirgu; Jonathan Allen, producer (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House ; Royal Opera Chorus) BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE “Himmelrand” — Elisabeth Holte, conductor (Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ragnfrid Lie & Matilda Sterby; Inger-Lise Ulsrud; Uranienborg Vokalensemble) “Janáček: Glagolitic Mass” — Edward Gardner, conductor; Håkon Matti Skrede, chorus master (Susan Bickley, Gábor Bretz, Sara Jakubiak & Stuart Skelton; Thomas Trotter; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Bergen Cathedral Choir, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Choir of Collegium Musicum & Edvard Grieg Kor) “Lloyd: Bonhoeffer” — Donald Nally, conductor (Malavika Godbole, John Grecia, Rebecca Harris & Thomas Mesa; the Crossing) *“Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Volume 1” — Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor; Henryk Wojnarowski, choir director (Nikolay Didenko, Agnieszka Rehlis & Johanna Rusanen; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir) “Steinberg: Passion Week” — Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir) BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE “Fitelberg: Chamber Works” — ARC Ensemble “Reflections” — Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene “Serious Business” — Spektral Quartet *“Steve Reich”— Third Coast Percussion “Trios From Our Homelands” — Lincoln Trio BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO “Adams, John.: Scheherazade.2” — Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony) *“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Zuill Bailey (below); Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony) “Dvořák: Violin Concerto & Romance; Suk: Fantasy” — Christian Tetzlaff; John Storgårds, conductor (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra) “Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols. 8 & 9” – Kristian Bezuidenhout “1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2” – Gil Shaham; Stéphane Denève, conductor (The Knights & Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra) BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM “Monteverdi” — Magdalena Kožená; Andrea Marcon, conductor (David Feldman, Michael Feyfar, Jakob Pilgram & Luca Tittoto; La Cetra Barockorchester Basel) “Mozart: The Weber Sisters” — Sabine Devieilhe; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Pygmalion) *“Schumann & Berg” (below top) — Dorothea Röschmann; Mitsuko Uchida, accompanist (tied) *“Shakespeare Songs” (below bottom) — Ian Bostridge; Antonio Pappano, accompanist (Michael Collins, Elizabeth Kenny, Lawrence Power & Adam Walker) (tied) “Verismo” — Anna Netrebko; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Yusif Eyvazov; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia) BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM *“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle” — Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer “Gesualdo” — Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Manfred Eicher, producer “Vaughan Williams: Discoveries” — Martyn Brabbins, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer “Wolfgang: Passing Through” — Judith Farmer & Gernot Wolfgang, producers; (Various Artists) “Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites” — Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Frank Filipetti & Gail Zappa, producers BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION “Bates: Anthology of Fantastic Zoology” — Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) *“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Michael Daugherty (below), composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony) “Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jay Hunter Morris, Emily Fons, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn & the Santa Fe Opera) “Theofanidis: Bassoon Concerto” — Christopher Theofanidis, composer (Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky & Northwest Sinfonia) “Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky” — C. F. Kip Winger, composer (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) Tagged: 59th Annual Grammy Awards , accompanist , Alan Gilbert , Alban Berg , America , Andris Nelsons , Antonio Pappano , Arts , Augustin Hadelich , ballet , Baroque , Bergin , bias , blog , Bonhoeffer , Boston , Boston Symphony , Cecilia Bartoli , Cedille Records , Cello , Chamber music , Chamber Orchestra of Europe , choral music , Classical music , Compact Disc , concerto , David Robertson , Dmitri Shostakovich , Dutilleux , Early music , Edvard Grieg , Essa-Pekka Salonen , France , Frank Zappa , George Frideric Handel , Germany , Ghosts of Versailles , Gil Shaham , Grammy , Grammy Award , Grammy Award for Album of the Year , Grammy Award for Record of the Year , Gramophone , Great River Shakespeare Festival , Greig , Hemingway , homeland , Ian Bostridge , icon , Internet , Jacob Stockinger , Janacek , Jennifer Higdon , John Adams , John Corigliano , Keyboard , Krzysztof Penderecki , Leila Josefowicz , local , Madison , Mariss Jansons , mass , Michael Daugherty , Michael Tilson Thomas , Mitsuko Uchida , motel , Mozart , Music , Nashville , Naxos Records , Neeme Jarvi , New York Philharmonic , Nijinsky , Norway , opera , Orchestra , percussion , Piano , Poland , Pro Arte Quartet , producer , Prokofiev , regional , San Francisco , San Francisco Symphony , Santa Fe , Schumann , Seattle Symphony , Shakespeare , short story , Shostakovich , sing , singer , Sonata , song , St. Louis Symphony Orchestra , Stalin , Steve Reich , Stuttgart , symphony , tale , Texas , The Knights , Thomas Hampson , trio , UK , United Kingdom , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vaughan williams , Viola , Violin , vocal music , Warsaw , Wisconsin , Yannick Nézet-Séguin , YouTube , Zappa , Zuill Bailey
Productions are in order; bold indicates a debut; I may have omitted some one-off cast combos. On the whole: as exciting as this season is weak. Norma (new David McVicar production) Radvanovsky, DiDonato, Calleja, Rose / Rizzi (September-October) Rebeka, DiDonato, Calleja, Rose / Rizzi (October) Meade, Barton, Calleja, Rose / Colaneri (December) Having middling '90s throwback Carlo Rizzi in the pit instead of the 2013 revival's Riccardo Frizza is about the only less-than-thrilling element of this opener. Three premiere principals who've proved not only star-quality sound but bel canto mastery, interesting alternate ladies afterwards... And David McVicar is not only an brilliant director but one who has done great things with Sondra Radvanovsky particularly, from 2009's Trovatore to 2016's Donizetti queens. Les Contes d’Hoffmann Grigolo, Morley, Hartig, Volkova, Erraught, Naouri, Mortagne / Debus (September-October) I rather liked Grigolo in this season's Romeo, but this Bart Sher show requires him to sustain a character for longer stretches than the Gounod opera, making his choppy sense of phrase more of a liability. Still, there are enough elements that could go well (including new-to-the-house Irish mezzo Tara Erraught as Niklausse) on top of an excellent production. Die Zauberflöte Schultz, Lewek, Castronovo, Werba, Van Horn, Kehrer / Levine (September-October) Müller, Lewek, Castronovo, Gunn, Walker, Kehrer / de Waart (November-December, family version in English) The conductors should make both the regular and "family" versions work. Besides returning names (including Kathryn Lewek, the best Queen of the Night I've ever heard), South African (by way of Juilliard) soprano Golda Shultz's debut as Pamina should be interesting. Incidentally, Rene Pape is scheduled for one performance of Sarastro on October 14. La Boheme Blue, Kele, Popov/Borras/Thomas, Meachem/Simpson, Rock, Soar/Rose, Plishka / Soddy (October) Hartig, Kele, Thomas, Meachem, Rock, Rose, Pliskha / Soddy (November) Yoncheva, Phillips, Fabiano, Lavrov, Rose, Plishka / Armiliato (February-March) Some new faces debuting in this eternal Zeffirelli production, most notably Oxonian conductor Alexander Soddy and American soprano Angel Blue. But the surest bet is the last cast, with young Americans Susanna Phillips and Michael Fabiano in roles they've made their own. Turandot Dyka, Agresta, Alvarez, Morris / Rizzi (October-November) Serafin, Yu, Alvarez, Tsymbalyuk / Armiliato (March-April) Some unexpected casting choices here. Oksana Dyka, decent but somewhat faceless in this season's Jenufa, at least has done Tosca and Aida here before. The alternate Turandot, Martina Serafin, was last seen here as an enchantingly responsive Marschallin! Since then she's taken on the really big parts, though not at the Met: Abigaille, Brünnhilde, Lady Macbeth, and Turandot. Could go well... or not. Hei-Kyung Hong reprises one of her signature roles once with each cast. The Exterminating Angel (new Tom Cairns production) Luna, Echalaz, Matthews, Bevan, Coote, Rice, Davies, Kaiser, Antoun, Portillo, Moore, Gilfry, Burdette, Van Horn, Tomlinson / Adès (October-November) The two prior operas of Thomas Adès have not lacked good music nor good libretti: it's the combination of these into an interesting, human opera that hasn't quite come off. Perhaps a show based on a Luis Buñuel movie (and directed by the librettist) will do the trick. There is, in any case, an impressive lineup of British and American vocal talent involved. Madama Butterfly He, Zifchak, Aronica, Bizic / Bignamini (November) Jaho, Zifchak, Aronica/Chapa, Frontali / Armiliato (February-March) So after doing one emergency sub performance (for Ruth Ann Swenson in Traviata) at the Met in 2008, Ermonela Jaho never appears here again... until a decade later, when she headlines a revival of Butterfly. The fall run brings new Italian conductor Jader Bignamini. Thaïs Pérez, Borras, Finley / Villaume (November-December) Ailyn Pérez, an outstanding Mimi this season, takes a full-on star vehicle opposite Gerald Finley. They don't quite have the name recognition of Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson, for whom this show was made, but this could be one of the stealth successes of the season. Requiem Stoyanova, Semenchuk, Antonenko, Furlanetto / Levine (November-December) I don't recall recurring concert performances scheduled as part of the season before, but if any plotless piece could work this way, it's Verdi's famously dramatic-operatic Requiem. These shows will be almost a generation after the April 29, 2001 performance at Carnegie that everyone who attended will still wax on about (shouldn't the Met or Carnegie release a recording of this at some point?). Levine then had Renee Fleming, Olga Borodina, Marcelo Giordani, and Rene Pape at or near the height of their powers (though Giordani was a bit of a weak link, and I'd like to have heard how Ramon Vargas did in a similar performance on the Met's Japanese tour). Here it looks like Aleksandrs Antonenko will be an upgrade at tenor, but mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk - another singer not seen at the house for a while - is an odd choice, not having impressed in her appearances so far. Le Nozze di Figaro Plachetka, Karg, Willis-Sørensen, Pisaroni, Malfi / Bicket (December) Abdrazakov, Sierra, Yoncheva, Kwiecien, Leonard / Bicket (December-January) The names in the latter cast may be more recognizable, but I suspect the former (with debuting German soprano Christiane Karg as Susanna) may provide more of Mozart's ensemble glory. The Merry Widow Graham, Groves, Chuchman, Portillo, Allen / Stare (December) Graham, Groves, Chuchman, Stayton, Allen / Stare (December-January) Not a bad cast for the most cast-proof show the Met has debuted in decades. Who knew that comic timing drives comedies? Young American conductor Ward Stare debuts in the pit. Hansel and Gretel (family version in English) Oropesa, Erraught, Zajick, Siegel, Kelsey / Runnicles (December-January) McKay, Gillebo, Zajick, Siegel, Croft / Runnicles (December 28) Good casting for a kids' piece. Tosca (new David McVicar production) Opolais, Kaufmann, Terfel / Nelsons (NYE-January) Netrebko, Alvarez, Volle / de Billy (April-May) Netrebko, Alvarez, Gagnidze / de Billy (May) I believe Sondra Radvanovsky was originally supposed to headline this new production, which attempts to wash away the much-hated Luc Bondy version of 2009. Instead we get Kristine Opolais, the least interesting part of both Richard Eyre's wretchedly bad Manon Lescaut and Mary Zimmerman's otherwise-brilliant Rusalka. (She has succeeded in more direct Puccini, though.) But perhaps it doesn't matter - except as a what-if - when Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel have shown themselves of carrying this piece on their own. And though she has less male star power, I think Tosca might be a very good part for Anna Netrebko. Cav/Pag Semenchuk, Alagna, Lučić; Kurzak, Alagna, Gagnidze, Arduini / Luisotti (January) Westbroek, Alagna, Lučić; Kurzak, Alagna, Gagnidze, Arduini / Luisotti (January-February) I'm not sure whether the Alagna who shows up will be the no-voice one of the Manon Lescaut premiere or the respectable-sounding and insightful one of the end of that run and Butterfly, but his inconsistency has been characteristic since the beginning of his international career. McVicar's rendering of the double-bill is outstanding, and San Francisco's Nicola Luisotti has done magical things in his too-rare Met appearances. L’Elisir d’Amore Yende, Polenzani, Luciano, D'Arcangelo / Hindoyan (January-February) Both Yende and Polenzani have an emotional transparency that should work excellently in this piece. Il Trovatore Lee, Agresta, Rachvelishvili, Kelsey, Kocán / Levine (January-February) Lee, Agresta, Rachvelishvili, Salsi, Youn / Levine (February) Anita Rachvelishvili moves up a vocal weight class with her first Met Azucenas (she did her first performances of the part recently in London), opposite two baritones moving up from Marcello to Di Luna. But with outstanding Korean spinto Yonghoon Lee in the title role and Levine in the pit, this is yet another promising staple. Parsifal Vogt, Herlitzius, Mattei, Nikitin, Pape / Nézet-Séguin (February) The most significant revival of the season. Yannick Nézet-Séguin will go from "Music Director Designate" to the actual thing in 2020, but he's debuting German repertory cornerstones until then. This spring it's Flying Dutchman, but next year he'll lead the first revival of the most significant and successful Met Wagner production in a long, long time: Francois Girard's 2013 Parsifal. (Not least in that success was Daniele Gatti's intensely concentrated conducting, so there's a lot to live up to there.) He has the low-voiced end of the original cast, with Peter Mattei's Amfortas, Evgeny Nikitin's Klingsor, and René Pape's Gurnemanz all returning. The new parts of the cast are significant as well: dramatic soprano Evelyn Herlitzius finally makes her Met debut as Kundry, and Klaus Florian Vogt returns to Wagner a dozen years after making the most stunning - and most stunningly ignored - Met debut of our era as Lohengrin. (Vogt does return to the Met before this, in next month's Fidelio.) Semiramide Meade, DeShong, Camarena, Abdrazakov, Green / Benini (February-March) Good cast for a Rossini rarity. After her scheduled performances of Italiana this season went to debuting Italian mezzo Marianna Pizzolato, I do wonder whether Elizabeth DeShong will in fact sing these performances as Arsace. Elektra Goerke, van den Heever, Schuster, Morris, Petrenko / Nézet-Séguin (March) Christine Goerke's titanic concert performance of this early Strauss opera with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony (October 2016 at Carnegie) dwarfed the dull, homogenized new Met version last season. The change from Salonen's civilizing version to Yannick Nézet-Séguin's characteristic visceral style should do much, and Goerke's ability to sing through the cacophonic title part lyrically can't be missed, but full success may require a revival stage director unafraid to depart from Chereau's drab vision. Così fan tutte (new Phelim McDermott production) Majeski, Malfi, O'Hara, Bliss, Plachetka, Maltman / Robertson (March- Though the cast looks good and the visuals interesting, David Robertson was responsible for the worst-conducted night of Mozart I've ever heard at the Met, so I'll wait and see. The production is new to the Met but already debuted at ENO. Lucia di Lammermoor Peretyatko, Grigolo, Cavalletti, Kowaljow / Abbado (March-April) Pratt, Grigolo, Cavalletti/Salsi, Kowaljow / Abbado (April) Yende, Fabiano, Kelsey, Vinogradov / Abbado (April-May) I was listening to Pretty Yende last night in Puritani, thinking that the Met should hire her for Lucia... and here we go. She gets the better Edgardo in Michael Fabiano as well: the role depends far too much on line and phrase to expect much on the whole from Vittorio Grigolo (though the Italian will surely deliver exciting high notes). Luisa Miller Yoncheva, Beczala, Domingo, Petrova, Vinogradov, Belosselskiy / Levine (March-April) Sonya Yoncheva's manner is a bit on the chilly side to get all the pathos of the title part's great duets, but the men involved should make much of this early Verdi. Cendrillon (new Laurent Pelly production) DiDonato, Kim, Coote, Blythe, Naouri / de Billy (April-May) So, we're officially in the part of Joyce DiDonato's career when she makes big houses put on silly shows. Good cast, seems charming enough, and though Laurent Pelly (Fille, Manon) hasn't done a really good production here, he hasn't made any terrible ones either. Roméo et Juliette Hymel, Pérez, Deshayes, Hopkins, Youn / Domingo (April-May) Interesting cast, very good production, but Domingo in the pit is a deal-breaker. If you have the itch, just see Yende and Costello next month (which has many fewer good alternative options than spring 2018).
Great opera singers