Metropolitan Opera 2013-2014

Depending on your taste, there are good and bad things in Peter Gelb’s announcement of the 2013-2014 season at the Metropolitan Opera.

I am most excited by an item that seems to currently be under the radar.  Dmitri Tcherniakov will design and direct Borodin’s Prince Igor.  Here’s what the New York Times’ article said:

The production, Mr. Gelb said, would strip away the usual medieval pageantry and send Igor on a “psychological journey.”

Tcherniakov is already famous for Regietheater in Europe.   By a happy coincidence, his recent Bolshoi production of Ruslan and Ludmilla appeared on TFO last weekend (a much more enjoyable way to spend my Sunday night than with Oscar).     Tcherniakov begins with the most conservative look imaginable: except that he’s playing with us, when we discover that the wedding that opens the opera is in period costumes.  We’re in the present day, as it turns out, and later we get to a brothel scene.

Tchernikov has faced controversies before, and there’s no reason for him to be faithful to the text, in the first Met production of Borodin’s opera in roughly a century.  I expect the “psychological journey” will be very exciting.

Among the rep, there are a few other items that I am eager to see and hear:

  • A new Falstaff from Robert Carsen
  • Wozzeck with Deborah Voigt and Thomas Hampson, conducted by James Levine, in his return to the podium
  • Werther with Jonas Kaufmann
  • Nico Muhly’s opera Two Boys which unfortunately won’t be among the high-def broadcasts; I’ll have to go see it
  • Three Richard  Strauss operas –perhaps to balance the absence of Wagner from their repertoire, namely reliable Der Rosenkavalier, alongside Die Frau Ohne Schatten and Arabella

There is also some controversy in Peter Gelb’s announcement.  He’s made some price adjustments, concerned about the company’s revenues, which surely were hurt both by the continuing aftermath of the financial downturn, and Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the region.

In the NYTimes piece, Gelb is also quoted to say that he

“blamed falling attendance on a “cannibalization” of the audience by the Met’s high-definition movie theater broadcasts.”

It’s a fascinating conclusion to draw, but I wonder if it’s a sound one or not.  There have been other analogical anxieties about impacts of related media upon one another. At one time recordings were feared because they’d supposedly put live musicians out of work.  The paperless office may still be coming, but print & hard-copy have surely been hit by the migration to various online sources.  Are books being replaced by their electronic rivals?  That still remains to be seen, given that it’s not a simple one-for-one substitution.  Overall, perhaps many more people are reading.  But in any case, Gelb has opted to present ten rather than twelve films this year, without explaining his data sources.

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