The Met Is Creating New Operas (Including Its First by Women)

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lennygoran
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The Met Is Creating New Operas (Including Its First by Women)

Post by lennygoran » Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:39 am

I hope this works out for the Met! Regards, Len


The Met Is Creating New Operas (Including Its First by Women)

By Michael Cooper

Sept. 23, 2018

For the first time in its history, the Metropolitan Opera is commissioning operas by women. It is hoping to adapt beloved novels like “Lincoln in the Bardo” and “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” And it will venture beyond the walls of its opera house to collaborate with the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Public Theater.

These are some of the plans that Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who just became the Met’s first new music director since 1976, is making with Peter Gelb, its general manager, as they try to woo broader audiences and turn the page on what has been difficult time for the company.

“It’s part of getting out of our building,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin, 43, said of the partnerships that the Met is working to forge around the city. “This is a very strong message that I want to send: about how opera is actually for everyone. It’s an illusion to think that everyone will love it. But it’s not an illusion to try to make everyone feel welcome to it.”

In passing the baton to Mr. Nézet-Séguin this season, which begins Monday night, the Met is hoping for a fresh start. The company, the largest performing arts organization in the nation, has been grappling with the effects of falling attendance and the firing of its longtime musical leader, James Levine, earlier this year amid allegations of sexual misconduct (which he has denied).

Mr. Nézet-Séguin’s appointment was announced before the Levine scandal, but he later agreed to take on the position this season, two years early. He and Mr. Gelb outlined some of their plans in a recent lunch at The New York Times with editors and writers.

The company has asked Missy Mazzoli to write an opera based on George Saunders’s ghostly novel “Lincoln in the Bardo,” and is planning to stage Jeanine Tesori’s opera “Grounded,” based on the George Brant play about a fighter pilot sidelined by pregnancy who goes into drone warfare. They are the first two women commissioned to write operas for the Met, which has only performed two operas by female composers in its history: (Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin” in 2016 and Ethel M. Smyth’s “Der Wald” in 1903, which were both written elsewhere).

The Met is also in talks to have Mason Bates create an opera based on Michael Chabon’s novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.”

In addition to commissioning an opera by Ms. Mazzoli for the main stage, Mr. Gelb said that the Met Orchestra would perform a Mazzoli chamber opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Mr. Nézet-Séguin conducting. He said that the Brooklyn Academy would announce the details later.

And the Met is heading outdoors, to the Delacorte Theater at Central Park. In the summer of 2020 the company plans to collaborate with the Public Theater on a new, abridged English-language version of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in the park, directed by Lear deBessonet, featuring the Met Orchestra conducted by Mr. Nézet-Séguin.

In addition, the commissioning program that the Met established with Lincoln Center Theater more than a decade ago will soon bear more fruit. The program, which previously yielded Nico Muhly’s opera “Two Boys,” which came to the Met, helped develop “Grounded,” the opera by Ms. Tesori coming to the Met. And it brought together the composer Ricky Ian Gordon and the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage to create an opera based on her play “Intimate Apparel.” André Bishop, Lincoln Center Theater’s artistic director, said in an interview that he plans to produce it next season at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.

The Met’s projects outside Lincoln Center are the latest in a long line of efforts to find smaller spaces to perform intimate works that would get lost in its mammoth 3,800-seat opera house.

Mr. Gelb described the collaborations as part of his continuing efforts to make the Met seem less elitist, and more approachable — something he has tried to do in the past through the transmissions of operas to cinemas; family presentations during the winter holidays; and a variety of discounted ticket programs. But he said there was much more to do.

“It’s been partly successful, I would say, but it was undertaken at a time when the presence of opera and classical music in general has struggled to maintain its seat in the cultural lives of people,” Mr. Gelb said. “It’s something of an uphill struggle.”

Mr. Nézet-Séguin, (his full name is pronounced yah-NEEK nay-ZAY say-GHEN), is well known to New York audiences for his energetic, critically lauded performances at the Met and with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he has led as music director since 2012. But his artistic tastes and priorities have been less well known. At the lunch, he described some of his plans.

“I have, very much, an impulse to be personally much more involved with the creative aspect of new work,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin said. “And having the Met in general becoming more a center for creation.”

To that end, he said, the Met and the Philadelphia Orchestra were joining forces to co-commission works that could have their premieres in concert versions in Philadelphia and then in staged productions at the Met. The collaboration will be aided by the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, whose students will participate in workshops of the new operas.

One of the co-commissions with Philadelphia will the new work by Mr. Bates (whose recent opera “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” has been performed around the country. Renée Fleming is to star in another co-commission, by Kevin Puts.

Mr. Nézet-Séguin plans to conduct a new production of Jake Heggie’s opera of “Dead Men Walking,” based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, in the 2020-21 season. It will be the first of several Met productions directed by Ivo van Hove, who has been acclaimed for his work in the theater.

The following season Mr. Nézet-Séguin will conduct a new opera by Matthew Aucoin, “Eurydice,” with a libretto by Sarah Ruhl, adapted from her play.

Other contemporary operas coming to the Met include “Akhnaten” by Philip Glass, to be conducted next season by Karen Kamensek, and “Hamlet,” by Brett Dean, coming in the 2021-22 season, conducted by Nicholas Carter. And the Met is hoping to develop projects by several other composers, including Andrew Norman, Hans Abrahamsen, and Jennifer Higdon.

Mr. Nézet-Séguin said he was excited to mount several operas that have never or rarely been performed at the Met, including Handel’s “Agrippina” and “Alcina”; Verdi’s “Don Carlos,” in the original French (the company has only performed the Italian version); Cherubini’s “Medea,” in Italian; and Prokofiev’s “The Fiery Angel.”

And the Met is taking other steps to make it easier for people to attend the opera, including a new labor agreement that will allow it to perform Sunday matinees beginning next year. It is also building a new entrance for patrons and subscribers on its south side, near the old art gallery, to ease what Mr. Gelb described as the “gridlock” before performances.

Mr. Gelb said that by getting out into the city more, the Met hoped to send a message.

“The Met, he said, “is open for collaboration.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/23/arts ... ctionfront

John F
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Re: The Met Is Creating New Operas (Including Its First by Women)

Post by John F » Mon Sep 24, 2018 7:03 am

So Nézet-Séguin is developing an agenda after all, if those ideas are his and not just Peter Gelb's. But I'm doubtful. If those novels are "beloved" by some, they're unheard-of by me; the adjective sounds like hype. And any operas the Met puts on only in theatres other than its own will necessarily be seen as second-class citizens of the repertoire. Of course the Met used to give performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (and in Philadelphia's Academy of Music as well), but these were run-outs with productions and casts from its regular season, and they were discontinued for a reason - they were too expensive and disruptive of the season. Well, we'll see.
John Francis

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Re: The Met Is Creating New Operas (Including Its First by Women)

Post by maestrob » Mon Sep 24, 2018 11:02 am

The Sunday matinee is a great idea IMHO. Attending a Gotterdammerung or Don Carlos (in the French version) during the week is quite impossible for many New Yorkers, who now must work harder than ever in order to keep up with the ever-escalating cost of living.

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