Saturday, December 30, 2017

A new TOSCA at the MET: who's in, who's out?

In about 24 hours the Metropolitan Opera will unveil the new production of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, a new staging New York opera fans have been waiting for years.  There was a time in the MET's history when Tosca was a perennial work in its repertory.  That all changed when General Manager Peter Gelb decided to scrap the sumptuous 1985  Franco Zeffirelli production, much beloved by the New York public, and replace it with a new setting by Luc Bondy.  This new staging, which many found outrageous, was furiously booed at the 2009 opening night.  I was there, and I had never heard such a fierce reaction from a New York audience.  Clearly, New York wanted the old Zeffirelli production back!  Since that was not going to happen, Gelb announced, a few years later,  that a new production by David McVicar would replace the Bondy fiasco.  He also promised that the new production would bring back the glory of the Zeffirelli production.  In a recent interview Mr. Gelb added “I have learned my lesson from the Bondy production.  When it comes to a classic piece of repertoire, beauty counts — and that’s what the audience wants.”
 The 1985 Franco Zeffirelli production
The 2009 re-staging by Luc Bondy

And that's when the troubles began...

Originally, the cast for this new production included Jonas Kaufmann, arguably the most sought-after tenor in the opera world today.  Mr. Kaufmann, who is known for often cancelling, did so early on, citing that he did not want to be away from his family during the holidays.  Soprano Kristine Opolais bowed out in the summer, and so did her husband Andris Nelsons, who was to conduct the piece.  Metropolitan Opera Conductor Emeritus James Levine took over, but he was recently dropped by the MET when allegations of sexual abuse shook the company.  Superstar baritone Bryn Terfel, the last of the original slated singers, dropped out this month citing vocal problems.  In the history of the Metropolitan Opera there has never been a messier production.  

Currently, conductor Emmanuel Villaume, from the Dallas Opera Company, will lead a cast led by soprano Sonya Yoncheva, tenor Vittorio Grigolo, and baritone Željko Lučić when the production premieres tomorrow, at a New Year's Eve gala.  Amazingly, the MET has been able to put together a world-class cast, even though the current cast is a mere ghost of the original plans.  Perhaps the production will re-gain true star status in April when Anna Netrebko joins the cast.  Unless she cancels, and then the mess will continue all over again.  Stay tuned.

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