Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Great Start for Peter Gelb

Peter Gelb's first year at The Metropolitan Opera was a fantastic beginning to what will apparently be an exciting, productive tenure for this general manager. Hopefully, his years at the MET will also bring to the house the kind of intelligent innovation that is seldom found on today's opera stages. One need only to think of last year's Salzburg Festival to realize that not every production was a hit. Of course, with so many operas and so many artistic decisions to be considered, Salzburg should be commended for the Herculean task of attempting to present all of W.A. Mozart's works in time for an important anniversary year. However, the DVD's of these productions reveal many lapses of taste throughout the presentation of the twenty-two operas. The Don Giovanni production, for instance, was such a mixed bag, that although one wanted to applaud its innovative approach to this seminal work, the end result was a collection of half-baked ideas.

So far this year, I am happy to report that intelligent innovation has been at the forefront at the MET, especially with the new productions of Madama Butterfly and Orfeo ed Euridice. The Anthony Minghella production of Butterfly that began this season, and the Mark Morris production of Orfeo that ended it (I caught its last performance at the matinée of May 12) were highlights in a year that also brought us new productions of Il Trittico and The Barber of Seville among others, as well as exciting revivals of Giulio Cesare, I Puritani, and four memorable performances of Die Meistersinger, these being the only Richard Wagner heard at the house this year.

Next year will be very busy when it comes to new productions. We will see a new Lucia di Lammermoor (badly needed, I'm sure you'll agree) as well as another import from the English National Opera, this time Philip Glass's Satyagraha. I saw this production a few weeks ago in London, and, as I reported in an earlier post, we are in for a treat next year. The staging is quite extraordinary, and I am sure that both the critics and audiences will be very impressed. I also look forward to a new staging of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes. The old production of Grimes, like the MET's former production of Otello by Franco Zeffirelli, is irreplaceable, I feel, but if truth be told, it has given us decades of memories, and it is time to take a look at that great 2oth Century English opera with a new set of eyes.

The MET feels important once again after one year of having Peter Gelb at the helm. He is the new seat of eyes (and ears) that the institution needed. Let us hope that this forward drive continues into his second year and beyond.

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