Critics look ahead to Met season

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press asked two dozen classical music critics to pick the production or performer they most looked forward to seeing in the new Metropolitan Opera season. Of those who responded, many mentioned two new productions:

—Alban Berg's "Lulu," designed by William Kentridge. Jeremy Eichler of The Boston Globe cited it as "a new staging of an opera that stands so close to the heart of the 20th century. I have high hopes for seeing it reimagined by a major visual artist, and hearing it under the baton of James Levine, who has a way of bringing out the searching and improbable beauty in this harrowing modern score."

—Richard Strauss' "Elektra," in a production first seen at Aix-en-Provence and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Wrote Martin Bernheimer in the Financial Times: "By far, I am most interested in, and hopefully enthusiastic about, the 'new' 'Elektra.' Reasons: The great Nina Stemme in the title role, the great Waltraud Meier as Klytemnestra and the production, a recreation of Patrice Chereau's epic, modern staging, already widely admired in Europe. Salonen an interesting, promising choice for conductor."

There were plenty of other choices as well. Here are some of the critics' picks:

—Alex Ross, The New Yorker: "I'm eagerly awaiting Christine Goerke's turn as Turandot, expecting that she will bring emotional fire to a famously cold role."

—Sarah Bryan Miller, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, cited the same opera, for a different reason: "I'm going to vote for Puccini's 'Turandot,' and the opportunity to wallow in the glorious excesses of Franco Zeffirelli's 1987 production. Not many companies have the resources to pull off this version, with the built-in expectation of some of the world's best and biggest voices and an enormous cast of singers, dancers, and supernumeraries filling (and overfilling) the stage."

—Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle: "For me the most exciting prospect will be Sondra Radvanovsky doing the three Donizetti Tudor queens. ... Ms. Radvanovsky has done absolutely stunning work here in San Francisco and I can't imagine that she won't bring the same combination of vocal splendor and dramatic insight to these assignments as well."

—James Jorden, the New York Observer, chose "the new production of 'Les Pecheurs de Perles,' a second-drawer opera with some lovely music and a challenging puzzle for the director to create gripping theater from a very slim story. This project would be less interesting if not for the participation of Diana Damrau, who ... lately has seemed to skyrocket artistically. This is a very great and special talent, and she fully deserves the honor of being prima donna in this New Year's Eve gala opening night."

—Tim Smith, the Baltimore Sun: "I'm an unapologetic Puccini fan, so I can't help but look forward to getting a new 'Manon Lescaut' — even if Richard Eyre's updating to the 1940s turns out less than persuasive — and Jonas Kaufmann as des Grieux all in the same package. The prospect of hearing Kaufmann, the closest thing to a tenor superstar today, dig into this score with that dark, sensitive voice of his makes the production awfully enticing."

—Melinda Bargreen, former music critic for The Seattle Times: "The revival of 'La Donna del Lago' with Joyce DiDonato should be a pretty terrific Christmas present. Her co-star, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, is one of today's most amazing Rossini tenors; hearing them together should make this an irresistible ticket."

A few critics found little reason for enthusiasm at all. Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times said in a telephone interview: "Looking over the schedule, I'm almost shocked ... Only two operas from the last 100 years. ... Nothing by an American composer. Nothing of our time. Sadly, this reflects what's going on at major houses all over the country."