Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Opera in New York

IT's not often that I regret not living in New York City (though it would be tempting if I had oodles of money), but the way the opera companies are shaping up, I suspect there will be some excitement in the next couple of years.

Last year Peter Gelb took over as general manager of the venerable Met, and did things like broadcasting operas on the jumbo screen in Times Square and also in selected movie theaters around the country. For the 2007-08 season, the Met has announced seven new productions -- Gluck's Ipegenie en Tauride, Philip Glass's Satyagraha, Donizetti's "Fille de Regiment" and "Lucia di Lammermoor," Verdi's "Macbeth," Britten's "Peter Grimes" and an English-language version of "Hansel and Gretel." Gelb started his tenure by having film directorAnthony Mighella direct "Madama Butterfly." He's also bringing back a recent production of Tan Dun's "The First Emperor." For the 2008-09 season they're trying to get Broadway singer Audra McDonald for Jophn Adams's "Doctor Atomic," about Robert J. Oppenheimer.

A lot of experiments in opera crash and burn, but it's important to keep trying new things. It looks as if the Met is going to be less stodgy than it usually is in the next couple of years.

So what does City Opera, the "little brother" or "opera of the people" do? It hires Gerard Mortier from the Paris National Opera. Mortier is viewed as an iconoclastic innovator, a reputation earned largely at Salzburg, where he modernized Wagner's operas, sometimes scandalously. He has also nurtured other innovative directors, making European opera more director-centric than diva-driven in recent years.

Opera should be exciting in New York in the next few years. I'll listen to the Met broadcasts and hope PBS carries some of the City Opera offerings. Or if some ventures go well, maybe I'll travel to New York from time to time.

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