Flurry of Last-Minute Cast Changes as Metropolitan Opera Company Arrives in Japan
To Begin Tour of Tokyo and Nagoya
Netrebko and Calleja are Out; Álvarez, Dolgov, Poplavskaya and Villazón Are In; Frittoli Switches Roles
The Metropolitan Opera arrived in Nagoya on Monday evening, minus a few of its stars, but with other singers jumping in to ensure that the tour will go forward. Last-minute cancellations by soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Joseph Calleja, both citing concerns about post-earthquake radiation, forced the Met to scramble over the weekend to find replacement stars.
Soprano Marina Poplavskaya, a young Met star from Moscow, was released from a concert in Paris in order to join the Met tour. Star tenor Marcelo Álvarez canceled a vacation in Argentina, and fellow tenor star Rolando Villazón rearranged his schedule. Another singer, tenor Alexey Dolgov, was located at his country dacha outside of Moscow.
In an effort to shore up the casting, soprano star Barbara Frittoli agreed to move into the role of Mimì in La Bohème to replace Ms. Netrebko. Ms. Poplavskaya will replace Ms. Frittoli in the role of Elisabeth in Don Carlo.
Mr. Dolgov and Mr. Villazón will each sing one performance of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Mr. Álvarez will sing two performances of Rodolfo in La Bohème. As scheduled, Piotr Beczala will sing the other performances of La Bohème and Lucia di Lammermoor.
"Anything can happen in the volcanic world of opera, and with this tour it seems that our volcano has momentarily erupted," said the Met's General Manager, Peter Gelb. "While sympathetic to those artists who felt compelled to withdraw, we are particularly grateful to the stars that are rallying to our side from around the world in support of the Met and the Japanese people. Thanks to them, our show will go on."
The Met company in Japan includes some 350 orchestra musicians, chorus members, dancers, stage crew, and guest stars. Their first performance takes place in Nagoya on June 4th. They're performing in Tokyo from June 8 through June 19. This is their seventh tour of Japan.
Up until last week, both Ms. Netrebko and Mr. Calleja had been planning on performing in Japan, as scheduled. Ms. Netrebko changed her mind because of the emotional weight of having also lived through the tragedy of Chernobyl. She didn't feel that she would be able to present her best performances and didn't want to disappoint her Japanese fans. Mr. Calleja also had last-minute misgivings about performing in Japan at this time.
Ms. Frittoli has sung Mimì at the Met and in many other international opera houses, most recently in Zurich earlier this month. Ms. Poplavskaya sang Elisabeth to acclaim in the most recent Met season in a performance which was transmitted to a worldwide audience through The Met: Live in HD series.
Mr. Álvarez has sung many starring roles at the Met, including Rodolfo in La Bohème.
Mr. Villazón last sang at the Met in 2009. He has recently completed a critically acclaimed run of performances in the title role of Werther at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and made his successful debut at Teatro alla Scala as Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore.
Mr. Dolgov, an accomplished tenor from Russia, will be making his Met and Japanese debuts.
Diana Damrau, Barbara Frittoli, and Piotr Beczala will join Mariusz Kwiecien for the Suntory Hall concert on June 14, replacing Ms. Netrebko. The program for this concert will be announced shortly. It is being conducted by Met Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi.
Last month, the Japan tour was hit with three cancellations. James Levine, the Met's Music Director, was forced to withdraw because of poor health; he was replaced by Fabio Luisi, the Met's Principal Guest Conductor. Russian star mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina also cancelled because of illness. She was replaced by Ekaterina Gubanova, a younger Russian star. Jonas Kaufmann, the German star tenor, withdrew because of his concerns about coming to Japan at this time. He was replaced by YongHoon Lee, a rising Korean star who had made his Met debut this past season.
Complete casting and schedule information is below:
Saturday, June 4 (Aichi Prefectural Arts Center, Nagoya)