The Metropolitan Opera returns this morning from its three week tour of Japan, the toast of opera lovers in Tokyo and Nagoya. Having overcome last minute cancellations over fears of radiation from several major stars, the Met's altered casts triumphed with performances of Puccini's La Bohème, Verdi's Don Carlo and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. Soprano Barbara Frittoli replaced Anna Netrebko in La Bohème, Korean tenor YongHoon Lee replaced Jonas Kaufmann in Don Carlo, and Rolando Villazón (in his first Met performances after battling recent vocal problems), Marcelo Álvarez and Alexey Dolgov combined to replace Joseph Calleja in Lucia and La Bohème. Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi led all performances of La Bohème and Don Carlo; Gianandrea Noseda conducted Lucia di Lammermoor.
The first major performing arts company to tour Japan since the March earthquake, the Met gave 13 performances in all. The tour is the company's seventh to Japan, but given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the three-week visit, it held special significance for both the Met and its large Japanese audience.
After the cancellation of some scheduled tours by other companies, the members of the Met were treated like heroes by the Japanese public, who stopped them on streets for autographs and showered them with applause at the performances.
The tour also had positive implications for Japan's theatrical economy, offering five weeks of employment for approximately 100 Japanese stage crew, all of whom have had no work at all since March 11.
Peter Gelb, the Met's General Manager, said in a speech to the audience at the final performance of La Bohème on Sunday night, "We hope our visit will open the door for other foreign artists to return to Japan. We're proud to have played a role in the recovery process."
The company of more than 350 orchestra musicians, chorus members, stage hands, dancers, and administrative staff, lands today at Kennedy Airport at around 11:30 a.m. in two different airplanes.