Eight new productions, four of which are company premieres, will highlight the Metropolitan Opera's 2009-10 season. General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine jointly announced plans that include: the Met premieres of Rossini's Armida, Verdi's Attila, Janáček's From the House of the Dead, and Shostakovich's The Nose; new productions of Bizet's Carmen, Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Thomas's Hamlet, and Puccini's Tosca; and 18 revivals from the company's repertory. The season is the first to be entirely planned under Gelb's leadership, in collaboration with Levine (the past three seasons were planned before Gelb became General Manager in 2006-07 but included some productions, repertoire, and casting changes made by Gelb).
The season opens with a new production of Tosca by Luc Bondy in his house debut, starring Karita Mattila in her first Met performance of the title role. James Levine conducts. Renowned director Patrice Chéreau and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen both make Met debuts with the new production of Janáček's From the House of the Dead, which has won acclaim across Europe.
Bartlett Sher, whose staging of IL Barbiere di Siviglia was a hit two seasons ago, returns to direct his second Met production: Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, conducted by Levine, with Rolando Villazón in the title role, Anna Netrebko as Antonia, Elīna Garanča as Nicklausse, and René Pape as the four villains. The new Carmen, starring Angela Gheorghiu in her first-ever stage portrayal of the gypsy femme fatale, will also feature the debuts of director Richard Eyre and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Roberto Alagna, as the soldier Don José, and Mariusz Kwiecien, as the bullfighter Escamillo, vie for Carmen's affections. Verdi's rarely heard Attila, with Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role of the Hun leader, features a conductor and a creative team all in their Met debuts: maestro Riccardo Muti, director Pierre Audi, and set and costume designers Miuccia Prada, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The extraordinary artist William Kentridge directs and designs a new staging of Shostakovich's The Nose, an opera based on the Gogol short story, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Paulo Szot, the Tony Award-winning star of Lincoln Center Theater's South Pacific, makes his Met debut in the leading role of Kovalyov. Last performed at the Met in 1897, Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet will be seen in a new production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, conducted by Louis Langrée and starring Simon Keenlyside in the title role and Natalie Dessay as Ophélie. The season's final new production features Renée Fleming in Rossini's bel canto tour de force Armida, directed by Mary Zimmerman and conducted by Riccardo Frizza. Pierre Boulez makes his company debut leading the MET Orchestra in the final concert of its annual series at Carnegie Hall, with the other two concerts conducted by Levine.
Peter Gelb said, "Although the economy is bad, we are committed to maintaining the Met's artistic excellence. We have gained a new and larger public that we're determined to keep by continuing to present the world's leading artists in compelling new productions and appealing revivals."
James Levine said, "This is a wonderful balance of repertory that includes four works totally new to the Met as well as a number of great operas that have been out of the repertory for a long time. I'm also delighted that we have so many important debuts, including conductors, singers, directors and production teams."
*Many of the world's greatest singers are featured in roles that they have not sung at the Met before: Olga Borodina as Marguerite, Diana Damrau as Marie, Danielle De Niese as Susanna, Natalie Dessay as Ophélie, Renée Fleming as Armida, Elīna Garanča as Nicklausse, Angela Gheorghiu as Carmen, Angelika Kirchschlager as Hansel, Maija Kovalevska as Micaëla and Liù, Karita Mattila as Tosca, Anna Netrebko as Antonia, Patricia Racette in Il Trittico, Nina Stemme as Ariadne, Violeta Urmana as Aida and Odabella, Deborah Voigt as Senta, Anne Sofie von Otter as Countess Geschwitz, Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi, Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo, José Cura as Stiffelio, Plácido Domingo as Boccanegra, Marcello Giordani as Calàf, Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi and Don José, Stephen Gould as Erik, Ramón Vargas as Foresto, Rolando Villazón as Hoffmann, Carlos Alvarez as Ezio, Simon Keenlyside as Hamlet, Mariusz Kwiecien as Escamillo, ?eljko Lučić as Michele, Peter Mattei as Shishkov, Ildar Abdrazakov as Attila, René Pape as the four villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Paulo Szot as Kovalyov, Bryn Terfel as Scarpia, and Juha Uusitalo as Scarpia and the Dutchman.
In the face of the worst economic situation in recent history, the Met is nevertheless sustaining its recent box office success. Following six consecutive years of box office decline (the 2005-06 season ended at 76.8% of paid box office capacity), as a result of the Met's new artistic and public initiatives, the Met box office experienced increased ticket sales in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons: 83.9% and 88.1%, respectively. Prior to the start of the economic crisis last fall, ticket sales for the 2008-09 season were running ahead of the prior season by 2%. Currently, the Met is running 1.3% behind last season.
Ticket prices for the Met's 2009-10 season will remain the same with two exceptions: Family Circle and Balcony Box prices are increasing from $15 to $20, and some seats in the Grand Tier, Dress Circle, and Balcony sections will be designated as premium locations. For the third year, season subscribers and patrons can purchase advance single tickets to the full season, as well as tickets to gala events, at the time they subscribe.
The Met's successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program will continue for a fourth season, thanks to the continued support of Met Board member Agnes Varis and her husband, Karl Leichtman. The program provides up to two tickets per customer for orchestra seats regularly priced at $100 per ticket at the sharply discounted price of $20, available two hours before curtain time. Beginning two seasons ago, the Met reserved 50 Varis Rush tickets per performance for senior citizens. As of today, the Met has provided 15,928 Varis Rush tickets to 70 performances in the 2008-09 season.
The Met continues to offer reduced-price tickets for selected performances for full-time students, age 29 and under, at $25 for weekday performances and $35 for Friday and Saturday performances.
The Met: Live in HD, the company's highly successful, award-winning series of live Saturday performance transmissions into movie theaters in more than 35 countries around the world, has sold more than 1.1 million tickets so far this season. Three transmissions remain in the 2008-09 series: Madama Butterfly (March 7), La Sonnambula (March 21), and La Cenerentola (May 9).
The 2009-10 HD series will feature nine transmissions, beginning October 10 with Tosca and continuing with Aida (October 24), Turandot (November 7), Les Contes d'Hoffmann (December 19), Der Rosenkavalier (January 9), Carmen (January 16), Simon Boccanegra (February 6), Hamlet (March 27), and Armida (May 1). In January 2009, the Met won a special Emmy Award for "advancing technology through ongoing, live, global transmission of high-definition programming to movie theaters." (Details on the 2009-10 HD presentations and other Met media initiatives follow later in this release.)
The 2009-10 season opens on September 21 with the gala premiere of a new production of Puccini's Tosca, conducted by James Levine. Director Luc Bondy and designer Richard Peduzzi, among Europe's best known theatrical artists, are both making their Met debuts, joined by Milena Canonero as costume designer. Karita Mattila, whose Salome electrified New York audiences as well as people around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD earlier in the current season, sings the title role of Tosca for the first time outside her native Finland. The role of Cavaradossi is shared by Marcelo Álvarez and Jonas Kaufmann, for both of whom it is a new role at the Met, and by Marcello Giordani, who returns to the part. Juha Uusitalo, who debuted in the current season as Jochanaan opposite Mattila's Salome, sings Scarpia in the initial run, followed by George Gagnidze, this season's Rigoletto, and Bryn Terfel, who brings his much admired portrayal to the Met for the first time in a complete performance (he sang Act II on opening night of the 2005-06 season). Philippe Auguin conducts later performances. Tosca is a co-production with the Teatro alla Scala, Milan and with the Bavarian State Opera, Munich. It is a gift of The Annenberg Foundation.
The Met premiere on November 12 of Janáček's From the House of the Dead features two of the season's renowned debuting artists: conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and director Patrice Chéreau. Peter Mattei, whose Figaro in the 2006 new production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia won widespread acclaim, sings the role of Shishkov, with Stefan Margita in his Met debut as Filka Morozov, Kurt Streit as Skuratov, Peter Hoare in his Met debut as Shapkin, and Willard White as Gorianchikov. Richard Peduzzi designs the sets, and other members of the production team include three Met debuting artists: costume designer Caroline de Vivaise, lighting designer Bertrand Couderc, and choreographer Thierry Thieû Niang. Based on a Dostoyevsky story, From the House of the Dead takes place entirely in a Russian prison camp. In the words of Chéreau: "The prison camp is a different society, parallel to ours, but there are many similarities between the two. Power, relationships, humiliation, and passion - all those things exist in both worlds." A production of the Met and the Wiener Festwochen, in co-production with the Holland Festival, Amsterdam, the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, and the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, it was voted Europe's best opera staging for 2007 by the Charles Cros Academy. The Met production is a gift of The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc., and of Robert L. Turner.
James Levine conducts Offenbach's psychological fantasy Les Contes d'Hoffmann in a new production by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher. Rolando Villazón sings the tour-de-force title role, with Kathleen Kim, Anna Netrebko, and Ekaterina Gubanova as his three loves, Elīna Garanča as his companion Nicklausse, and René Pape as his nemesis in the four villain roles. The production team is completed by Michael Yeargan as set designer and Catherine Zuber as costume designer, Sher's collaborators on IL Barbiere di Siviglia, as well as by lighting designer James F. Ingalls and choreographer Dou Dou Huang. Inspired by Kafka, Sher describes his production as "a magical journey in which the title character works out different manifestations of his psyche." The production premieres at a gala benefit on December 3 and is a gift of the Hermione Foundation.
On New Year's Eve, Bizet's Carmen opens with a gala performance for the new production premiere. Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Olivier Award-winning director Richard Eyre both make their Met debuts with the new staging, which features Angela Gheorghiu in her first stage performances anywhere of the title role. Olga Borodina sings the seductive gypsy at later performances, while Barbara Frittoli and Maija Kovalevska share the role of Micaëla; Roberto Alagna, Brandon Jovanovich (in his Met debut), and Jonas Kaufmann are Don José; and Mariusz Kwiecien and Teddy Tahu Rhodes sing the swaggering toreador Escamillo. Alain Altinoglu makes his Met debut conducting later performances. The set and costume designer is Rob Howell, in his Met debut, Peter Mumford is the lighting designer, and Christopher Wheeldon is the choreographer. Eyre, who was director of London's Royal National Theatre from 1987-97, says Carmen "is one of the inalienably great works of art. It's sexy in every sense. And I think it should be shocking." The production is a gift of Mrs. Paul Desmarais, Sr.
Riccardo Muti, one of the world's most esteemed maestros and a champion of Verdian style, makes his Met debut, appropriately, conducting the company premiere of Verdi's Attila on February 23. In his Met debut, Pierre Audi directs the new production. Following their operatic debut with Tristan und Isolde at the Berlin State Opera in 2006, Herzog and de Meuron, working with Miuccia Prada, will create the set and costume designs. Jean Kalman, whose most recent work at the Met was the new production of Verdi's Macbeth in 2007, returns as lighting designer. Ildar Abdrazakov sings the title role of the infamous Hun leader, joined by Violeta Urmana as the vengeful Odabella, Carlos Alvarez as the Roman general Ezio, and Ramón Vargas as Foresto. In addition to the "bird's nest" Beijing National Stadium built for the 2008 Olympics, the Pritzker Prize-winning architectural team of Herzog & de Meuron is particularly known for designing the Tate Modern museum in London. Prada, one of the world's most renowned fashion designers, makes her operatic debut with this production. The production is a gift of Elena and Rudy Prokupets.
Dmitri Shostakovich's The Nose has its Met premiere on March 5 in a new production staged and designed by William Kentridge, under the baton of Valery Gergiev. Tony Award-winner Paulo Szot makes his Met debut as Kovalyov, with Andrei Popov as the Police Inspector and Gordon Gietz as the Nose, also in their company debuts. Kentridge and Sabine Theunissen are the set designers, Greta Goiris designs the costumes, Urs Schönebaum designs the lighting, and Luc De Wit is the associate director. All members of the production team are making their Met debuts. Based on a short story by Gogol, Shostakovich's The Nose "is the story of a man who wakes up one morning and finds that his nose is gone," says Kentridge. "The opera is about what constitutes a person - how singular we are, and how much we are divided against ourselves. And it's also about the terrors of hierarchy." The Nose is a co-production of the Met, the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, and the Opéra National de Lyon. It is a gift of Frederick Iseman. Additional funding is provided by The Richard J. Massey Foundation for the Arts and Sciences.
The new production of Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, which opens on March 16, stars Simon Keenlyside in the title role and Natalie Dessay as Ophélie. Louis Langrée conducts a cast that also includes Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude, Toby Spence as Laërte, in his Met debut, and James Morris as Claudius. The production is by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser with set designs by Christian Fenouillat, costume designs by Agostino Cavalca, and lighting designs by Christophe Forey - all in their Met debuts. When this production opened at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, The Independent called Keenlyside's Hamlet, "a revelation...thrilling throughout." The Met performances will use the alternative tragic ending, rather than the happy ending used at Covent Garden. Hamlet was last performed at the Met in 1897 and is particularly known for Ophélie's famous mad scene, which was a favorite of such legendary sopranos as Nellie Melba and Maria Callas. The production is owned by the Grand Théâtre de Genève and is a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmer J. Thomas, Jr.
Renée Fleming stars in the title role of Rossini's Armida, which has its Met premiere on April 12. Riccardo Frizza conducts, and Mary Zimmerman directs this story of a sorceress who enthralls men in her island prison. The cast includes six tenor roles in all, with the principal male parts taken in this production by Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo, Bruce Ford as Goffredo, José Manuel Zapata as Gernando, Barry Banks as Carlo, and Kobie van Rensburg as Ubaldo. Richard Hudson designs the sets and costumes, Brian MacDevitt is the lighting designer, and Graciela Daniele makes her Met debut as choreographer. Zimmerman, whose hit production of Lucia di Lammermoor opened the 2007-08 season, calls Armida "a buried treasure, a box of jewels." She notes that the opera "has an epic, enchanted quality and a tremendous visual element." This production of Armida is a gift of The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund.
The 18 revivals of the 2009-10 season feature a lineup of the world's greatest singers, including some notable Met role debuts. Anna Netrebko returns as Mimì in La Bohème, which also stars Piotr Beczala, who sings his first Rodolfo with the company. Gerald Finley and debuting baritone George Petean are Marcello, and Nicole Cabell and Ruth Ann Swenson alternate as Musetta. Marco Armiliato conducts.