The Metropolitan Opera has reason to celebrate; $2.5 million worth of tickets were sold on Sunday, the first day of sales, through its box office, telephone call center and Web site, up from $2 million on the first day of sales last year, according to the Associated press.
The Met said Monday the amount topped its previous record nearly $2.1 million two years ago.
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, Janá?ek'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).
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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 Janá?ek'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, El?na Garan?a 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.
Returning to the role that launched her international career, Angela Gheorghiu brings her famous portrayal of the title heroine in La Traviata back to the Met. Opposite her are James Valenti, a former Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions winner, in his Met debut as Alfredo and Thomas Hampson as Germont. Leonard Slatkin returns to the Met podium for the first time in 12 years.
James Levine will conduct Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, featuring the much-admired portrayals of Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Susan Graham as Octavian, with Kristinn Sigmundsson as Baron Ochs. Miah Persson makes her debut as Sophie, a role she shares with Christine Schäfer. Ramón Vargas and Eric Cutler alternate as the Italian singer, and Hans-Joachim Ketelsen and Thomas Allen sing Faninal.
Deborah Voigt takes on another iconic Wagnerian role, singing Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer for the first time on the Met stage, with Juha Uusitalo in his first Dutchman with the company. Stephen Gould, in his Met debut, sings Erik, and Hans-Peter König is Daland, with Kazushi Ono conducting. Voigt will also be heard as Chrysothemis in Elektra, joined by Susan Bullock making her Met debut in the title role, Felicity Palmer as Klytämnestra, and Alan Held as Orest. Following his critically acclaimed performances of Strauss's Die Ägyptische Helena at the Met two years ago, Fabio Luisi returns to conduct the Bavarian master's Elektra. Der Fliegende Holländer returns to the Met stage for the first time in nine years, and Elektra for the first time in seven years.
Four decades into a legendary Met career, Plácido Domingo makes history by singing the baritone title role of Simon Boccanegra, conducted by James Levine. Adrianne Pieczonka, Marcello Giordani, and James Morris are his co-stars. Domingo will take on conductor's duties for another powerful Verdi drama, Stiffelio, which has not been heard at the Met in 12 years. Fellow tenor José Cura sings the title role, with Angela Marambio as Lina and Andrzej Dobber as Stankar.
Juan Diego Flórez reprises his acclaimed performance as Tonio in Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment, one of the hits of the 2007-08 season. Diana Damrau, who created a sensation in the same composer's Lucia di Lammermoor this season, makes her Met role debut as Marie, and the great Kiri Te Kanawa returns in the speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Damrau also revisits her charming portrayal of Rosina in IL Barbiere di Siviglia, as does Joyce DiDonato, who sings the role in earlier performances of the run. Barry Banks and Lawrence Brownlee share the role of Count Almaviva, while Rodion Pogossov and Franco Vassallo play the barber of the title, under the baton of Maurizio Benini.