At the Met in 2017-18: the good, the bad and the ugly

At noon on February 15, the Metropolitan Opera announced their 2017–18 season. Journalists and Twitterati responded with disappointment: it’s a safe season full of mostly standard repertoire. Still, there are a few operas and casts I am very much looking forward to seeing. Here’s my entirely biased take.

The good

A scene from Tom Cairn’s new production of Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel. Photographed at the Salzburg Festival. Photo by Monika Rittershaus

We knew this before the full season announcement, but Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel will hit the New York stage in October. A great modern composer, a surreal scenario and a stacked cast—what more could an opera-loving girl want? Especially given how fabulous the reviews of the Salzburg premiere were.

Strauss’s Elektra is always exciting, but doubly so when Christine Goerke is wielding the ax. I’m not sure I’ll make it to NYC for this one, but we’re getting the same opera with the same Heldensoprano in San Francisco, so I’ll still be able to catch it a few times.

The Girard production of Wagner’s Parsifal is back. It was heavy on the symbolism and the blood the first time around, but it was also absolutely entrancing. Although with Evelyn Herlitzius as Kundry, Peter Mattei as Amfortas and René Pape as Gurnemanz, who cares what the production looks like? (The Parsifal is Klaus Florian Vogt, whom I don’t yet feel qualified to judge.)

A scene from Laurent Pelly’s new production of Massenet’s Cendrillon . Photographed at the Santa Fe Opera. Photo by Ken Howard

I’m a sucker for Massenet. I’m also a sucker for Cinderella stories. And I adore Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote and Stephanie Blythe. So the new-to-the-Met production of Cendrillon checks all my boxes. (It will even be in the HD season!) A bonus: it’s Laurent Pelly’s adorable story-book staging (lots of pictures here).

We’re also getting revivals of a few rarities that should prove interesting: Massenet’s Thaïs (with Ailyn Pérez and Gerald Finley), Rossini’s Semiramide (with Angela Meade, Elizabeth DeShong, Javier Camarena and Ildar Abdrazakov) and Verdi’s Luisa Miller (with Sonya Yoncheva, Piotr Beczala and baritone Plácido Domingo).

The bad 

A new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte includes Kelli O’Hara as Despina. She is a wonderful singer and actress, but I suspect she is not the best operatic soprano they could have cast in the role. This seems like a desperate bid to get Broadway theater-goers into the opera house.

Two of the new-to-the-Met productions are by McVicar. Love him or hate him, but can we please have some more variety?

A scene from Puccini’s Turandot. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot should be a little too much Puccini even for devoted fans (which I most certainly am not). They’re all getting tons of performances, too: 15, 15, 12 and 15, respectively, for a total of 57 nights (or afternoons) of Puccini at the Metropolitan opera! That’s more than a quarter of the 220 total performances in the season.

Is Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette really such a masterpiece that we needed it two seasons in a row? (Answer: no.)

The ugly

There are no female composers included in the whole 2017–18 season. That’s unfortunate, but we’re used to it at this point. (Saariaho’s L‘Amour de Loin this past season was unfortunately groundbreaking in that respect.) Perhaps even more worryingly, there are no female conductors in the upcoming season. And no, no women directed any of the new productions, either.

We wept over this last month already, but Bieito’s Met debut was cancelled. We will not be getting his La forza del destino. Budget constraints were cited, but combined with the cancellation of Herheim’s Meistersinger‘s trip to the Met, this gives the impression that Gelb is afraid of Regietheater.

Your turn

What are you excited about? Is there anything on at the Metropolitan Opera in 2017–18 that you’ll travel to see? Or do you think this season is a snooze?