If you love or are even interested in opera, the Metropolitan Opera and City Opera are self-recommending. Taken together, the two institution put a lot of work on stage and effectively cover most of the history of the form. The question isn’t whether to go, but what to see?
The big event this year at the Met is the start of their new Ring cycle, staged by Robert and with a cast that includes Bryn Terfel and Eric Owens. Das Rheingold is sold out through the end of the year, but there are more performances in the spring, where it will be in closer proximity to Die Walküre. The Ring is deeply important regardless of how much one likes it, and any new production is worth experiencing.
It may not be the best or most interesting thing the Met is doing this year, though. There is a new production of Verdi’s great Don Carlo, two of Gluck’s greatest works – Iphigénie en Tauride with Susan Graham and Placido Domingo, and Mark Morris’ production of Orfeo ed Euridice – Simon Rattle is coming to conduct Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, and Nixon in China lands on stage in 2011. In musical terms alone, though, if you only go see one production at the Met this year, go to Così fan tutte, where having William Christie conducting the singers and the Met Orchestra is going to be absolutely fascinating and, hopefully, completely wonderful. If you can’t make to Lincoln Center, check your local movie theater listings for their HD Live series.
At the Met you get that kind of star power. At City Opera the focus is on the works, the combination of music and staging, making it not only the people’s opera but the place for lovers of the form who are not so interested in the extra-musical drama and theatrics. The company may be still in the midst of financial struggles, but the music making and performances under George Steel were absolutely wonderful in the productions I saw last year. The newly renovated theater has greatly improved sound and the most comfortable seats in New York City, the orchestra is playing at a level that I never imagined I would hear, and the casting emphasizes singers who can perform the music.
Although there is no Handel on the program this year (a little disappointing), City Opera is presenting Leonard Bernstein’s final dramatic work, A Quiet Place, for the first time ever in New York City. Go see it. Also, go see the exciting collection of short monodramas from Arnold Schoenberg, John Zorn and Morton Feldman, which, in terms of sheer musical interest and excitement, is going to be the opera event of the season.
UPDATED: If you don’t believe me, listen to George Steel