This month marked the end of the first season at the Met Opera fully planned by current general manager Peter Gelb. Recently there has been much discussion of whether the Met under Gelb is headed in the right direction or not. Meaning that people are mostly saying that it isn’t. Anne Midgette, Zachary Woolfe, Alex Ross, Justin Davidson, and Anthony Tommasini are all in on this. These gloomy assessments have been coming in since March, I am late in tackling this, but I would like to comment. I can agree with some of the complaints, most of which concentrate on the uneven quality of new productions--something I have discussed here many times in the last few months.
Of course the biggest issue above is the productions, and I agree there are problems here. The selection of directors is sometimes baffling (three Mary Zimmerman productions? really?), and the struggles of more experienced directors to produce good work suggests greater institutional issues. However, I think we have to give Gelb some credit for trying something. The days of endless Zeff and Schenk productions with no clear plans of revitalization are over, as are those of a general manager who disassembles directors’ productions at the dress rehearsal. The execution is a bit off (in Gelb’s first full season at the Met, I remind you), but the mission is right. And Gelb is smart; I don’t think just because he hasn’t told the Times every detail of his executive process he is unaware of what is going on.
I suppose that the above commentators are harsh in their criticism partially because they have an exponentially larger soapbox. So I am glad they are doing their duty to point out what I think are some legitimate points. But I just want to say that I am happy, for once! (Just do some Zemlinsky, please? Get Pappano to be music director unless Luisi is available? And hire Philipp Stölzl to direct something?* Sorry, that’s just in case I do have a soapbox of which I am unaware!)
I like being positive, so for my end-of-season list I have chosen my top ten staging moments from the new productions of this season. Because it wasn't all a disaster! These are things you will probably not find in the score’s stage directions, or at least not in much detail, and I thought they were super.
Zerbinetta's Top Staging Moments in the Met's 2009-2010 Season New Productions
10. Life in the newspaper office in The Nose
9. Jonas Kaufmann’s Cavaradossi sadly figures out that he’s being tricked in Act 3 of Tosca
8. Kathleen Kim and company’s charming rendition of Olympia’s aria in Les Contes d’Hoffmann
7. Simon Keenlyside’s bloody mad scene in the otherwise moribund Hamlet
6. The final scene of Carmen with Garanca and Alagna
5. The Carmen-Don José Act 2 duet with Aldrich and Kaufmann
4. Patricia Racette’s Tosca kills Bryn Terfel’s Scarpia and doesn’t get candles
3. The play in From the House of the Dead
2. The Nose chases people around the train station in The Nose
1. The prisoners at work in From the House of the Dead
More like this, please. See you in the fall of 2011, Met! (I suspect we may meet over video before then.)
*Just think, Mr. Gelb, of all the Rammstein fans you’ll be able to lure to, let’s say, Meistersinger!