Metropolitan Opera 2011-2012 preview
With three months left until the new Met season I will go through each individual opera and preview the works in random order sharing my thoughts on the production and on the cast.
In 2008 the Metropolitan opera premiered the current Laurent Pelly production, a co-production with the Covent Garden and the Vienna State Opera. Pelly’s production updates Napoleonic warfare in the Tyrol to the time of World War I. The production removes everything that might remind us of the toy-soldier productions seen during Sutherland and Pavarotti's time. The recurring theme of the production is travel maps spread throughout the whole stage.
When this production opened in 2008 Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez starred. Both were hailed for their acting skills and their beautiful singing. In addition at opening night Florez repeated the famed aria "Ah! Mes Aims" which is renowned for the nine high C's. From this moment on Florez became known as the new king of the High C's. Two years later Florez returned to the role with a different Marie. The soprano was Diana Damrau. Because the production was especially created for Natalie Dessay, it was hard to see a new soprano take on the role. However Diana Damrau was hailed for her clever acting and her beautiful singing. The New York Times even stated that she gave Natalie Dessay a run for her money.
This year Nino Machaidze will take on the feat. Machaidze became renowned when she replaced the famed Anna Netrebko at Salzburg in the role of Juliette in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. Since then she has sang all over the world in major theaters including La Scala and The Covent Garden. She recently signed a contract with Sony Classical and her first CD entitled Romantic Arias will be released in the summer. Last winter Machaidze made her Met debut in the role of Gilda in Rigoletto. The performance was hailed for her commitment as an artist but she was criticized for being vocally flat and having no trills. This is a little concerning considering the fact La Fille du Regiment requires high notes and many trills. In addition I have never found Nino Machaidze to be a compelling actress. She always seems like she is phoning it in or exaggerating her facial gestures. This is another concern of mine. She will have to sing in the footsteps of two great divas who have conquered this role. Machaidze has at this point hidden under the names of Damrau, Dessay and Netrebko and has not been able to solidfy her name as one of the great divas of our time. In addition she has constantly been cast in the same roles these divas have sang and constantly been compared to them. However Machaidze has already sang this production in Europe so she may be able to improve upon what she has already done and perhaps become a household name at the MET.
Lawrence Brownlee returns to the role of Tonio, a role he is already acquainted with and has sang at the MET to acclaim. He has been hailed for his agile and expressive voice. Brownlee made his debut in Il Barbiere di Siviglia in 2007 when Bartlett Sher's production premiered and immediately became a household name. Since his debut he has sang two HD preformances La Cenrentola and Armida and became the first African American to win the Richard Tucker award.
To round out the cast the illustrious Kiri Te Kanawa returns to the role of the Duchess of Krakenthrop, a short cameo role. Two years ago she entered the stage singing Ginastera’s “Canción al Arbol del Olvido." With her comic timing she easily stole the show from the two leads Florez and Damrau. This year being the best actress of the cast, she can easily steal the show again and make us forget that she is only in the opera for about 15 minutes.
I am interested in seeing how Machaidze does in the title role. My ultimate question is can she bring something new to the role or is it simply going to be a routine run?