The Metropolitan Opera opens its 2008-09 season on September 22 with a gala performance that kicks off its 125th anniversary, starring Renée Fleming in three fully-staged scenes, including some of her most acclaimed portrayals. Costumes for Fleming have been specially created for each of the scenes in the Opening Night Gala by three of the world’s legendary fashion designers: John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.
The program opens with Act II of Verdi’s La Traviata, and continues with Act III of Massenet’s Manon, and the final scene of Richard Strauss’s one act opera, Capriccio. Met Music Director James Levine conducts the second act of La Traviata, which has two scenes: the first at Violetta’s country house and the second at a grand Parisian mansion in the elaborate staging by Franco Zeffirelli. Ramón Vargas sings the role of Alfredo Germont, and Thomas Hampson that of his father, Giorgio. Christian Lacroix has designed two costumes for Fleming, one for each scene.
The Manon act is also in two parts: the first is the spectacular “Cours-la-Reine” scene featuring the heroine’s famous “Gavotte,” followed by the searingly dramatic scene in the church of St. Sulpice. Ramón Vargas is Manon’s lover, the Chevalier des Grieux, Dwayne Croft her cousin, Lescaut, and Robert Lloyd the Chevalier’s father, the Comte des Grieux, with Marco Armiliato conducting. Fleming’s costume for scene one and an additional cloak for the second scene are by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.
The musically transcendent finale of Capriccio, conducted by Patrick Summers, music director of the Houston Grand Opera, concludes the evening, with Fleming in a costume created by John Galliano.
The Met: Live in HD transmits Opening Night for the first time
For the first time, The Met: Live in HD, the highly successful series of performances transmitted live in high definition (HD) into movie theaters, will carry the Met’s opening night. It will be transmitted to 600 theaters in North and South America, including Mexico City’s Auditorio Nacional, and Buenos Aires’ Teatro 25 de Mayo --- both new additions to the Met’s HD network. American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham hosts the evening, the Red Carpet, and live backstage interviews. The HD director for this performance is Gary Halvorson, who directed five out of the eight HD programs last season. Last season, the series of eight HD operas was attended by over 935,000 people worldwide. This season, the series has been expanded to eleven Live in HD transmissions, including the Met premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic and five other new stage productions. The Met’s HD series is generously supported by the Neubauer Family Foundation. Information on theaters carrying the series is available at the Met’s web site, www.metopera.org.
Live transmissions of Opening Night Gala to Times Square and Fordham University at Lincoln Center and broadcast live on SIRIUS
As a highlight of its 125th anniversary celebration, the Met will transmit the opening-night performance onto multiple screens in Times Square and Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus, where thousands of people can experience it for free. In Times Square, multiple giant screens will carry the live performance, including the Astrovision (Panasonic), Reuters, Nasdaq, and MTV screens. The opera will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78. The performance will also be streamed live on the Met’s website, www.metopera.org. The free outdoor airings of the Met’s opening have proven a popular attraction for thousands of New Yorkers since the new tradition was begun with General Manager Peter Gelb’s first season in 2006.
Due to construction on Lincoln Center Plaza, the Opening Night Gala will be presented in a live plazacast on the North Meadow at Fordham University at Lincoln Center. The Fordham plazacast is free admission, but tickets are required. Approximately 1700 tickets will be distributed beginning Wednesday, September 17 at 10 a.m. at the Met Box Office, with a maximum of two per person. The Times Square relay of the opening night gala is free, and tickets are not required. Approximately 2,000 seats will be available for the public on a first-come first-served basis, with additional standing room provided.
One of opera’s most glamorous and popular stars, Renée Fleming will appear in the title role of a new production of Massenet’s Thaïs and as Dvořák’s Rusalka this season at the Met, in addition to the Opening Night Gala. Thaïs will be shown live in high-definition in movie theaters worldwide on December 20.
Fleming has sung in four premieres of operas that had never been given by the Met: the world premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (1991); Carlyle Floyd’s Susannah (1999); Bellini’s Il Pirata (2002); and Handel’s Rodelinda (2004). In addition she sang the Countess Almaviva in Jonathan Miller’s new production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in 1998. This year’s gala Opening Night will be the American soprano’s fifth season-opening performance at the Met. On opening night of the 1995 season, she sang Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello, opposite Plácido Domingo. To open the 2000 season, she sang the role of Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and in 2002, she was Desdemona in Act IV of Otello for the opening night gala of staged scenes. In 2003, Fleming opened the season as Violetta Valéry in Verdi’s La Traviata. Renée Fleming has sung more than 150 performances on the Met stage as well as numerous concerts with the Met Orchestra.
A frequent host of The Met: Live in HD series, Fleming will, this season, introduce and host the transmissions of La Rondine on January 10, 2009 and of Madama Butterfly on March 7, 2009.
Coty Inc. has created a new fragrance, La Voce Renée Fleming, in honor of the singer; the fragrance’s launch coincides with the opening night gala, and a portion of the sales proceeds will be donated to the Met.
Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company’s repertory. The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.
The Metropolitan Opera’s 2008-09 season pays tribute to the company’s extraordinary history on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, while also emphasizing the Met’s renewed commitment to advancing the art form. The upcoming season features six new productions, 18 revivals, the final performances of Otto Schenk’s production of Wagner’s Ring cycle conducted by Levine, and two gala celebrations; the galas include the season-opening performance featuring Renée Fleming as well as a 125th anniversary celebration on March 15. New productions include the company premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic as well as the Met’s first staged production of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, and Massenet’s Thaïs, Puccini’s La Rondine, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, and Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Future seasons include new presentations of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (2009-10) and Thomas Adès’s The Tempest (2011-12).
Building on its 77-year-old international radio broadcast history – heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network – the Met now uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world.
The Met: Live in HD series reached more than 935,000 people in the 2007-08 season, more than the number of people who saw performances in the opera house. These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and eight of these HD performances are currently or will soon be available on DVD, on the EMI and Universal labels. In the 2008-09 season, the series expands to feature 11 live transmissions, starting with the Met’s Opening Night Gala and spanning the entire season. The HD productions will be seen in over 850 theaters in 28 countries around the world. Five new productions will be featured, including the Met premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic. The Opening Night transmission will be seen in the Americas only; the remaining ten high-definition productions will be shown live worldwide on Saturdays through May 9 with encores scheduled at various times.
Live in HD in Schools, the Met’s new program offering free opera transmissions to New York City schools in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, reached more than 7,000 public school students and teachers during the 2007-08 season. This season, Live in HD in Schools expands to reach schools in 18 cities and communities nationwide.
Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 is a subscription-based audio entertainment service broadcasting both an unprecedented number of live performances each week throughout the Met’s entire season, as well as rare historical performances, newly restored and remastered, spanning the company’s 77-year broadcast history. In addition to providing audio recordings through the new Met on Rhapsody on-demand service, the Met also presents free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season with support from RealNetworks®.
The company’s groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York’s Lincoln Center Theater (LCT), provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. The Met’s partnership with LCT is part of the company’s larger initiative to commission new operas from contemporary composers, present modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, and provide a venue for artists to nurture their work.
The Met has launched several audience development initiatives such as the company’s Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; two are planned for the 2008-09 season with operas and dates to be announced. The Met also presents a free performance of the Verdi Requiem on September 18, in tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti. Other company initiatives include the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program which provides deeply discounted orchestra seats two hours before curtain time; and an annual Holiday Series presentation for families. This season’s special Holiday Presentation is Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, an abridged, English-language version of the opera which is given four special matinee performances and one holiday evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.