Met Opera's LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN Begins 12/3, Conducted By James Levine and Directed by Bartlett Sher

Met Opera's LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN Begins 12/3, Conducted By James Levine and Directed by Bartlett Sher

The Met's new production of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, conducted by Music Director James Levine and directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, premieres on December 3. Joseph Calleja sings the title role for the first time in his career, and Anna Netrebko adds new roles to her Met repertoire as both Antonia and Stella. Also making role debuts are Kathleen Kim as Olympia, Ekaterina Gubanova as Giulietta, and Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse/The Muse. Alan Held, who has tackled all four villain roles before, reprises this feat in the new production. Set designer Michael Yeargan and costume designer Catherine Zuber, both Tony Award-winners who worked with Sher on his acclaimed Met production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia, are also on the production team for the new Les Contes d'Hoffmann. James F. Ingalls joins them as the lighting designer, and the choreography is by Dou Dou Huang, who made his Met debut as the choreographer and lead dancer for Tan Dun's The First Emperor. John Keenan conducts on December 23, 26, and 30. Performances run through January 2, and the December 19 matinee will be the season's fourth transmission in The Met: Live in HD series seen in movie theaters around the world.

Sher, whose Met debut production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia has been an audience favorite since it opened in 2006, creates the new staging for Offenbach's final masterpiece, which he calls "a magical journey in which the title character works out different manifestations of his psyche...The opera is often approached in terms of the crazy imagination of Hoffmann," Sher says, referring to the early German romantic polymath whose stories are used for the opera's episodic plot. "I'm more interested in why Offenbach, who had been a very popular operetta composer, was seeking to write a serious work to gain acceptance. Why, so late in his career, did he feel this need to be accepted? That led me to consider Offenbach's sense of being Jewish and an outsider. Whatever group he was in, he always appears as an outsider who never feels like he belongs, never feels like he's connected." The ambiguities and split identities of the characters figure in Sher's vision of the piece. "For any artist, ambition and paranoia are both always present. The door keeps opening and there are many Hoffmanns, identities that keep overlapping. I think the real artistic dilemma for Offenbach is the tension between the cover and the internal state, and that's what I hope to try to show."

Offenbach died before a definitive score for Les Contes d'Hoffmann was established, though he left many sketches of possible additions and replacements which have led to different performing versions over the years. The Met production will use the same version that was used in the most recent revival, in 1999-2000, with the Olympia act first, followed by the Antonia act, then Giulietta placed third. Maestro Levine says of the musical version, "The music is so inspired, and I think we have made effective choices in the absence of an authentic, fully realized original version, using a great deal of the information that has come to light over the years."

About the Performers
Kathleen Kim makes her role debut as Olympia, the mechanical doll, in the new production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann. She appeared in two operas at the Met last season, as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte and the First Sprite in Rusalka. She made her company debut in 2007 as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro and later that season performed Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera. The American soprano is a recent graduate of the Ryan Opera Center, the young artist's program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her repertoire also includes Armida in Handel's Rinaldo (Central City Opera), Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Minnesota Opera), Marie in La Fille du Régiment (Bilbao Opera), and Madame Mao Tse-tung in Nixon in China (Chicago Opera Theatre).

When Anna Netrebko sang Antonia at the Mariinsky Theater, the critic in the St. Petersburg Times wrote that "her captivating performance was the genuine highlight of the production. Her tormented Antonia, suffering over the paths she had to choose, was pierced with despair." The star Russian soprano returns for the first time this season, adding the roles of Antonia and Stella in Les Contes d'Hoffmann to her repertoire with the company. In February and March she will sing Mimì in La Bohème, a role she has sung in a widely acclaimed film, but which she has only sung on one previous occasion at the Met. Last season she sang the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor, which was transmitted live in HD. Since her 2002 Met debut as Natasha Rostova in War and Peace, she has sung Norina in a new production of Don Pasquale (2006), Musetta in La Bohème, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Zerlina in Don Giovanni. She also sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni during the company's 2006 tour to Japan. Her performances as Elvira in I Puritani in the 2006-07 season and as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette in 2007-08 were transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series. I Puritani is also available on DVD on the Deutsche Grammophon label. In 2007, she and Rolando Villazón gave a special concert to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Met at Lincoln Center, Anna & Rolando Celebrate the Met, with excerpts from La Bohème, Manon, and L'Elisir d'Amore.

Appearing at the Met for the first time since her 2007 debut as Hélène Bezukhova in War and Peace, Ekaterina Gubanova makes her role debut as Giulietta. The Russian mezzo is a graduate of the young artists program of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where she made her debut in 2002. She made her Paris Opera debut as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde and has since returned there to sing Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Nicklausse in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Other roles in her repertory include Néris in Medée (La Monnaie, Brussels), Olga in Eugene Onegin (Salzburg Festival), Amneris in Aida (Bavarian State Opera), and Clitemnestre in Iphigénie en Aulide (Rome Opera).
Kate Lindsey, a recent graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, sings Nicklausse/The Muse for the first time. She was a frequent presence at the Met last season, appearing as Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Kitchen Boy in Rusalka, and Wellgunde in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung. In addition, she sang with the MET Chamber Ensemble under James Levine in Zankel Hall. Lindsey made her Met debut as Javotte in Manon in 2005 and has since sung Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette, and the Madrigalist in Manon Lescaut. Later this season she makes her debut at the Bavarian State Opera as Cherubino and sings the title role in the world premiere of Daren Hagen's Amelia at the Seattle Opera. She is also scheduled to sing Nicklausse/The Muse in another new production at next summer's Santa Fe Festival.

Joseph Calleja sings Hoffmann for the first time in his career in the Met's new production. Last season the Maltese tenor added the role of Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore to his Met repertory and reprised the role of his 2006 company debut, the Duke in Rigoletto. The New Yorker said of his Duke, "Joseph Calleja proves himself to be the Brazil of singers: he's the tenor of the future, and always will be. The big, honeyed tone-the purest and most appealingly Italianate sound since Pavarotti-has acquired a slightly darker tinge." Calleja has also appeared at the Met as Macduff in Macbeth. Elsewhere this season, he performs Rodolfo in La Bohème (Hamburg State Opera, Vienna State Opera), Macduff (Bavarian State Opera), Nemorino (Tokyo's New National Theater), Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor and Ruggero in La Rondine (both at Frankfurt Opera), and Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra (Royal Opera, Covent Garden).

Alan Held sings the roles of the four villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann: Lindorf in the prologue and epilogue, Coppélius in Act I, Dr. Miracle in Act II, and Dappertutto in Act III. The American baritone first performed the four villains at the Met in 1993. He most recently appeared as Peter in Richard Jones's new production of Hansel and Gretel in 2007, a performance which was transmitted live in HD and is now available on DVD on the EMI label. Since his 1989 Met debut as Mr. Redburn in Billy Budd, Held has sung numerous roles, including Captain Balstrode in Peter Grimes, Donner in Das Rheingold, Gunther in Götterdämmerung, Shchelkalov in Boris Godunov, both Don Fernando and Don Pizarro in Fidelio, Moneybags Billy in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Abimélech in Samson et Dalila, Capulet in Roméo et Juliette, Orest in Elektra, and the title role of Wozzeck.

The new production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann marks James Levine's return to conducting after a two-month hiatus due to back surgery. In the years since his 1971 Metropolitan Opera debut, Music Director Levine has forged a relationship with the company that is both unparalleled in its history and unique in today's musical world. He has conducted 82 operas and close to 2,500 performances at the Met, a record no one else has even approached. This season, in addition to the new Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Levine conducts the new production of Tosca, which opened the season and returns to the repertory in April, as well as revivals of Lulu, Der Rosenkavalier, Simon Boccanegra, and concerts with the MET Orchestra in Carnegie Hall on December 20 and January 24. Last season he conducted the new production of La Damnation de Faust and the revival of Orfeo ed Euridice (both transmitted live in HD), the Opening Night Gala starring Renée Fleming, the Met's 125th Anniversary Gala on March 15, and three complete cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Levine conducted Les Contes d'Hoffmann with the Met first on tour in Japan in 1988 and subsequently in the 1992-93 and 1999-2000 seasons.

John Keenan made his Met debut in 1990, conducting Don Giovanni, and has since led performances of two more Mozart operas, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Die Zauberflöte, as well as two by Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and, last season, Das Rheingold.

About the Production Team

Bartlett Sher created an instant hit at his Met debut with his inventive new production of Rossini's IL Barbiere di Siviglia in the 2006-07 season. For the first time at the Met, the production introduced a passerelle, or walkway, which extended from the stage around the rim of the orchestra pit and into the audience. The Wall Street Journal said the show was "lighthearted and blissfully funny," and called the passerelle "a stroke of genius...it was thrilling to have those voices close, without the orchestra pit in between." Sher received the 2008 Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award for the current Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater. Also for Lincoln Center, where he is resident director, he staged Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Awake and Sing!, and The Light in the Piazza, receiving Tony Award nominations for each production. He made his operatic debut in 2003 at the Seattle Opera with Marvin David Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra, a production that was presented by the New York City Opera in 2004. In 2008, he directed Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the Salzburg Festival. Sher won the 2002 Joseph A. Callaway Award for his staging of Shakespeare's Cymbeline and more recently received the Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing by the Drama League of New York. He has been the Artistic Director of the Intiman Theatre in Seattle since 2000.
Michael Yeargan collaborated with Bartlett Sher on the acclaimed production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia that marked the director's Met debut in 2006. In all, Yeargan has designed sets for six Met productions, including the world premiere of The Great Gatsby and the company premiere of Susannah in 1999. He made his Met debut with Ariadne auf Naxos in 1993 and later designed the sets for productions of Otello (1994), Così fan tutte (1996), and Don Giovanni (2004). Yeargan, who is active in both theater and opera, won Tony Awards for The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater.

Costume designer Catherine Zuber returns for her third new production at the Met in four years. She debuted with the company in 2006 in Sher's production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia, and last season she designed costumes for the Met premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic. Both operas were seen live in HD. She works in theater and opera throughout the United States and in Europe, and has won Tony Awards in four consecutive years for The Light in the Piazza, Awake and Sing!, The Coast of Utopia, and South Pacific. She also designed the costumes for the Met's 125th Anniversary Gala last March, which included recreations of historic costumes as well as new designs to fit into the context of the special celebration.

Les Contes d'Hoffmann will be the ninth Met production for which James F. Ingalls has designed the lighting. Since his company debut in 1997 with Mark Lamos's production of Wozzeck, Ingalls has created the lighting for the world premiere of Picker's An American Tragedy (2005) and for the Met premieres of The Gambler (2001), War and Peace (2002), and Benvenuto Cellini (2003). He also designed lighting for Les Troyens (2003), Salome (2004), and most recently for Mark Morris's production of Orfeo ed Euridice (2007), which was seen live in HD.

Dou Dou Huang, who made his Met debut as both choreographer and dancer with the world premiere of The First Emperor in 2006, choreographs Les Contes d'Hoffmann. The artistic director and principal dancer of the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble, Huang is particularly well known in China for the fusion of ancient, classical, and contemporary techniques in his choreography. The New York Times said of Huang, "Trained in Chinese dance, a mixture of martial art and acrobatic movements, as well as ballet, he has infused a vibrant spirit and a new direction to the dance in China." The winner of many international prizes, he collaborated with legendary American dancer Jacques d'Amboise in 2004 on a program for American and Chinese schoolchildren.

Free Final Dress Rehearsal of Les Contes d'Hoffmann
The final dress rehearsal of Les Contes d'Hoffmann on Monday, November 30 at 11 a.m. will be open to the public free of charge. The free event is the second in a series of open rehearsals this season supported by Agnes Varis, a managing director of the Met's Board of Directors, and her husband Karl Leichtman. Approximately 3000 free tickets will be available (2 tickets per person) through an online ticket drawing; entries will only be available at the Met's website at www.metopera.org. The entry dates are from Friday, November 13 through the evening of Wednesday, November 18. Winners will be chosen on Thursday, November 19 and names will be posted on the Met's website that afternoon. Winners have until Wednesday, November 25 to pick up their tickets at which time they will be forfeited. The hours for the ticket pick-up are Monday through Thursday 10:00am - 5:00pm, Friday 10:00 - 7:00pm, and Saturday and Sunday 1:30 - 6:00pm.

Live Broadcasts Around the World
Les Contes d'Hoffmann will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season in movie theaters and on the radio and the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.
The December 19 matinee will be transmitted to more than 1,000 movie theaters in 42 countries globally as part of The Met: Live in HD series.
The premiere on December 3 will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79, as will the performances on December 11, 19, 23, and 30.
The performances on December 3 and 23 will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming on the Met's website www.metopera.org.
In addition to The Met: Live in HD transmission, the December 19 matinee performance will also be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

About 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 Met's 2009-10 season features eight new productions, four of which are Met premieres. Opening night is a new production of Tosca starring Karita Mattila, conducted by Levine and directed by Luc Bondy. The four Met premieres are: Janá?ek's From the House of the Dead, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Patrice Chéreau, both in Met debuts; Verdi's Attila starring Ildar Abdrazakov, conducted by Riccardo Muti and directed by Pierre Audi, with set and costume design by Miuccia Prada, Jacques Herzog, and Pierre de Meuron, all in their Met debuts; Shostakovich's The Nose featuring Paulo Szot, conducted by Valery Gergiev and directed and designed by William Kentridge in his Met debut; and Rossini's Armida with Renée Fleming, conducted by Riccardo Frizza and directed by Mary Zimmerman. Other new productions are Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann; Carmen with El?na Garan?a and Roberto Alagna, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and directed by Richard Eyre, both in Met debuts; and Thomas's Hamlet with Natalie Dessay and Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Louis Langrée and directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser in their Met debuts.

Building on its 78-year radio broadcast history-currently 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 Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Met: Live in HD series returns for its fourth season in 2009-10 with nine transmissions, beginning October 10 with the new production of Tosca and ending with the new production of Rossini's Armida on May 1. The productions are seen in more than 900 theaters in 42 countries around the world and last season sold more than 1.8 million tickets. These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and nine HD performances are now available on DVD. The Magic Flute was released by the Met and is available at the newly renovated Met Opera Shop. In addition, two classic Met performances from 1978 have recently been released by the Met: Otello, conducted by Levine with Jon Vickers and Renata Scotto; and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci conducted by Levine, with Tatiana Troyanos and Plácido Domingo in the first part of the double bill and Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes in the latter. The Met: Live in HD series is made possible by a generous grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation. Bloomberg L.P. is the global corporate sponsor of The Met: Live in HD.

HD Live in Schools, the Met's 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, continues for a third season. This season, for the second consecutive year the program will reach public school students and teachers in 18 cities and communities nationwide. HD Live in Schools is made possible by Bank of America.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera last season introduced Met Player, a new subscription servIce That makes much of the company's extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public for the first time online in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. The new service currently offers over 170 historic audio recordings, and almost 100 full-length opera videos are available, including 24 of the company's acclaimed The Met: Live in HD transmissions, known for their extraordinary sound and picture quality. New content, including HD productions and archival broadcasts, are added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Radio is a subscription-based audio entertainment service broadcasting 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 Met's 78-year broadcast history.

In addition to providing audio recordings through the 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. Composer Nico Muhly and playwright Craig Lucas recently had their new piece workshopped.

The Met audience development initiatives include Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met, which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program; and an annual Holiday Presentation for families. This season's special Holiday Presentation is Richard Jones's English-language production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, which is given four matinee performances and four evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.