Met Presents Leos Janacek's Final Opera, FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, 11/12

Met Presents Leos Janacek's Final Opera,  FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, 11/12

Leos Janacek's final opera, From the House of the Dead, has its Metropolitan Opera premiere on November 12 in a new production by celebrated director Patrice Chéreau, making his U.S. opera debut.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, until recently the widely acclaimed Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, makes his Met debut conducting this powerful opera. Chereau has been a legendary figure in Europe since his 1976 centennial Ring cycle production at the Bayreuth Festival. In addition to numerous theater and opera productions, he has also directed twelve films (including Intimacy and Queen Margot) but has rarely worked in the U.S. This co-production of From the House of the Dead was first presented in Vienna, Amsterdam, and Aix-en-Provence, with critics calling it, "the operatic event of the year" (Le Figaro) and "music theater at its best" (Die Presse, Vienna).  The London Telegraph declared: "I was so moved, enthralled and uplifted by this great performance of Janácek's last opera that I scarcely know where to begin." "This is Janacek's From the House of the Dead as it should be, an evening where crushing wretchedness meets exquisite hope," said the Financial Times.  The cast includes Peter Mattei as Shishkov, Stefan Margita as Filka Morozov, Kurt Streit as Skuratov, Peter Hoare as Shapkin, and Willard White as Gorianchikov.

"From the House of the Dead is based on a book by Dostoevsky, who spent years in a prison camp in Siberia and later wrote about it," says Chereau. "In Janacek's opera, life in the prison is incredibly alive, incredibly strong: it's exactly our life, reconstructed in a prison...There are many fascinating stories. They're all about the solitude of the prisoners, about their love...It's all of mankind in an opera, the whole of mankind is onstage. Remember, on the first page of Janácek's score he wrote a sentence by Dostoevsky: 'In every human being, a divine spark.'"

Richard Peduzzi, who designed the sets for the Met's season-opening new production of Tosca, also designed the sets for From the House of the Dead. Other members of the production team are all making Met debuts: associate director Thierry Thieû Niang, costume designer Caroline de Vivaise, and lighting designer Bertrand Couderc. Performances run through December 5.

The staging, a co-production among the Met, Vienna Festival, Holland Festival, Aix-en-Provence Festival, and La Scala, will play in Milan after its Met performances. It was taped in Aix and released on a DVD, winning the prestigious Académie Charles Cros award for best opera performance in 2008. A video preview is available at www.metopera.org.

 

Finnish maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen just completed a highly successful 17-year tenure as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He organized festivals, including The Tristan Project, toured frequently with the orchestra, conducted world premieres by Lutoslawski, Adams, Saariaho, Stucky and many others, and oversaw the orchestra's move into its new home, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. He is now Conductor Laureate in Los Angeles, as well as the Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of London's Philharmonia Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Baltic Sea Festival. Earlier in his career, he served as Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (1985-1995), Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra (1985-1994), and Director of the Helsinki Festival (1995-1996). Salonen is also a recognized composer. Among his best known works are the orchestra pieces LA Variations (1996), Helix (2005),  Foreign Bodies (2001), and Stockholm Diary (2004), as well as his Piano Concerto (first performed in 2007 by Yefim Bronfman), Violin Concerto (premiered this year by Leila Josefowicz), and the string quartet Homunculus (2008).

 

Swedish baritone Peter Mattei makes his role debut as Shishkov. After he appeared as Figaro in Bartlett Sher's new production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia at the Met in 2006, which was seen live in HD, the New York Times said, "Mr. Mattei, an elegant singer who can spin a legato phrase with velveteen smoothness, has also received high praise for the dynamism and naturalness of his acting. He is a prime example of a new generation of opera singers, fine vocal artists who care deeply about acting and do it very well." Last season, he sang Don Giovanni-a signature role-at the Met where he has also appeared as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and Marcello in La Bohème. Mattei sings with major opera companies throughout the world in a repertoire that includes the title roles in Eugene Onegin and Billy Budd, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Rodrigo in Don Carlo.

Stefan Margita makes his Met debut as Filka Morozov, a role he has previously performed in this production in Vienna, Amsterdam, and Aix. The Czech tenor sang Loge in Das Rheingold at the San Francisco Opera last year. His repertoire also includes Grigori/Dmitri in Boris Godunov (Houston Grand Opera) and Zinovy in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Royal Opera, Covent Garden)

American tenor Kurt Streit sings Skuratov. He was Lysander in the Met premiere of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1996) and has also sung Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Count Almaviva in The Ghosts of Versailles, and Cassio in Otello with the company. Elsewhere he has often portrayed Mozart parts such as Tito, Idomeneo, and Don Ottavio, but also performs a wide variety of roles, including Boris in Kat'a Kabanová (Royal Opera, Covent Garden), Jack in Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage (Lyric Opera of Chicago), and Erik in Der Fliegende Holländer (Teatre Liceu, Barcelona).

In his Met debut, British tenor Peter Hoare sings the role of Shapkin, which he has performed in this production in Vienna, Amsterdam, and Aix. A former percussionist who switched to a vocal career, he now sings roles such as Herod in Salome, Laca in Jen?fa, and the Captain in Wozzeck (all at Welsh National Opera), Sellem in The Rake's Progress (Lausanne Opera), the Schoolmaster in The Cunning Little Vixen (Scottish Opera), and Bardolph in Falstaff (Royal Opera, Covent Garden).

Willard White adds the role of Gorianchikov to his Met repertoire. The bass-baritone made his company debut as Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande in 2000 and has also appeared as Ferrando in Il Trovatore and the Gnome in Rusalka. A native of Jamaica, he has a broad repertoire that includes the four villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Royal Opera, Covent Garden), Somnus in Semele (Aix-en-Provence), Klingsor in Parsifal (Royal Opera, Covent Garden), and the title roles in Der Fliegende Holländer (English National Opera), Falstaff (Aix-en-Provence), Porgy and Bess (Glyndebourne Opera), and Saint François d'Assise (San Francisco Opera).

Patrice Chéreau began working as an actor and director in the 1960s and took over the direction of the Théâtre de Sartrouville in the Paris suburbs at the age of 22. He later worked with Giorgio Strehler at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan and went on to take the helm of other theaters in France. In 1976, he directed the now legendary centennial production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival, which immediately won him acclaim as one of the world's foremost opera directors. Among his most renowned opera productions are Les Contes d'Hoffmann at the Paris Opera in 1974, the first complete, three-act presentation of Lulu at the Paris Opera in 1979, Wozzeck at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1993, Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival in 1994, Così fan tutte at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and the Paris Opera in 2005, and Tristan und Isolde at La Scala in 2007. Chéreau, who is also a writer and actor, works often in theater and in film. He has won many prestigious awards, including the Cannes Film Festival's Jury Prize for his film Queen Margot, as well as several Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscar, Molières, the French Tony awards, and the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear. His films include Queen Margot, Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, Intimacy, His Brother, and Gabrielle. His theatrical productions include classical works such as Phèdre, Hamlet, and Peer Gynt, as well as many works by contemporary playwrights. He directed and acted in the play Dans la solitude des champs de coton ("In the Loneliness of the Cotton Fields"), which was staged at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music in 1996.

Richard Peduzzi made his Met debut with Luc Bondy's opening night production of Tosca. The French set designer has a 40-year creative partnership with Patrice Chéreau which includes their opera productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen (Bayreuth Festival), Lulu (Paris National Opera), Don Giovanni (Salzburg Festival), and Tristan und Isolde (La Scala). Peduzzi also frequently collaborates with Luc Bondy in theater and opera, including The Turn of the Screw (Edinburgh International Festival), Cruel and Tender, a reworking of Sophocles's Trachiniae (London's Young Vic), Handel's Hercules (Brooklyn Academy Of Music), and Philippe Boesmans's Julie (Aix-en-Provence Festival).

Thierry Thieû Niang, associate director of From the House of the Dead, is a choreographer, dancer, and director of his own dance company based in Marseille. He works frequently with Chéreau, particularly in theater; their recent collaborations include Coma by Pierre Guyotat and La Douleur by Marguerite Duras. He choreographed Chéreau's production of Così fan tutte at Aix-en-Provence. Next summer Niang returns there to direct the world premiere of a new chamber opera, D'un amour infini, by Saed Haddad.

French costume designer Caroline de Vivaise has worked with Chéreau on Così fan tutte (Aix-en-Provence) and in such films as Gabrielle, Intimacy, His Brother, and the forthcoming Persécution. Also a winner of the César, she has created costumes for numerous movies, including Shadow of the Vampire, The cat's Meow, Seventh Heaven, and Je Reste!.

Bertrand Couderc, who designs lighting for both opera and theater, recently collaborated with Chéreau on Tristan und Isolde (La Scala) and Così fan tutte (Aix-en-Provence). Among his other recent opera productions are Iphigénie en Tauride (Hamburg State Opera), Belshazzar (Halle Opera), and The Love for Three Oranges (Aix-en-Provence). Couderc's work in theater is equally diverse, ranging from the classics of Molière and Shakespeare to contemporary works such as Angels in America.

From the House of the Dead will be experienced by millions of people around the world this season on the radio and the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners.

The premiere on November 12 will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 and XM channel 79 as will the performances on November 16, 24, and December 2.

The performance on November 12 will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming at the Met's web site, www.metopera.org

From the House of Dead will be broadcast on the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network on Saturday, March 20 at 1:00 p.m. in a performance recorded during the fall.

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 starring Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko, and Alan Held, conducted by Levine and directed by Bartlett Sher; 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. A new work by composer Nico Muhly and playwright Craig Lucas goes into workshop this fall.

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.