I've been reading over brochures for next season, trying to nail down my reviewing agenda for the fall. I like to take my time deciding what to cover; my first instincts usually lead me to write about the same Germanic foolishness over and over (Schoenberg, Wagner, Schoenberg, Wagner). As a public service for those who live around or are passing through New York — The Rest Is Noise is nothing if not public-spirited — here's a rundown of potential highlights at the major halls and houses. Today, opera; next week, concerts. I issue a challenge to all you culturally aware non-attenders out there: you are not allowed to use the adjective "operatic" unless you have actually seen an opera in the last three months. Troy does not count.
The Metropolitan Opera: On paper, it doesn’t look to be a particularly mind-blowing season at the Met. Four new productions: Cyrano de Bergerac, Faust, Rodelinda, The Magic Flute. The first and the third are star vehicles — the Franco Alfano obscurity Cyrano done at the bidding of Placido Domingo, Rodelinda made to order for Renée Fleming. Rodelinda will at least have an outstanding stage director in Stephen Wadsworth, and if Renée’s acting doesn’t grip you then Stephanie Blythe’s surely will. The Magic Flute, opening Oct. 8, ought to be a visual hoot: Julie Taymor makes her Met debut, the wizardly George Tsypin designs. There’s a fine young cast led by Dorothea Röschmann and Levine’s new favorite Matthew Polenzani. This is probably my Met review for the fall. As for the revivals, I’m most jazzed about seeing Karita Mattila tear up the stage in Janacek’s Katya Kabanova (Dec. 17). There is no way this can go wrong. Otherwise, the newly budget-conscious Met seems to be banking on a lot of newish singers in the repertory pieces. Angela M. Brown as Aida? Sylvie Valayre as Tosca? Elena Evseeva as Mimi? You take your chances.
New York City Opera: The season opens on Sept. 8 with Richard Strauss’ luminous late masterpiece Daphne. I've never seen it in a full staging, though I have fond memories of the San Francisco Opera’s semi-staged production ten years ago. Elizabeth Futral sings the title role; Stephen Lawless directs. The tricky thing about Daphne is that it ends with a woman turning into a tree. Good luck with that. I’m also duty-bound to attend the Oct. 31 world premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s Haroun & The Sea of Stories, with a James Fenton libretto based on Salman Rushdie. A quick listen to an Albany CD of voice-and-piano excerpts didn't leave me giddy with anticipation, but, as the great Anna Russell used to say, I will go with a completely blank mind. City Opera also presents Tazewell Thompson’s production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, which drew raves from Peter G. Davis in its Glimmerglass incarnation.
I plan to leave town in December for the Chicago Lyric Opera world premiere of William Bolcom’s A Wedding. The Lyric, celebrating its Golden Jubilee Year, also has a Don Giovanni with Bryn Terfel and Karita Mattila, the first installment of a Ring cycle (but I've filled my Wagner quota for the year), and a promising new production of Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen. I’ll probably also stop in at Placido Domingo’s Washington Opera, which has the junior tenorissimo Salvatore Licitra in Andrea Chénier and Britten’s monumental Billy Budd in the Francesca Zambello production from Covent Garden. Domingo’s West Coast office, the Los Angeles Opera, offers a strong, Placido-led cast for Idomeneo, plus Exorcist director William Friedkin taking on Ariadne auf Naxos (let's hope there's no projectile vomiting). Finally, the San Francisco Opera has its own Billy Budd with barihunk Nathan Gunn and the North American premiere of Ligeti’s comic-apocalyptic Le Grand Macabre. There's no reason to envy New York.