Wednesday, March 5, 2008

2008-09 schedule ennui

Starting about ten years ago, coinciding with getting connected to the Internet and having enough disposable income to travel long distances, this part of year meant two things:

1. Baseball was about to start again
2. Opera and symphony schedules for the upcoming season were announced

I'm still excited about baseball starting, especially since the Anaheim Angels are going to be really good again this year. Of the opera and symphony schedules, there's not much excitement generated so far.

The 800-pound gorilla of the American opera scene, the Metropolitan Opera, announced its 2008-09 season yesterday and man, it's boring. Let me qualify that: it's boring to me. Since I have zero interest in most operas written before ca. 1890 not composed by Wagner or Berlioz, it's a big freakin' desert at Broadway & 63rd Street for me. I mean, the one new production of even vague interest is Thaïs, with Renee Fleming, Michael Schade and Thomas Hampson. The less said about the abysmal Doctor Atomic (that's my comment, I forgot to sign the post), the better, I'd say. At least the Met isn't using the awful Peter Sellars production I saw in San Francisco.

As for the revivals, dear oh dear. An average cast for the Ring and Tristan, although the Salome looks kind of interesting. Interesting enough to travel to New York to see? Not likely.

Closer to home, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced the contents of Esa-Pekka Salonen's final season as Music Director (PDF) and it's even more disappointing than the Met's season, since the Met is so stodgy and star-singer oriented that nothing very surprising is ever going to happen there anyway. Mr. Salonen, however, took a dispirited orchestra that was clearly bored with André Previn and over the years, turned it in to a critically lauded orchestra specializing in 20th century works. I've had some amazing nights at both The Dot and Disney Hall with the orchestra and so it's sort of a bummer that the final season before Gustavo Dudamel takes over is so....tame.

For me, the highlight is the much delayed appearance of Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone, which has been postponed twice already. Ms. Saariaho's opera L'amour de Loin, which I have three recordings of, including the terrific DVD, is one of my very favorites, though I found her second opera Adriana Mater somewhat disappointing. I'll believe this is happening when I'm in my usual seat in the balcony and Mr. Salonen lifts his baton to begin. There's a lot of Stravinsky, especially in the final concerts of Mr. Salonen's tenure, which will feature *ugh* Peter Sellars *ugh* staging Oedipus Rex, with The Symphony of Psalms also on the bill. Next April will also find Mr. Salonen conducting Ligeti's Clocks and Clouds, which opens a concert containing a new piece of his and the Beethoven Fifth (!!).

The press release makes much of seven world premieres, but that's a fudge, I think. Louis Andriessen's Double Piano Concerto, written for the Labèque's looks intereseting, especially since it's paired with Janáček's wonderful Sinfonietta and that Salonen warhorse, La Sacre du Printemps. Arvo Pärt gets a commission for a piece for strings and then the fudging begins: four of the premieres take place at a single Green Umbrella concert. Still, all in all, Mr. Salonen has had an admirable record of commissioning new works, including one's that *aren't* ten-minute slices of pseudo-film music (aka How Orchestras Normally Avoid New Music But Still Pretend That Music Didn't Die With Brahms).

Mr. Dudamel makes three appearances, one with the Israel Philharmonic in a program of Bernstein and Tchaikovsky and two more substantial programs with the LAP, which include two of my favorite post-war avant-garde pieces, Ligeti's amazing Atmoshpheres and György Kurtág's terrific Stele. Nice to see Mr. Dudamel going non-tonal for a change!

There's simply no excuse for all-Brahms concerts, none.

As I've gone through the ritual of scouring websites to get the scheduels for 2008-09, looking for things that might be worth traveling for, I'm getting a sinking feeling that there's not going to be very much of interest at all this time around. American opera companies are deathly afraid of taking chances and the orchestras aren't much more adventurous. European houses and orchestras at least still have a cushion of public funding to help them schedule the non-standard repertory stuff that I like without fear of the bankruptcy court or subscriber outrage that they've been denied an all-Brahms concert. I think I'd be happy at this point to settle for a single run of a Franz Schreker opera somewhere, even Die Gezeichneten, as long as it's not the production that "seethes with evil" that I've seen in Stuttgart and Amsterdam. The production of Die Tote Stadt in London still looks very promising though and since it's scheduled to play in January 2009, I can hopefully fit in some Everton matches amongst the gin-and-tonics at the Royal Opera House. Damn damn and damn that I can't make it there next month for the premiere of Birtwistle's The Minotaur. Oh well....


The Opera Tattler said...

The "Leslie Groves Diet Aria" makes me giggle every time.

Henry Holland said...

Hahaha, I don't I've ever been as embarrassed for singer for any reason (bad costume, their voice, anything) as I was for Eric Owens during that aria. Yikes!

Rob Turner said...

Henry – the mention of Birtwistle's Minotaur here reminds me: I've noticed your occasional fleeting references to a bootleg recording of Second Mrs Kong. Any chance of an upload or a trade? I'd absolutely love to hear the work. (I'm at