When the Metropolitan Opera announced its current season one year ago, it was notable for the fact that it brought back, in fairly short order, the four most-produced works in the Met’s history: Aida, La Bohème, Carmen and La Traviata.
This past week, the Met announced its 2017-18 season, a fresh occasion to look at the balance of familiar and obscure works, established stars and newcomers, and where the so-called “ABCs” (plus Traviata) fit into the mix. As with last year, La Bohème will return early on, on October 2, in the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli staging (which is also the most-staged production in the company’s history).
But notably absent are three of the other top four operas. Instead, the balance shifts: Tosca, the fifth most-produced work in the company’s history, is returning in a new production by David McVicar, opening on New Year’s Eve. Madama Butterfly (the seventh most-produced) comes back on Nov. 2. And Pagliacci (no. 9) will return in a double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana (no. 10).
Some works that one might think of as commonplace actually appear relatively rarely on the Met stage, and will return next year. A new Phelim McDermott production of Così fan tutte arrives in March 2018; Mozart’s opera ranks number 42 on the Met’s most-produced list. The season opens with a new staging of Bellini’s Norma, at number 47.
And Massenet’s Cendrillon will get its Met premiere on April 12, 2018 in a Laurent Pelly production that originated at Santa Fe Opera in 2006. Why it has never been performed at the Met is hard to say, though this premiere is a star vehicle for Joyce DiDonato. And Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel, a 2016 opera that has played to positive reviews on European stages, will see its Met premiere on Oct. 26.
Any season is ultimately an elaborate puzzle of box office risk and reward, while factoring in artistic mission, available vocal talent, and financial constraints. The Met’s next season has generated some muted responses from critics and opera buffs, but with a few surefire crowd-pleasers missing, the company will especially need to deliver on the premieres as it looks ahead.