Viewpoint: A New Stage for Opera

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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The Importance of Being Earnest, due in NYC next year, in Nancy in 2013
© C2images 2015

Much buzz was generated in the classical-music world earlier this year when Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic announced their intention to collaborate on fully-staged opera productions. The adventure is set to begin with the U.S. premiere of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at the David H. Koch Theater in August 2015, as part of the Mostly Mozart Festival. Written on Skin — one of the most extravagantly praised new works to hit the opera scene in the past several seasons — was first seen at the Aix Festival in 2012. New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert will conduct the opera’s first American performances, pacing the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The next scheduled event in the series of Lincoln Center–New York Philharmonic collaborations will be the U.S. premiere of Gerald Barry’s Importance of Being Earnest, an unconventional adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy of manners. A co-commission of the Barbican and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which offered the world premiere in concert in 2011, Earnest had its stage premiere at the Opéra de Lorraine in Nancy in 2013. The workarrives at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater in 2016, as part of the NY Phil Biennial. (For a review of the NMC recording of Barry’s opera, see p. 58 of this issue.)

The collaboration between the two organizations was inspired by a number of things, among them the New York Philharmonic’s recent history of outstanding concert opera and musical-theater presentations, from Il Prigioniero and The Cunning Little Vixen to Carousel and Sweeney Todd. What is striking these days is that an increasing number of symphony orchestras are adding opera to their programming mix. The Los Angeles Philharmonic produced a staged Mozart–da Ponte cycle; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented a world-class Macbeth in 2013; the Philadelphia Orchestra joined Opera Philadelphia for Salome last year. The Cleveland Orchestra, which offered a knockout staged concert of Salome at Carnegie Hall in 2012 — with Nina Stemme in glorious form in her first local performance of the title role — will bring more Strauss to New York in July, when music director Franz Welser-Möst leads concert performances of Daphne at Avery Fisher Hall, as part of the 2015 Lincoln Center Festival.  

Since Alan Gilbert arrived at the New York Philharmonic in 2009, most of its opera performances have not really been concerts but fully realized productions within a concert hall; certainly the orchestra’s stunning 2010 presentation of Ligeti’s outrageous Grand Macabre had “production values” the equal of most opera-house attractions. The institutional imagination of the Philharmonic will be its greatest asset in its new collaboration with Lincoln Center — and during the upcoming renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, which will see the orchestra adapting to the challenges of new venues and new surroundings. spacer 

F. PAUL DRISCOLL



The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.



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Current Issue: April 2015 — VOL. 79, NO. 10