Monday, November 4, 2013

New Operas on the Horizon?

The Metropolitan Opera has always been known to program music history's most notable operas. Recently, though, the Met has been struggling with how to include new operas in their season productions. James Levine, one of the most-loved conductors in the industry, has stated that there isn't enough being done to promote and yield new works. As the NYT article points out, though, he is also quoted as saying, “I wish I really thought there was a new opera good enough for the Met every year." In Mr. Levine's opinion, quality should trump quantity. Under his watch, this has arguably been happening, with Corigliano's "Ghosts of Versailles" & Harbison's "Great Gatsby" during his tenure. These operas were almost immediately entered into the operatic canon upon premiere. 

The other view is that of the writer of the article, who argues that new works should be tried routinely and that Mr. Levine "raises the bar to an unrealistic height to say that only new works deemed good enough for the lofty Met should be presented there." The writer states that a new space should be developed that would allow for smaller opera settings like Britten's "Rape of Lucrecia."

Personally, I feel that Mr. Levine may be right. While I wholeheartedly support the creation of new music (& the premiering of new music), I think programming a string of new operas is very risky -- both for the institution's reputation and for their financial success. However, I don't think that one new opera every one to two years is a lot to ask. I am curious to know what programs the Met has in place of seeking out new operas & reviewing scores. I'm also wondering how much Mr. Levine has to do with this process. If he really believes in supporting new art, he should be on the front end of seeking out quality works. 

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