Opening night at the Met

Last night was the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2009-2010 Season. Puccini’s Tosca was the vehicle for star-soprano Karita Matilla and visionary director Luc Bondy. In just one night, the Met’s stark, edgy new interpretation of this repertory classic has caused a sensation in the world of opera, begging the question over at Aria Serious: is opera for the present? The answer is of course yes, but directors updating or riffing on a composer’s original intentions must always walk a fine line.

So the press hoopla today is revolving primarily around the fact that there were hearty boos last night for the production team (not the singers). As writer/composer Galen Brown wrote on Twitter this morning: “Didn’t see Met’s Tosca, so no opinion on specific case, but love that booing is part of opera culture–audience opinion counts.” Ann Midgette of The Washington Post then responded with this: “On booing: Lukas Foss, when his Beethoven symphony performance was booed in Munich: ‘At last, someone understands my music!'” In similar fashion to Foss, Bondy responded after the performance of Tosca last night, “If people were happy after Tosca, then I would be upset.”

I agree with Brown that any paying audience has the right to voice their opinion, positive or negative. That booing is so entrentched in opera culture only confirms what we already know: opera fans have an usual passion for the art form. On the flipside, it is a little bit heartbreaking to see so many hours of hard work and comitted artistry dismissed in the heat of the moment, without allowing time for the interpretation to properly digest. Bondy seems to understand this last part though, and so he remains calm: his comment suggests a feeling that in time people will come around to his interpretation. Maybe so, as some already feel his work was quite powerful: as Opera Chic writes, “Stripped of sentimentality, this was a thinking man’s Tosca. And we were illuminated.”

But I digress. The original intention of this post was to bring attention to David Pittsinger, our Mephistopheles in Faust this past May, who was hailed for a “stirring performance” as Angelotti in Tosca last night by the New York Times. And of course, soprano Danielle de Niese, who sang at the Union Theater in February, will be at the Met tonight as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (she too seems to have infatuated someone over at the Times). Toi toi toi!

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Benjamin Taylor

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