Met Premieres The Great Gatsby Dec. 20; Dawn Upshaw Sings

News   Met Premieres The Great Gatsby Dec. 20; Dawn Upshaw Sings The mysterious, monied, Jazz Age milieu of millionaire Jay Gatsby will unfold at the Metropolitan Opera House Dec. 20 with the world premiere of John Harbison's opera, The Great Gatsby.
Designer Michael Yeargan's scenic vision for Jay Gatsby's mansion in the new opera, The Great Gatsby.
Designer Michael Yeargan's scenic vision for Jay Gatsby's mansion in the new opera, The Great Gatsby.

The mysterious, monied, Jazz Age milieu of millionaire Jay Gatsby will unfold at the Metropolitan Opera House Dec. 20 with the world premiere of John Harbison's opera, The Great Gatsby.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic characters Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Nick, from the famed 1925 American novel, will sing for the first time, under the guidance of stage director Mark Lamos and Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine.

Composer-librettist John Harbison's operatic adaptation of the classic Jazz Age novel -- a tale of jealous love and shady characters in New York City and Long Island in the 1920s -- will play in repertory at the Met to Jan. 15, 2000.

Gatsby's well-known lavish parties are part of the production, designed by Michael Yeargan (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes) and Duane Schuler (lighting).

"John's very into jazz in a big way, though it hasn't influenced his work as obviously as it will now with Gatsby," director Lamos told Playbill On-Line earlier this year. "The amazing thing about the score, among many other amazing things, is that he's written pop tunes of his own into the score with lyrics by F. Scott Fitzgerald...and Murray Horwitz. It's very complicated stuff with off-stage bands and on-stage jazz bands pianos playing in the distance." Does The Great Gatsby walk the line between Broadway-style musical theatre and opera?

"No," said Lamos. "It's quite definitely opera. It's a very serious take on the book, it's very elegiac, there are two rather spectacular party sequences. It's an intimate story about lost illusions, very economically done."

Dawn Upshaw, the soprano who enjoys a crossover career in opera stagings and popular American song recordings, will play delicate Daisy Buchanan and Jerry Hadley ("Show Boat" on CD) will be Daisy's lost love, Jay Gatsby. Also in the cast are Susan Graham as Jordan Baker, Dwayne Croft as Nick Carraway (narrator of the book), Lorraine Hunt Lieberson as Myrtle Wilson, Mark Baker as Tom Buchanan, Richard Paul Fink as George Wilson, William Powers as Meyer Wolfsheim and Frederick Burchinal as Henry Gatz.

Lamos, former artistic director of Hartford Stage, was represented on Broadway in spring 1999 with The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, at the Longacre Theatre.

Robert LaFosse will choreograph.

For information about Met season tickets, call Met Ticket Service at (212) 362-6000.

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In other Met news, Playbill magazine began publishing house programs for the Metropolitan Opera beginning in July 1999. The world's largest theatrical program publisher uses the banner of Playbill Classic Arts for all performances that take place in the Metropolitan Opera House, including the summer 1999 engagement of the Kirov Ballet and the annual New York season of American Ballet Theatre.

-- By Kenneth Jones