The staging — the first new production to open a Met season in 20 years — was a huge critical and popular success when it was presented at English National Opera in November 2005. In an opera world where productions are often planned several years in advance, Gelb acted quickly to secure it for the Met to open this season.
The company is doing everything it can to make tonight's opening (and, by extension, the rest of the season) a major event. There will be free outdoor simulcasts of the performance on Lincoln Center's Josie Robertson Plaza and the screen at One Times Square. The Met is using the premiere to launch Metropolitan Opera Radio, a channel dedicated to the company's performances on Sirius Satellite Radio. There will even be an Academy Awards-style red carpet leading through the plaza for opening night, and celebrities on the way into the performance will be stopped and interviewed by TV and radio journalist Daljit Dhaliwal, with the questions and answers broadcast onto the outdoor screens.
In answer to those who might criticize the Met for choosing Dateline Hollywood / People magazine-style glitz over art for art's sake, Gelb stressed to the Times that he wants to end the "isolation" of the house — and of the art form: "It's essential for the broader public to know what's going on inside," he said. "I want to demonstrate that the Met is interested in being part of mainstream society and contemporary culture."
The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, directed by Anthony Minghella, conducted by Met music director James Levine (in his first appearance there since his shoulder injury last January), and starring Cristina Gallardo-Domê¢s and Marcello Giordani, opens on Monday, September 25; there will be 12 more performances, conducted by Asher Fisch, through November 18. Details and tickets are available at www.metopera.org.