Playbill magazine, the world's largest publisher of theatrical programs, will sing a new song Sept. 27, when it begins servicing the Metropolitan Opera at its world famous home at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Beginning with the Met's opening night, Sept. 27, when Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are performed, Playbill will publish programs for each of the season's 24 productions.
Playbill's presence as the resident program publisher at the Opera House began with the summer 1999 engagement of the Kirov Ballet, June 28-July 10. Beginning in spring 2000, Playbill will also publish programs for the annual New York season of American Ballet Theatre.
The world-famous venue at 65th Street and Broadway in Manhattan's Lincoln Center, was formerly served by publishing competitor Stagebill.
"It's a great honor to serve one of the world's eminent arts institutions," said Playbill president Philip S. Birsh. "The addition of The Metropolitan Opera to our national network offers advertisers a broader performing arts audience." Under the aegis of Playbill Classic Arts, the Met program "will be designed to reflect the unique image of this world-class opera company," said Clifford S. Tinder, publisher of Playbill Classic Arts.
The Metropolitan Opera joins the San Francisco Symphony as the most recent addition to the new Classic Arts Division.
The Met programs will offer several monthly features related to rotating repertoire, as well as program notes, synopses and production information. Articles "will generally focus on the one or two new productions opening each month," said Tinder.
During the regular Met season, September to May, monthly circulation will be 136,400. The Met's 1999-2000 season will feature 24 productions in repertory, including the world premiere of The Great Gatsby and new productions of Mefistofele, Tristan and Isolde and The Merry Widow (a Met premiere).
"We're very excited to be going in this new direction, producing programs that are a departure from what we normally cover on Broadway," said Tinder. "We expect to be expanding into other major markets, with other top-quality performing arts organizations."
Playbill's presence at the Metropolitan Opera involves dozens of Playbill editorial, art direction and printing employees at its Manhattan headquarters and its printing plant in Queens, NY, said Tinder. In order to accommodate the unique nature of opera's rotating repertory and changing casts, Playbill magazines for the Met will be printed the day before each performance, assuring the most up-to-date information, he said.
Founded in 1884, Playbill now publishes programs for virtually all Broadway and Off-Broadway venues in New York City and major theatres in markets that criss-cross the country: San Diego to Boston, San Francisco to Palm Beach, Philadelphia to Houston, and more.
Since 1996, Playbill has expanded its program publishing network to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Arizona and California.
Currently, Playbill's average national monthly circulation is nearly 2.7 million. In New York City alone, Playbill's monthly circulation is 1.2 million.
Respected theatre and opera director Mark Lamos will stage The Great Gatsby as the major world-premiere production in the Metropolitan Opera's 1999-2000 season.
Composer-librettist John Harbison's operatic adaptation of the classic Jazz Age novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald will debut Dec. 20 and play in repertory to Jan. 15, 2000.
Lyricist Murray Horwitz will contribute popular song lyrics for the tale of jealous love and shady characters in New York City and Long Island in the 1920s.
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 will be mysterious millionaire and Daisy's lost love, Jay Gatsby. Also in the cast: Susan Graham is Jordan Baker, Dwayne Croft is Nick Carraway (the narrator in the book), Lorraine Hunt is Myrtle Wilson and Mark Baker is Tom Buchanan. James Levine will conduct.
Lamos, former artistic director of Hartford Stage, was represented on Broadway in April with The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, at the Longacre Theatre.
Lamos told Playbill On-Line in April 1999 that John Harbison's Gatsby uses a Jazz Age sound.
"John's very, very into jazz in a big way, though it hasn't influenced his work as obviously as it will now with Gatsby," Lamos said. "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; some lyrics were helped out by Murray Horwitz, but essentially most of them are by Fitzgerald. It's very complicated stuff with off-stage bands and on-stage jazz bands, pianos playing in the distance."
But Lamos said the work will sound like an opera, not a Broadway musical.
"It's quite definitely opera," he said. "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."
Designers for The Great Gatsby are Michael Yeargan (set), Milena Canonero (costumes) and Duane Schuler (lighting). Robert LaFosse will choreograph.
Also on the Met's 1999-2000 season:
Mefistofele, Nov. 5-Feb. 26, 2000.
Tristan and Isolde, Nov. 22-Dec.18
The Merry Widow (Met premiere), Feb. 17-March, 18, 2000.
Aida, Oct. 8-Nov. 20
Il Barbiere Di Siviglia , March 13-April 12, 2000
La Boheme , March 24, 2000-May 5, 2000
Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci, Sept. 27, 1999-Jan. 26, 2000
La Cenerentola, Feb. 24, 2000-March 15
Les Contes D'Hoffmann, Jan. 27, 1999-Feb. 19, 2000.
L'Elisir D'Amore, Nov. 30-Dec. 22
Giulio Cesare , April 28-May 6, 2000
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, March 9-30, 2000
Lucia Di Lammermoor, Sept. 29-Dec. 18
Madama Butterfly, Jan. 6-March 4, 2000
Moses Und Aron, Sept. 28-Oct. 7
Le Nozze Di Figaro, Oct. 21-Dec. 25
Otello, Oct. 2-Dec. 2
Pelleas Et Melisande, April 3-20, 2000
Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Feb. 3-May 6, 2000.
Rigoletto , Dec. 24-April 21, 2000
Der Rosenkavalier, Jan. 20-Feb. 10, 2000
Tosca, Oct. 14-Jan. 8, 2000
La Traviata Jan. 13, 2000-March 11, 2000
For information about Met season tickets, call Met Ticket Service at (212) 362-6000.
-- By Kenneth Jones