The venture is in its earliest stages, so no subject or working title has yet been chosen and no anticipated completion date has yet been set, according to a Met spokesperson.
Marsalis is, of course, a world-renowned trumpeter and bandleader; he is the founding artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and music director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He plays classical as well as jazz trumpet and has made several classical recordings, including a best-selling disc of duets with soprano Kathleen Battle. Among Marsalis's classical compositions are the chamber works At the Octoroon Balls and A Fiddler's Tale (a response to Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat), both co-commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; the orchestral score Them Twos, written for New York City Ballet; and the oratorio All Rise for big band, gospel choir and symphony orchestra, premiered by Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic.
Guare, winner of the Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, Olivier and many other awards and honors, is the author of, among other plays, Six Degrees of Separation, House of Blue Leaves, Bosoms and Neglect, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun, Marco Polo Sings a Solo and Lydie Breeze. While he wrote the libretto for the 1972 musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona, this will be his first opera text.
The Marsalis/Guare commission is part of Gelb's endeavor to increase collaboration between the Metropolitan Opera and the vibrant New York theater scene — and to acquaint drama lovers with the theatrical power opera can offer. The centerpiece of that effort is the Met/LCT Opera/Theater Commissions, a long-term collaboration between the opera house and Lincoln Center Theater on a series of projects that, depending on how they develop, could end up as large-scale operas, chamber operas or serious musicals seen on either company's stage. Among the other participants in this project are composer Jake Heggie, who has already written the operas Dead Man Walking and The End of the Affair; Michael John LaChiusa, who has written music and text of both musicals (The Wild Party, Hello Again, Bernarda Alba) and operas (Lovers and Friends (Chautauqua Variations) and Send (who are you? i love you), which premiered at Houston Grand Opera earlier this year with Audra McDonald); music theater composer Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza, Floyd Collins); the composer/librettist team of Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner (Caroline, or Change and the new adaptation of Brecht's Mother Courage starring Meryl Streep currently playing in Central Park); and renowned folk-pop singer/male diva/opera queen Rufus Wainwright.
Among other upcoming Met projects involving theater luminaries are a new production of Tosca for fall 2009 directed by former New York Shakespeare Festival head George C. Wolfe; a Carmen for that same season directed by Richard Eyre (former head of Great Britain's Royal National Theatre), cheoreographed by Matthew Bourne (best known for his Swan Lake with male swans) and starring Angela Gheorghiu; and a new Wagner Ring cycle for 2010-11 staged by director/filmmaker/auteur Robert Lepage.
The Met's 2006-07 season opens on Monday, September 25, with a new production of Madama Butterfly directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Anthony Minghella. Cristina Gallardo-Domê¢s, Marcello Giordani and Dwayne Croft star; Asher Fisch conducts; the run continues with 11 more performances through November 18.