Metropolitan Opera: The First-timers

Classic Arts Features   Metropolitan Opera: The First-timers
The directors of the new productions of Peter Grimes, Satyagraha, and La Fille du R_giment are all Met debutantes. The theater veterans describe the challenges and rewards of bringing their theatrical visions to the Met's vast stage.

John Doyle
The Tony Award-winning director of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd makes his Met debut with a new staging of Britten's Peter Grimes. The production's design, by Scott Pask, is inspired by Doyle's hometown of Hastings, a fishing village on England's southeast coast.

"I first spoke with Peter Gelb about directing Peter Grimes almost two years ago. I came in to meet him, and I assumed that there were six other directors waiting in the corridor to say hello. He said, 'Would you be interested in coming here and doing Peter Grimes?' I nearly fell off my chair.... I have loved opera since I first saw Scottish Opera do The Magic Flute around 1970. I have always been attracted to the type of music-theater that had more 'meat': no Sweeney pun intended. I have always enjoyed the scope and scale of visual storytelling that opera can permit... I live in a fishing community in England. And I know about the oppression of a close community because of my upbringing in Scotland. So I am not unfamiliar with the sense of being the 'outsider,' which of course figures largely in Grimes. Maybe that is why I've chosen to be a director: or why it has chosen me! ... I like to focus on the things that make my job the same in both theater and opera: the ability to communicate with actor/singers, the need to story-tell clearly, the need to be theatrical... I feel like a very lucky man to be able to bring all these feelings together on this great piece in this great theater."

Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch
The artistic directors of London's Improbable theater company make their Met debuts with the company premiere of Philip Glass's Satyagraha, about Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence. McDermott (director, pictured at left) and Crouch (associate director and designer) are perhaps best known for their production of Shockheaded Peter.

Crouch:"Satyagraha is a beautiful and profound piece of work. I am a designer who uses basic ordinary materials in such a way that they become transformed into something else on stage. There is a certain challenge in taking a subject so rooted in poverty and humility and putting it on the stage of one of the world's most prestigious theaters in a way that remains true to the message of the piece.... Where possible, I find it best to avoid technical wizardry, and use the reliable magic of the human hand on stage. We have a core group of 12 on-stage animators in Satyagraha, and hopefully they provide all the wizardry we need."

McDermott: "To be honest, I had never had any great aspirations of doing opera. But I've always loved Philip Glass's music, so it's been much more about that connection than it has been about doing an opera. When we came to the Met to talk about doing the production, it happened to be on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, which coincidentally was also the hundredth anniversary of the very first satyagraha vow, when Mahatma Gandhi initially adopted his philosophy of non-violent resistance. So people were talking about both of these anniversaries, and about peace, which was very fascinating... The subject matter was incredibly interesting and timely, and I got very excited about it."

Laurent Pelly
The French director's production of Donizetti's La Fille du R_giment created a sensation when it opened in London in January 2007. The director of more than 50 theater productions, Pelly also designed the costumes for the new Fille.

"I've directed two operas in Santa Fe, and I will be doing a revival of Plat_e next summer in Santa Fe, but La Fille du R_giment at the Met will be my New York debut. I'm very happy about it and very excited... The project began with Natalie Dessay. I knew Natalie because I had done two productions with her, Orpheus in the Underworld in Lyon and Ariadne auf Naxos at the Paris Opera. So when she got a hold of this project, she thought of me because we work well together, and this world between tragedy and comedy was well-suited to me. It's a work that I took on because she asked me, and I probably would not have done it if someone else had asked. But I thought that together we could do something interesting and funny and new."

For more information on the new productions of Peter Grimes, Satyagraha, and La Fille du R_giment, visit

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