Perspectives: New Directions

Classic Arts Features   Perspectives: New Directions
The Metropolitan Opera just announced a wide-ranging lineup for the 2007-08 season. We asked the directors and designers of the new productions to describe their visions.

Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor
Directed by Mary Zimmerman.
James Levine conducts Natalie Dessay in the title role and Marcello Giordani as Edgardo. Opens September 24, 2007.

"Dan Ostling, the set designer, and I went to Scotland to track down a fountain I'd seen in a picture of Culzean Castle on the west coast: a castle that clings to the side of a cliff surrounded by vast cultivated gardens, alleys of trees and wild land. The interior wasn't open for visitors, but we went anyway and rather sadly moped around the exterior. It started to rain and we took shelter near a door. I tried it, and it opened. We snuck in like children, past the guard's room. We spent about 15 tip-toeing minutes photographing all we could. That place became the core of our design: the strange shade of green of the outsized rooms, the bare branches above our heads in the alleyways — so much an image of the nervous system or the broken vasculature of poor Lucia's brain. That day, it felt a place haunted by ghosts and madness."

Verdi's Macbeth
Directed by Adrian Noble; designed by Mark Thompson (quoted here).
James Levine conducts Zeljko Lucic in the title role and Andrea Gruber as Lady Macbeth. Opens October 22, 2007.

"We've set it somewhere in the late 20th century, but in a non-specific place. We were quite keen that there should be an homage to the 19th-century Romantic movement, and so we've set it in a blasted forest, a blasted heath. I was influenced initially by a book of photographs by Diane Arbus ... In the show, each singer is, in a sense, in his own mad world. We want to show the psychological decline of Macbeth himself. But we also wanted it to feel at the end that there was some sort of rejuvenation. The leaves start to grow. We've gone through the journey."

Gluck's Iphig_nie en Tauride
Directed by Stephen Wadsworth.
Louis Langr_e conducts a cast led by Susan Graham, Plšcido Domingo, and Paul Groves. Opens November 27, 2007.

"The story is about siblings who finally find resolution to the tragedy of their family, but only in adulthood, only after suffering so long that resolution hardly seems possible, and so intense that they may not even know how to recognize or believe or bear it when it comes ... Gluck envisioned a music drama stripped clear of all the excesses of decorative art, the characters' needs and passions laid bare in pure narrative, simplicity of gesture, and honest, uncompromising utterance. In this landscape a change of mind, a decision, a lingering over an uncertainty can become a huge, visceral action. Gluck brings the camera in close, it looks at faces and the minds behind them, demands of the actor an eloquence both reckless and understated."

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel
Directed by Richard Jones.
Vladimir Jurowski conducts Alice Coote and Christine Sch‹fer in the title roles. Opens December 24, 2007.

"We've done the story in three different theatrical styles. The first act is like a D.H. Lawrence play. The second act is done like a German Expressionist play, like [Frank Wedekind's] Spring Awakening. The third act was like theater of the absurd, like Ionesco ... I love the music, the Germanic quality. It's a very direct expression of what German spirituality is, that there's spirituality in soil or roots, or in dank things. And the idea that beautiful things can also be cruel."

Britten's Peter Grimes
Directed by John Doyle.
Donald Runnicles conducts Neil Shicoff and Anthony Dean Griffey in the title role and Patricia Racette as Ellen Orford. Opens February 28, 2008.

"A lot of my aunts were married to fishermen and they were deeply religious, oppressive people. They would go to chapel on a Friday and pray for the men to come back, because they were out at sea all week. In our little seaside town in Hastings, England, when a lifeboat has gone out to sea, a cannon goes off and the women go down the streets to the shore to wait until the men come back ... There are lyrics in the piece about walls that have voices. So we created a set design for a wooden wall made up of doors and windows. There's a feeling that people are in the wall, looking down upon you, judging you. It's very much a world in which people judge each other — a world that is closing in on Peter."

Glass's Satyagraha
Directed by Phelim McDermott.
Dante Azolini conducts Richard Croft as Gandhi. Opens April 11, 2008.

"I've been researching connections between improvisation and conflict. And I got interested in what is called 'open space,' which is about large groups working together and self-organizing. In reading about Satyagraha, I felt as if I'd had some kind of experience of that atmosphere when people as a group take responsibility to make change happen. We have to look to ourselves and take responsibility to change things. 'Satyagraha' means 'truth force,' or 'soul force,' and it's about the idea that people operate from this place as a community and as a group. Then shifts can happen."

Donizetti's La Fille du r_giment
Directed by Laurent Pelly.
Marco Armiliato conducts. Starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Fl‹rez. Opens April 21, 2008.

"I wanted La Fille to take place at a time that's close to ours, without transporting it into the present. So I thought of the First World War, which is still in our French collective unconscious. I wanted to turn the patriotic tone upside down. We can smile at the flag-waving, almost laugh at it, in a way that's tongue-in-cheek. I thought it was funny that Marie, who lives with 500 soldiers, must have to do all the household chores. She is exploited a bit, being the only woman in a world of men, even if she is portrayed as a tomboy. But in the end, when she experiences love, she becomes a young girl, transformed by love."

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