NEW YORK (AP) — A tenor wearing no blackface, a baritone undeterred by illness and a rising star stepping in for a mourning mezzo — these are some of the performers in the spotlight as the Metropolitan Opera launches its new season Monday.
Oh, and four of the world's leading sopranos are in the opening-week lineup, too.
"If you look at the first week alone, it's as if most of the best singers in the world seem to have congregated in New York," Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said in an interview 10 days before opening.
Here's the lineup for Week One:
Monday: Verdi's "Otello," in a new production directed by Gelb favorite Bartlett Sher and starring Latvian tenor Alexandrs Antonenko as the jealous Moor. Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva sings Desdemona. For the first time since the company began presenting the work in 1891, the title character will not appear in dark makeup, a change the Met said it made because it is "committed to colorblind casting."
Wednesday: Puccini's "Turandot," in the lavish 1987 Franco Zeffirelli production, the first of 16 times that popular favorite will be seen this season, with four sopranos taking turns in the title role. First up is Christine Goerke, who created a sensation two seasons ago as the Dyer's Wife in Strauss' "Die Frau ohne Schatten."
Friday: Anna Netrebko sings her first Met performances of Verdi's "Il Trovatore." Fellow Russian Dmitri Hvorostovsky surprised many by announcing he will appear in the baritone role of Count di Luna despite ongoing treatments for a brain tumor that forced him to cancel all engagements this summer. He'll also sing two later performances, including the Oct. 3 live HD transmission to movie theaters around the world. "He didn't want to let his fans down," Gelb said. "And it's good for his own morale, too."
Saturday: Sondra Radvanovsky kicks off a history-making endeavor by singing the title role in "Anna Bolena." During the season she will perform all three queens in Donizetti's "Tudor trilogy" (the other operas are "Maria Stuarda" and "Roberto Devereaux"), something no one has done in New York since Beverly Sills at City Opera in the 1970s. Joining her will be the young American mezzo Jamie Barton, replacing Elina Garanca who canceled after the death of her mother and longtime teacher.
The focus on great singing is quite a contrast to last year, when bitter labor negotiations threatened to scuttle the season and then some Jewish groups picketed on opening night, denouncing the Met's plans to present John Adams' "Death of Klinghoffer." The year before, LGBT organizations had also protested at the opening, demanding that Russian performers condemn Russia's anti-gay laws.
"It's certainly nice to know that for the first time in three seasons we're not going to have any protesters on opening night," Gelb said. "And I prefer not having death threats. So that's good."