This article was written in collaboration with Francisco Salazar.
The Met season has drawn to a close. Overall, it was an interesting season, as any, with many incredible performances, so some solid, and some that simply didn’t connect. In drawing up this list, we sifted through the entire season of performances we witnessed to pick out the ones that either coalesced on the whole or those that had individual performances that were easily among the best of the season.
So here they are, in alphabetical order.
Roberto Alagna has fortified himself as one of the great tenors of his generation and this season he brought two tour-de-force performances as both Canio and Turridu. Both of his interpretations showed his versatility as a singer and as an actor, demonstrating Alagna is still at the top of his game. And he was joined by two incredible divas. Aleksandra Kurzak showcased her first Verismo role at the Met with great agility and nuance while Ekaterina Semenchuk brought a powerhouse mezzo that easily filled the auditorium with authority.
The best new production of the season came at the very end with Massenet’s “Cendrillon.” The work was perfectly cast with Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Kathleen Kim, Laurent Naouri, and Stephanie Blythe leading the way. But what really put the bow on things was Laurent Pelly’s interpretation of the work, emphasizing the fairy tale aspects through contrast. The shifting styles coalesced beautifully in telling the story in a manner that highlights Massenet’s own musical interpretation of the opera, something that few other new productions accomplished on the season.
Hansel and Gretel
Lisette Oropesa, Quinn Kelsey, Tara Erraught, Dolora Zajick. This cast was top notch from top to bottom in the Humperdinck work that is often seen as a “children’s opera.” The Met’s current production is yet another achievement of the Gelb era, turning the light and seemingly-flighty tale into one of horror and darkness. With the exception of the two titular figures, everyone around them explored the darkness inherent in their own personalities and world, fleshing out this story in a way it hasn’t been in previous iterations at the Met. The casting of the two leads was a masterstroke with the two lighter, delicate, and simply glorious voices of Oropesa and Erraught adding the perfect counterpoint to a tragic world.
Another solid casting all around with Sonya Yoncheva, Plácido Domingo, and Piotr Beczala leading the way. But what really made this production a lock on this list was the performance of Beczala. The tenor’s voice was simply perfect for the treacherous vocal demands of Rodolfo, every passage dispatched with vocal perfection. Whether he had to blast sound during the climactic confrontation with his father near the end of the first act of the work or sing with tender pain in “Quando la sera al placido,” Beczala was always on point. More importantly, he delineated the complexity of Rodolfo as a romantic hero with dangerous and violent tendencies. In some ways, Beczala’s was the male standout performer of the season.
Ermonela Jaho had not been at the Met for over ten years and after conquering every major theater in the world she returned to the Metropolitan Opera to give one of the most heartbreaking renditions of Cio-Cio San. Accompanied by the dynamic Maria Zifchack and a solid Roberto Frontali, this cast gave Puccini’s masterpiece a fresh reading that was unforgettable.
Le Nozze di Figaro
The Met struck gold with both casts in this iconic opera, but the latter cast featuring Isabel Leonard, Ailyn Pérez, Nadine Sierra, Ildar Abdrazakov, and Mariusz Kwiecien was simply golden. The chemistry from the lead singers with one another was palpable and brought together the complex narrative and musical threads in a cohesive and immersive manner.
Speaking of cohesion and complexity, the production of “Parsifal” at the Met remains the best new production of the Peter Gelb era. This year’s revival starred many of the veterans from the first run a few years back, including René Pape, Peter Mattei, and Evgeny Nikitin, all in top form. The new additions, Klaus Florian Vogt and Evelyn Herlitzius provided their own thrills in different manner. Where Herlitzius’ raw and metal sound was filled with weight and anxiety, Vogt’s lighter tenor color made Parsifal feel and sound like a true fool that gained enlightenment. And the production itself was simply glorious to experience with the polished and wistful conducting of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Massenet’s glorious opera was simply that in the hands of Maestro Emmanuel Villaume. The conductor’s way with this repertoire is as elegant and polished, every note simply feeling perfectly placed. He added a sense of freedom within a strict and propulsive line, allowing his singers structure and freedom. And they delivered with Gerald Finley and Ailyn Pérez simply at their very best as the two competing forces of this opera. This was arguably the first truly incredible performance of the 2017-18 season with every piece fitting perfectly.
Anna Netrebko’s role debut as the iconic diva was one of the most anticipated events of the year and it lived up to the hype. Not only did Netrebko give one of the most assured interpretations of the diva but she also created a unique musical reading that was unlike anything heard before. And she was accompanied by incredible artists. Yusif Eyvazov gave arguably the breakout performance of his career as Cavaradossi while Michael Volle solidified his status as one of the greatest Scarpias of today.
What were your favorite Met productions of 2017-18? Tell us in the comments below!