The Metropolitan Opera celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Lincoln Center home this season, with a production of Wagner’s epic drama, Tristan und Isolde. It was in 1966 that The Metropolitan Opera House took its place alongside the Avery Fischer Hall (now the David Geffen Hall) – home of the New York Philharmonic – and the David H Koch Theater – home of the New York City Ballet – in the city’s celebrated Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
The opening work of this, the Company’s 132nd season, is a new staging of Wagner’s opera by Polish director, Mariusz Treliński, with Swedish soprano Nina Stemme and Australian tenor Stuart Skelton in the title roles. The performance is conducted by Sir Simon Rattle – marking his first Met opening night, and his first appearance with the Company since his debut in 2010.
In an illustrious career, Sir Simon has served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras, as Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and as the Orchestra’s Music Director from 1990 to 1998. A Founding Patron of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Maestro Rattle became Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002. In September 2017, he takes up the position of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Nina Stemme’s first appearance on the Met stage was in the role of Senta in another Wagner opera, Der Fliegende Holländer, and in this 2016-17 season opener, she makes her role debut for the Met as Isolde – a role for which she has received wide acclaim in performances at the Glyndebourne and Bayreuth festivals, the Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Zurich Opera. Ms Stemme received a Laurence Olivier Award in 2010 for her interpretation of Isolde at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and her appearance at Houston Grand Opera in 2013 was described by the Wall Street Journal as “matchless”, adding “Her supple, alluring voice with its rich low register, blazing top notes and gleaming, sustained power that fearlessly rides the orchestra is matched by her intelligent, committed acting”. In the Met production on October 27, Nina Stemme will mark her 100th performance as Isolde.
Stuart Skelton – named Male Singer of the Year at the 2014 International Opera Awards – is regarded as one of today’s finest heldentenors. He made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 as the Drum-Major in Berg’s Wozzeck, followed by his appearance as Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre, and has previously sung the role of Tristan at the Baden-Baden Festival and at English National Opera. One of Mr Skelton’s most successful roles is that of the title role in Britten’s Peter Grimes, which The Arbuturian described as “nothing short of stunning”, and to which The Sunday Times referred as “surely the finest on a London stage since the celebrated Jon Vickers”. He has twice been the recipient of the Sir Robert Helpmann Award – the first for his performance of Siegmund in The Ring Cycle for a 2005 production by the State Opera of South Australia, and more recently for his 2010 portrayal of Peter Grimes for Opera Australia.
Polish film and theater director Mariusz Treliński – presently artistic director of Warsaw’s Polish National Opera – made his debut as an opera director at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw in 1995, with Elżbieta Sikora’s Wyrywacz serc / The Usurper of Hearts. In 1999 he returned to the Grand Theatre with a production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, which he then staged at the Washington Opera in 2001, at the invitation of Placido Domingo. This production was also staged at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg in 2005, and by the New Israeli Opera in 2008. Mariusz Treliński’s first production for the Met was a double bill of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, in 2015. For this production of Tristan und Isolde, Marius Treliński has once again drawn together the same design team as in 2015 – scenic design by Boris Kudlička, costumes by Marek Adamski, lighting by Marc Heinz, projection design by Bartek Macias, and choreography by Tomasz Wygoda.
The last two performances of Tristan und Isolde will be conducted by Asher Fisch, who has led five productions at the Met, the first having been Lehár’s The Merry Widow in 2000, and the most recent was Wagner’s Parsifal in the 2012-13 season.
In line with the Company’s commitment of increasing the accessibility of opera to a wider audience, the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night will continue the tradition of broadcasting the live performance to numerous giant screens in Times Square. This performance will also be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS XM Channel 74 – as will the performances on October 3 and October 13 – and it will be streamed live on the Met’s web site, www.metopera.org.
The October 8 matinee performance of Tristan und Isolde will also launch the 11th season of the Met’s Live in HD series, taking the 100th worldwide transmission in this series to more than 2,000 movie theaters in 70 countries around the world.
The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Tristan und Isolde runs at the Metropolitan Opera House from September 26 to October 27. For more information on performances, performers, and for tickets, visit www.metopera.org.