Met releases its inaugural season on 22 CDs

The Metropolitan Opera is bringing out a box set of its first season as Lincoln Center – 1966/67, if you were around.

It’s an uncalculated risk.

Some opera lovers may not think much has improved in 50 years.

met-box

The set contains 10 complete performances, including the world premiere of Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra; Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli in Turandot; Joan Sutherland as Lucia di Lammermoor; Jon Vickers as Peter Grimes; Die Frau Ohne Schatten, led by Karl Böhm, with Leonie Rysanek and Christa Ludwig; Aida, with Carlo Bergonzi, Robert Merrill, and Grace Bumbry; Otello, with Montserrat Caballé, James McCracken, and Tito Gobbi; Renata Scotto as Madama Butterfly; Rigoletto with Cornell MacNeil; and Marc Chagall’s production of Die Zauberflöte with Roberta Peters and George Shirley.

 

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  • Slippedisc can’t say anything about The Metropolitan Opera without a snarky and bitchy comment e.g.”Some opera lovers may not think much has improved in 50 years”.
    What happened did the Met pass you at Christmas or fail to comp you some tickets?? Get over it!

    • I’m curious about the names of artists highlighted and those not highlighted. Tamino is a principal role, is it not?

    • Eli, perhaps you would like to tell us which current singers at the Met in your opinion are an improvement upon Vickers, Bergonzi, Sutherland, Ludwig, Rysanek, in fact any of them.

      • Beauty is in the ear of the listener as far as voices go.

        Slippedisc has a problem with the Met doing anything right. Ressurect the singers of this Golden Age and there would be fault found in this column

    • Right, Eli. Look at those Turandot (Freni was the Liu), FrOSCH, Lucia, Otello, Butterfly, and Aida (with Leontyne Price as well as the others) casts and try and find their equal today. The major absentee from the set that has me griping is Levy’s Mourning Becomes Elektra in its original (and I believe superior) version with the superb cast of Marie Collier, Lear, Reardon, Milnes, Mehta conducting. It’s absence is unfathomable. Especially as it’s a better opera than the Barber opus.
      If these were videos we’d probably see that opera production itself has taken a nosedive since then.

      • Though I did it see it, and have never heard it, I agree that not including “Mourning Becomes Electra” in this set is a critical oversight. As the Barber, it was commissioned for the opening of the new house. From what I have read about the Levy, this opera might have more longevity than “Antony and Cleopatra”. This set will be important to show how dramatically the orchestra has improved during Levine’s reign. Even such a master conductor as Karl Bohm, whom I heard in the pre-Levine pit direct Wozzeck, Electra and Frau, could elicit the virtuoso playing of today’s Met Orchestra under lesser conductors. Regarding the singers in the set, whether they were better than the stars of today will always be arguable. What’s important is that the best singers on this set were stars because each had an instantly recognizable, distinctive voice which will never be duplicated.

      • Though I did not see it, and have never heard it, I agree that not including “Mourning Becomes Electra” in this set is a critical oversight. As the Barber, it was commissioned for the opening of the new house. From what I have read about the Levy, this opera might have more longevity than “Antony and Cleopatra”. This set will be important to show how dramatically the orchestra has improved during Levine’s reign. Even such a master conductor as Karl Bohm, whom I heard in the pre-Levine pit direct Wozzeck, Electra and Frau, could elicit the virtuoso playing of today’s Met Orchestra under lesser conductors. Regarding the singers in the set, whether they were better than the stars of today will always be arguable. What’s important is that the best singers on this set were stars because each had an instantly recognizable, distinctive voice which will never be duplicated.

        • Agreed. Mourning Becomes Electra is one of the great 20th century operas that seems to have fallen off the radar completely. What a shame it wasn’t included.

  • Basically in 50 years, the productions have become more uneven—we’re past the park and bark but a lot the most recent ones are scandalously self-indulgent, singer-and-music unfriendly; the playing of the Met Orchestra has improved dramatically, thanks mostly to James Levine–an accomplishment not to be seen as trivial; the singing is now less dependable on the whole. I’d say an improvement in one out of three areas is laudable, considering that the problems in the other two areas prevail globally and are not unique to the Met.

  • Forgive me, Mr. Levine had a major impact on upgrading the orchestra through his fine conducting, but the highest salaries in the field also drawn in the best talents.

    • Agree with Macrov’s comment below — the standard of play has risen dramatically — but I also wonder if Levine had something to do with the salaries. Has it always been so highly paid?

    • All the singers I know who sang for Levine have also said that he was the greatest ‘singers’ conductor’ they ever worked with.

  • Since these are CDs and not DVDs, the productions are kind of irrelevant; it’s all about the music, and the singers may have been better back then, but the orchestra is unquestionably better now. Not just because of Levine or even salaries; the standard of play has simply risen significantly in the past 50 years.

  • Singers were better back then-no it’s more that opera was in a different universe back then. There’s not even a comparison-a world has ended.

    Because they don’t have great singers, and vocal personalities-and they’ve lost belief in the art form itself they have allowed themselves to buy into this idea that regietheater has made it into a more theatrical art, a more meaningful experience-what nonsense.

    While Levine made the Met orchestra into a great consistent ensemble, this idea that it was some provincial band before is simply not true. There were great orchestral performances, with great diverse conductors-just listen to Sirius radio.

    In my opinion it is the chorus which in an earlier Met was often sub-par-and has become greatly improved,

    • I’m sorry, but when I listen to the Serius broadcasts, I often have to change channels because of the scrappy playing in the pit.

      • Don’t be sorry-I just disagree.

        As I said, I’m often impressed how good it can be-depending on the conductor.
        I went to the Met before the Levine era-sure there were nights-but also great ones
        Too bad you would have spent it on the street having walked out

        Just the same myth as there was no great opera as drama until the last 20 years of folly

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