There are 29 operas in repertory for the Metropolitan Opera’s 2010-2011 season. This is a stupendous amount for most companies and most cities, and makes you wonder what things would be like if the Met started touring like it did a century ago. The simulcasts, while wonderful, just aren’t the same thing as experiencing the unamplified natural sound emanating from the stage.
The 29 operas divide neatly by centuries:
- 17th Century: 0
- 18th Century: 4
- 19th Century: 23
- 20th Century: 7
- 21st Century: 0
“Ah!” you say. “Seven operas isn’t bad – the 20th Century is esteemed more than the century of Mozart!” It is true that there are 3 more there (and that the only Mozart opera there is Così fan tutte, which is not my favorite), but let’s take a closer look, shall we? One of the 20th Century operas is by Berg (the wonderful and powerfully disturbing) Wozzeck; another by Adams (Nixon in China), two by Strauss (Capriccio and Ariadne auf Naxos), one by Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande), and the remaining two by Puccini.
“Puccini?” “Yes, Puccini.” Tosca was premiered just 14 days into 1900, La Fanciulla del West in 1910 (at the Met, no less – quite the coup at the time). If we place Puccini spiritually in the long 19th century and note that Debussy completed most of Pelléas in the 1890s, that leaves our friends Alban, John and Richard as the sole representatives of the 20th Century. Verdi alone outnumbers them.
For trivia, track the principals in each opera and see how recently they recorded the role(s). Violeta Urmana is singing Tosca in Tosca, not Violetta in La Traviata.