Monday, July 13, 2009

Cast now - then, keep your fingers crossed

This morning, I came across an interesting little gem of a New York Times article- published last week. In the article titled Hire That Hot Tenor Years in Advance, and Hope for the Best, Anthony Tommasini discusses the difficulty that opera companies face when casting, as they often do, years in advance.
Casting an opera singer in a leading role for an important production, no matter how dependable the singer, is always a "calculated risk," Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, said recently from France.
We all remember the hooplah around the new Zeffirelli production of La Traviata back in 1998 when a certain Mr. and Mrs. Angela Gheorghiu were slated to sing both Violetta and Alfredo. As they started to raise their noses at some of the decisions made by the production staff, Joseph Volpe pushed back at the singing duo. In fact, he fired them stating no singer ... not even Domingo or Pavarotti, had approval rights over production plans.

It was shortly thereafter that it was announced that Renee Fleming would take on the role of Violetta. But, she underestimated the demanding nature of Andre Previn's Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire which she had just premiered at San Francisco. Fleming, known for the very calculating and precise way in which she accepts roles, asked to be released from the 1998 Traviata because it was too much to take on.

As they say: the third time is the charm. Patricia Racette, who Tommasini calls "...the very fine and undervalued American soprano," finally accepted and sang Violetta in the new (1998) production.
“You can calculate absolutely correctly," Mr. Gelb said, referring to the risks involved in casting, "and then a week before, the singer will get sick." He can only "hope for the best," he said, adding that the Met has "a wide network of people around the world to check up on our singers and search out talent.”
But, there's more - check out Tommasini's article for interesting tidbits (read: gossip) on other casting choices, including the new "it" tenor, 31 year old Joseph Calleja, who is slated to sing Hoffmann in the MET's new production of The Tales of Hoffmann.

[Photos: l-r, Renée Fleming by Stuart Ramson/Associated Press, Rolando Villazón by Herbert P. Oczeret/European Pressphoto Agency, and René Pape by Rahav Segev for The New York Times.]

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