It has been a bit of a tumultuous season so far for East Coast opera. On the minus side, Opera Boston — the city’s innovative, second-tier company, a boon to the local scene since 2003 — abruptly shut down just before Christmas: a sad case of the piper (i.e., principal donor) calling the tune. Happily, as if to compensate, the union standoff that had been holding up New York City Opera’s first season in exile from Lincoln Center came to a mutually compatible close, so we can count on an exciting, if peripatic lineup, starting with two enticing productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (celebrating its 150th anniversary this year): the new Jonathan Miller version of Verdi’s Traviata February 12-18 (with Brooklyn native Laquita Mitchell as Violetta) and the eagerly awaited U.S. premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna February 19-25. Possibly the best news? Tickets are a prole-friendly $25.
The Metropolitan is going gangbusters. Having just triumphantly introduced the clever Shakespearean mashup Enchanted Island (Twelfth Night, meet A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream), the opera house of record is forging ahead with Verdi’s Ernani, with soprano Angela Meade reprising the 2007 role that helped earn her this year’s Beverly Sills Artist Award; the production goes wide with a “Live in HD” release February 25. Also underway: Robert Lepage’s staging of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, with Deborah Voigt winding up the Ring Cycle (that HD dats is February 11) and Anna Netrebko revisiting Anna Bolena. In the Aida revival starting February 9, Violeta Urmana assumes the title role, spell-binding mezzo Stephanie Blythe takes on Aida’s rival Amneris, and Marcelo Álvarez and Marcello Giordani alternate as Radamès.
Boston Lyric Opera (now the main game in town) brings Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s eerie chamber opera The Lighthouse to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library – evocatively waterside – February 8-12. It’s a brief piece (only 75 minutes), but as veterans of the 1983 U.S. premiere — directed by Peter Sellars and featuring Sanford Sylvan — will attest, an indelible experience.
If you’d like to witness an opera in its earliest, near-larval stage, on February 7-8 HERE’s Culturemart 2012 – a New York alterna-fest — offers a chance to witness staged excerpts and a libretto reading of The Scarlet Ibis, with music by Stefan Weisman, libretto by David Cote (chief theatre critic for Time Out New York). The soprano part goes to Hai-Ting Chinn (left), who made a splash on the Wendy Williams Show recently, singing Weisman’s setting of the (seemingly endless) ingredients list for the now obsolete Hostess Twinkie. The YouTube clip is priceless. And as long as you’re amusing yourself operatically, don’t miss the latest variation on a popular YouTube meme: “Sh*t Opera Singers Say”.