Entertainment

Met scraps Bondy's 'Tosca,' replaces it with realistic sets

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Opera is scrapping Luc Bondy's maligned production of Puccini's "Tosca" after just 59 performances, less than one-third the total of its predecessor by Franco Zeffirelli.

The Met said Wednesday a new staging by David McVicar will open New Year's Eve, one of five new productions next season — the company's fewest since 2005-06. McVicar's version will depict the three Roman venues the opera is set in, similar to Zeffirelli's. Bondy's setting was booed when it opened in September 2009.

"The lesson was that the public didn't like it," Met General Manager Peter Gelb said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It was a shock for traditionalists who think of grand opera, particularly productions like 'Tosca' in terms of visual beauty and who felt that they had been somehow affronted by the starkness of the sets and the lighting."

Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons conducts his wife, Kristine Opolais, in the title role, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann scheduled to sing Cavaradossi and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. Anna Netrebko takes over as Tosca in April and May 2018.

Bondy's staging was seen in just five seasons, while Zeffirelli's lavish setting — overly opulent in the view of some — appeared 183 times at the Met over 16 seasons. According to financial data released during contract negotiations by local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, Bondy's staging realized 95.5 per cent of box-office revenue in its first season, but just 71.6 per cent in 2011-12, 69.9 per cent the following season and 73 per cent in 2013-14. No figure was released for its final appearance in 2015-16.

"I was there at the premiere, and I heard all the booing and the shouting and the screaming and I was quite bewildered," McVicar said in a telephone interview. "Maybe doing this on the stage of the Met in New York was not the right place for this production to happen, because it was sort of like a production that at any of the festivals in Europe you'd be very, very happy to see."

The season opens Sept. 25 with McVicar's new production of Bellini's "Norma" starring Sondra Radvanovky. There are three new-to-the-Met stagings: the North American premiere of Thomas Ades' "The Exterminating Angel," which debuted at the 2015 Salzburg Festival in Austria; the Met premiere of Massanet's "Cendrillon" starring Joyce DiDonato in a staging first seen in 2006 at the Santa Fe Opera; and Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" in a Phelim McDermott-directed version time-shifted to Brooklyn's Coney Island in the 1950s, first seen at the English National Opera in 2014. Tony Award winner Kelli O'Hara makes her role debut as the maid Despina.

A planned new Calixto Bieito staging of Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" was cancelled , with Gelb saying the company needed to save money, and was replaced by four concerts of Verdi's Requiem.

Gelb said he also cancelled a planned 2018-19 modern-dress production of Camille Saint-Saens' "Samson et Dalila" by Italian director Damiano Michieletto, which opened in Paris last fall, and replaced it with a new staging by Darko Tresniak of Hartford Stage. Michieletto had Samson cut off his own hair and Dalila destroy the temple.

"Michieletto is a very talented director, however, this production of 'Samson' just didn't click with the Parisian public," Gelb said.

Gelb also said the Met is considering a new future production of Verdi's "Don Carlos" in the original French, which the company has never presented.

McVicar said he will return to the Met in a future season for the company premiere of Handel's "Agrippina" starring DiDonato. He thinks baroque works can be presented successfully at the Met despite its 4,000-person capacity.

"The Metropolitan Opera is basically too large a house for most opera. That's a fact," he said. "We all appreciate that. It's a product of its time of the '60s and a sort of very American sense of what opera should be and the kind of place which opera should be presented."

Next season includes a revival of Verdi's "Luisa Miller" with Placido Domingo making his role debut in the baritone part of Miller. In October, Paul Plishka sings Benoit and Alcindoro in Puccini's "La Boheme," marking the 50th anniversary of his Met debut on Sept. 21, 1967, as the Monk in Ponchielli's "La Gioconda."