I have been a “regular” of the Metropolitan Opera for many years, and I’m not shy about saying that the company and its many outstanding performances are frequent subjects in these posts.
So I’m sure none of my regular readers will be surprised when I say that I’ve never been prouder of my relationship with the Met than in the last few days.
On Monday, we had the first night of the Met’s new revised schedule. From now on, after a month-long break in performances (decided upon some years back to enable a longer early summer season at the house), the remaining performances of the current season will begin each year about this time, following the break.
For this occasion, the performance was a new production of Verdi’s Don Carlos, being presented as a premiere since this is the first time in the Met’s history that Verdi’s original version has been presented at the house. Earlier performances here (217 since 1920) have been in Italian, which Verdi used – as would have been the custom in those days – when he revised the original version, premiered in Paris in 1867. Now this season we have the French version (hence a premiere), with the same production reverting to Italian for the 2022-2023 season.
It was a beautiful performance, and even though I only listened to the audio live performance (I’ll see the opera in the house on March 18), I was impressed. But I was even more impressed with how the opera company, recognizing us all as sincere democracy-loving Americans, made a special effort to show our and the Met’s support for the beleaguered Ukrainians being attacked by Russia.
Peter Gelb, the company’s General Manager, spoke this week about the Russia-Ukraine war and made it clear that the company supports the people of Ukraine. He announced that the remainder of the season will be dedicated to them and their loved ones. Here is his announcement (also reported in the press):
We Stand with Ukraine
The Metropolitan Opera opens its heart to the innocent victims of the unprovoked war in Ukraine and salutes the heroism of the Ukrainian people. We stand in solidarity with them and urge the leaders of the free world to support them in their hour of need. We shed tears for them, including their brothers and sisters in Russia, who are also victims of the lies and propaganda of Putin, who seems intent on the destruction of Ukraine, its people, and all personal freedom in Ukraine and in Russia. As an international opera company, the Met can help ring the alarm and contribute to the fight against oppression. While we believe strongly in the warm friendship and cultural exchange that has long existed between the artists and artistic institutions of Russia and the United States, we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him—not until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored, and restitutions have been made. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine, its brave leaders, citizens, and artists. We dedicate the rest of our season to their courage.
On Monday night, before the performance, Gelb gave a brief reiteration of what he had said about the company’s commitment to the people of Ukraine. He then asked the audience to stand for a moment of silence, followed by the Ukrainian national anthem, “Shche ne Vmerla Ukrainy i slava, I volia” performed by the Met Orchestra and Chorus and conducted by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Joining the chorus was one of the featured players, a Ukrainian, who was to sing a role in the evening’s opera.
The link for the YouTube video is here.
Even though I was not at the opera house on Monday night, it was a thrilling moment to experience, a moment in which I could remember the good people of Ukraine who are suffering so much. And, important and thrilling for me, it was a moment in which I felt very honored to be a “member” of the Met “family.”
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