Photo: Koichi Miura/Met Opera
Less than three months after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the country, the Met embarked on its long-awaited three-week tour to Japan on May 30. It’s the company’s seventh—but by far its most historic—visit there, happening amidst tour cancellations from other major international arts institutions. The Met decided to go ahead with its tour after consulting with scientific and medical experts and determining that radiation levels had been back to pre-earthquake levels in Tokyo and Nagoya since April. The company presents 13 fully staged performances of Lucia di Lammermoor, La Bohème, and Don Carlo, as well as one special concert, in these two cities from June 4 to 19. Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi and Maestro Gianandrea Noseda are on the podium.“We are the first major opera company to come to Japan since the earthquake,” General Manager Peter Gelb said on arrival at a press conference in Tokyo, “so the tour has a special significance to us and to the people of Japan. What we want most is for our trip to provide an opportunity to lift the spirits of those members of the public who love opera. Many members of the company share my feelings that this tragedy has had a profound impact on people all over the world. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think that a performance by the Metropolitan Opera could change lives that are destroyed, but we will do our best to show that normal cultural life in Japan is ready to resume.” In response to the last-minute cancellations of Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja, who hesitated to visit Japan at this time, the company launched an eleventh-hour casting initiative in the weeks before the company’s departure from New York. Soprano Marina Poplavskaya was released from a concert in Paris in order to join the Met and tenor Marcelo Álvarez canceled a vacation in Argentina. Fellow tenor Rolando Villazón, who is making a historic comeback after a recent vocal crisis, shifted his commitments so he could perform with the Met. (In an interesting twist of fate, Villazón had originally been cast for the tour several years ago but been forced to bow out due to his vocal problems.) Another singer, the young Russian tenor Alexey Dolgov, was located at his country dacha outside of Moscow and agreed to make his debut with the Met in Japan. Other Met stars on the tour—many of whom are returning to Japan after previous visits—include Diana Damrau, Barbara Frittoli, Ildar Abdrazakov, Piotr Beczala, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Mariusz Kwiecien, Yonghoon Lee, Željko Lučić́, and René Pape. They are joined by 350 other members of the company, including singers, orchestra, chorus, ballet, and staff.