A palpable air of unease these days surrounds the Metropolitan Opera. There is, it is true, some good news: after a poor showing last season at the box office, ticket sales for the current season have picked up. Reportedly, Bruce Crawford, the Met’s new general manager, is looking forward to a more than ninety percent sold-out year. But the good news doesn’t go beyond ticket sales. The press seems lukewarm, albeit respectful. Opera fans complain of arbitrary casting policies and a general dearth of great singers. Except for James Levine, the Met engages curiously few conductors with large careers or even international reputations. And there is a noticeable absence of innovative—that is, avant-garde—stage direction, resulting in lack of controversy surrounding the Met’s offerings of familiar works.

One does not know how far to go in blaming the Met for the vocal...


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