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 shortcomings of its casts. For many years...

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