The MET Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is regarded as one of the world's finest
orchestras. From the time of the company's inception in 1883, the ensemble has worked with
leading conductors in both opera and concert performances and has developed into an
orchestra of enormous technical polish and style.
The MET Orchestra (as the ensemble is referred to when appearing in concert outside the
opera house) maintains a demanding schedule of performances and rehearsals during its
32-week New York season, when the company performs seven times a week in repertory that
normally encompasses approximately 27 operas.
Arturo Toscanini conducted almost 500 performances at the Met, and Gustav Mahler, during
the few years he was in New York, conducted 54 Met performances. More recently, many of the
world's great conductors have led the orchestra: Walter, Beecham, Reiner, Mitropoulos,
Kempe, Szell, Böhm, Solti, Maazel, Bernstein, Mehta, Abbado, Karajan, Dohnányi, Haitink,
Tennstedt, Ozawa, Gergiev, Barenboim, and Muti. Carlos Kleiber's only US opera performances
were with the MET Orchestra.
In addition to its opera schedule, the orchestra has a distinguished history of concert
performances. Toscanini made his American debut as a symphonic conductor with the Met
Orchestra in 1913, and the impressive list of instrumental soloists who appeared with the
orchestra includes Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Casals,
Josef Hofmann, Ferruccio Busoni, Jascha Heifetz, Moritz Rosenthal, and Fritz Kreisler.
Since the orchestra resumed symphonic concerts in 1991, instrumental soloists have included
Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Alfred Brendel, and Evgeny Kissin, and the group has
performed five world premieres: Babbitt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1998), Bolcom's Symphony
No. 7 (2002), Shen's Legend (2002), and Wuorinen's Theologoumenon (2007)
and Time Regained (2009).
The orchestra's high standing led to its first commercial recordings in nearly 20 years:
Wagner's complete Ring cycle, conducted by James Levine. Recorded by Deutsche
Grammophon over a period of three years, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and
Götterdämmerung were winners of an unprecedented three consecutive Grammy Awards
in 1989, 1990, and 1991 for Best Opera Recording. Other recordings under Maestro Levine
include L'elisir d'amore, Idomeneo, Le nozze di Figaro, Der
fliegende Holländer, Parsifal, Erwartung, Manon Lescaut,
and seven Verdi operas. Maestro Levine has also led the orchestra for recordings of Wagner
overtures, Verdi ballet music, an all-Berg disc with Renée Fleming, and aria albums with
Bryn Terfel, Kathleen Battle, and Ms. Fleming. The orchestra's first symphonic recordings
are pairings of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with Stravinsky's Le
Sacre du printemps; Beethoven's "Eroica" with Schubert's "Unfinished" symphonies; and
Richard Strauss's Don Quixote and Tod und Verklärung.
In spring 1991 the orchestra, under the leadership of Maestro Levine, began concert
touring. They have since traveled across the US and to Europe (including their debut at the
Salzburg Festival in 2002), as well as annually to Carnegie Hall. This May, the orchestra
returns to Japan for its sixth tour in 23 years.
Marking his 40th consecutive season at the Metropolitan Opera, James Levine conducts eight
operas in 2010-2011, including opening night's Das Rheingold premiere; the new
production in April of Die Walküre; revivals of Don Pasquale, Simon
Boccanegra, and Wozzeck; three performances of The Bartered Bride at
Juilliard's Peter Jay Sharp Theater (with the Juilliard Orchestra and members of the Met's
Lindemann Young Artist Development Program); and a June tour to Japan with Don
Carlo and La bohème. He and the MET Orchestra are heard in three concerts at
Carnegie Hall and one in Tokyo with soloists Simon O'Neill, Michelle DeYoung, Evgeny
Kissin, Natalie Dessay, Anna Netrebko, and Mariusz Kwiecien.
Maestro Levine's seventh, and final, season as Music Director of the BSO began with an
all-Wagner program with Bryn Terfel on October 2, and included the first BSO performances
of John Harbison's Second Symphony (as part of a two-season cycle of all five Harbison
symphonies as well as the world premiere of a newly commissioned Sixth), and Mahler's
Second and Fifth symphonies for the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1860 and the 100th of
his death in 1911.
James Levine makes his debut in May with the Staatskapelle Berlin and Mahler's Sixth
Symphony in the German capital, before joining the Met company for a three-week tour of
Japan (where he will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his debut on June 5 with Don
Carlo in Nagoya) and returning to the BSO's Tanglewood Festival, where his summer
season ends on August 3 with the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen's It Happens Like
This on texts of James Tate with Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center-some 10 weeks
before he leads the MET Orchestra in the world premiere of Harbison's Closer to My Own
Life on texts of Alice Munro here at Carnegie Hall.