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 33-week New York season, when the company performs as many as seven times a week in repertory that this season encompasses 26 operas.
In addition to its opera schedule, the orchestra has a distinguished history of concert performances. Arturo Toscanini made his American debut as a symphonic conductor with The MET Orchestra in 1913, and the impressive list of instrumental soloists who have appeared with the orchestra includes Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Casals, Josef Hofmann, Ferruccio Busoni, Jascha Heifetz, Moriz 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 six world premieres: Milton Babbitt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1998), William Bolcom's Symphony No. 7 (2002), Hsueh-Yung Shen's Legend (2002), Charles Wuorinen's Theologoumenon (2007) and Time Regained (2009), and John Harbison's Closer to My Own Life (2011).
Esa-Pekka Salonen's restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. He is currently the principal conductor and artistic advisor for London's Philharmonia Orchestra and the conductor laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he served as music director from 1992 until 2009. The 2016-2017 season is his second of three as the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, and his first of five years as artist in association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. Additionally, Mr. Salonen is artistic director and cofounder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, now in its 14th year, which invites celebrated artists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009 leading the Met premiere of Janáček's From the House of the Dead and returned in 2016 for a new production of Richard Strauss's Elektra.
As a composer, Mr. Salonen's works move freely among contemporary idioms, combining intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. He has composed a number of pieces for symphony orchestra, and this season, his cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma premiered with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was subsequently performed by the New York Philharmonic. He is the recipient of many major awards, including a Grammy Award, the UNESCO Rostrum Prize, the Siena Prize, the Royal Philharmonic Society's Opera and Conductor Awards, the Litteris et Artibus medal, the rank of Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government, the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland, the Helsinki Medal, the Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, and seven honorary doctorates in four different countries. Musical America named him its Musician of the Year in 2006, and he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010.
Winner of the 2002 Kathleen Ferrier Award, Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill made her debut this season with the Canadian Opera Company as Waltraute in Götterdämmerung and returned to Scottish Opera as Judith in Bluebeard's Castle. In the coming years, she will make her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival and return to both the Met and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She also will appear in concert with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Staatskapelle Dresden, and London Symphony Orchestra. She made her Met debut in 2012 as Waltraute and has since appeared with the company as Anna in Les Troyens and Magdalene in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, both of which were presented as part of the Met's Live in HD broadcast series.
Ms. Cargill regularly sings with the symphony orchestras of Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Berlin, Dresden, London, Rotterdam, and Seoul, and has worked with conductors who include James Levine, Donald Runnicles, Valery Gergiev, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Myung-whun Chung, Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, and Robin Ticciati. She also appears regularly at the Salzburg Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Deutsche Oper Berlin, BBC Proms, and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In 2013, she was appointed associate artist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with which she has performed Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénedict, La mort de Cléopâtre, L'enfance du Christ, and Les nuits d'été; Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Symphony No. 4, and Kindertotenlieder; and Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. Their recording of Les nuits d'été and La mort de Cléopâtre, conducted by Mr. Ticciati, was chosen as Gramophone's Recording of the Month in June 2013. Past and future highlights with her regular recital partner Simon Lepper include appearances at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, London's Wigmore Hall, and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, as well as recitals for BBC Radio 3. Together with Mr. Lepper, she recently released a critically acclaimed album of lieder by Alma and Gustav Mahler.
Winner of the 2014 International Opera Award for Best Male Singer and two Helpmann Awards, Stuart Skelton is one of the finest heldentenors on the stage today. He has been critically acclaimed for his beautiful voice, outstanding musicianship, and intensely dramatic portrayals in performances on the leading concert and operatic stages of the world, including in Berlin, Hamburg, London, Edinburgh, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Vienna, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney, with orchestras that include the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, and San Francisco Symphony, as well as with the radio symphonies of Hamburg, Munich, and Frankfurt, and the symphony orchestras of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Tasmania, and West Australia.
Mr. Skelton made his Met debut in 2011 as the Drum Major in Wozzeck and has since been heard as Siegmund in Die Walküre and Tristan in a new production of Tristan und Isolde. He has sung with such acclaimed conductors as James Levine, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Jiří Bělohlávek, James Conlon, Sir Andrew Davis, Christoph von Dohnányi, Christoph Eschenbach, Asher Fisch, Mariss Jansons, Philippe Jordan, Fabio Luisi, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Simon Rattle, David Robertson, Donald Runnicles, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Simone Young. He has appeared at many of the world's leading opera companies, including Opéra de Paris, Bayerische Staatsoper, Semperoper Dresden, Zurich Opera, English National Opera, Opera Australia, West Australian Opera, Seattle Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. This season, he sang Siegmund at the Baden-Baden Festival, Tristan at English National Opera, the title role of Lohengrin at Opéra de Paris, Laca in Jenůfa at the Bayerische Staatsoper, and the title role of Peter Grimes at the Bergen International Festival. His extensive discography includes releases with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmoniker Hamburg, State Opera of South Australia, Seattle Opera, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony.