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Midgette And Kennicott Dish The Met Opera 50th Anniversary Gala (And The House Itself, And The State Of Singing)

May 9, 2017

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus in a scene from Barber's Antony and Cleopatra during the 50th Anniversary at Lincoln Center Gala. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

On Sunday, the Metropolitan Opera, America’s leading opera house, celebrated the 50th anniversary of its home at Lincoln Center. Two Washington Post critics trade thoughts about the gala, opera, and the buildings that house it.

Anne Midgette: The Metropolitan Opera gala offered a cross-section of today’s opera world, from an opening aria by the venerable Plácido Domingo (singing a baritone excerpt from “Andrea Chenier”) to star turns by Joseph Calleja and Javier Camarena, two of his tenor successors. Galas are usually long sequences of stand-and-deliver numbers, but this one was beautifully produced with video projections (by the company 59 Productions and Julian Crouch) re-creating memorable Met productions of the past.

And I hope that some of the video segments go viral after the show — particularly the interview with the 90-year-old soprano Leontyne Price, who opened the new theater in 1966 in the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra.”

One of the main messages I took away, unexpectedly, is that for all of the anxiety about dwindling audiences and poor ticket sales, especially at the Met, the present state of singing is in pretty good shape. In addition to “La Bohème” with Calleja and Sonya Yoncheva, and Camerena’s lovable Tonio in “Daughter of the Regiment,” there was Susan Graham in “Les Troyens,” René Pape in “Boris Godunov,” Michael Fabiano in world-class form in Verdi’s “I Lombardi,” and Anna Netrebko single-handedly upholding the grand tradition of opera as camp as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and a veritably ferocious Madame Butterfly.