Met to Stage Its First Opera by a Woman Since 1903

The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho.
Credit...Pedro Gonzalez Castillo/Getty Images

An opera composed by a woman will appear at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in more than a century next season, when the house presents the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s ethereal “L’Amour de Loin,” one of the most acclaimed operas of the 2000s.

It will be one of six new productions in the Met’s 2016-17 season, which the company announced on Wednesday. The season will open with a new “Tristan und Isolde” directed by Mariusz Trelinski, starring Nina Stemme and conducted by Simon Rattle, and will also include fresh stagings of Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell,” Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” Dvorak’s “Rusalka” and Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier.” And in the spring, the Met will hold an all-star gala to celebrate its 50th anniversary in its Lincoln Center home.

“We’re always trying to find ways to satisfy confirmed opera lovers, as well as excite new ones,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a telephone interview outlining the season, which is to open on Sept. 26 and include 225 performances of 26 operas.

A big question mark is the status of James Levine, 72, the company’s longtime music director, who has been struggling with health problems. The Met was recently on the verge of announcing his retirement at the end of the current season, but he now hopes a change in his medication regimen will improve his condition, so the company has held off on its plans to name him music director emeritus.

Mr. Levine is scheduled to conduct four operas next season: the new “Rosenkavalier” and revivals of Verdi’s “Nabucco,” Mozart’s “Idomeneo” and Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeri.” Mr. Gelb said that he would be monitoring Mr. Levine’s progress when he begins rehearsals of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” next month. “We have to see how he is doing in the coming weeks when he returns for ‘Simon Boccanegra,’ and that will help determine what he is able to conduct in the future,” he said.

The arrival of “L’Amour de Loin” in December at the Met, in a Robert Lepage production conducted by Susanna Malkki in her company debut and starring Susanna Phillips, Tamara Mumford and Eric Owens, will be the biggest in a series of Saariaho events across New York next season. In October, Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead the New York Philharmonic in her “Circle Map” at the Park Avenue Armory.

Coming 16 years after its premiere at the Salzburg Festival, “L’Amour de Loin” will be the first opera by a woman performed at the Met since 1903, when the company did “Der Wald” by Ethel M. Smyth. “It’s a shock,” Ms. Saariaho said of the gap in a telephone interview from Paris. “It just shows how slowly these things evolve. But they are evolving — in all fields and also in music.”

Anna Netrebko will sing the title role in a revival of Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” her first time singing the part at the Met, and will reprise her Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” opposite Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who has been earning strong reviews this season as he has been treated for a brain tumor.

The new “Rosenkavalier,” directed by Robert Carsen, will feature Renée Fleming’s final performances as the Marschallin at the Met, and possibly her last major staged role there, as she prepares, at 57, to retire from staged productions of the standard operatic repertoire.

The rising stars Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano will be paired in Verdi’s “La Traviata.” The German baritone Michael Volle will star in “Der Fliegende Holländer” under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who will be conducting his first Wagner opera at the Met. Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau will sing the title roles in “Roméo et Juliette,” directed by Bartlett Sher and conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, who was just named the next music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington.

Plácido Domingo will continue to sing baritone roles, taking on the title role of “Nabucco” for the first time at the Met. Kristine Opolais will star as Rusalka in a Mary Zimmerman production conducted by Mark Elder; Gerald Finley will take the title role in Pierre Audi’s staging of “Guillaume Tell,” conducted by Fabio Luisi; and the tenor Javier Camarena will sing in Bellini’s “I Puritani.” Peter Mattei will be Figaro in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” and Catherine Naglestad will make her Met debut in the title role of Strauss’s “Salome.”

A notable absence will be the sought-after tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who has canceled his appearances at the Met this season and last and will therefore have been away from the company for three seasons. Mr. Gelb said he was engaged for future seasons, though.

Ticket prices are to remain the same next season. And on May 7, the Met will assemble some of its biggest stars for a gala to celebrate its 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center, including Mr. Levine, Ms. Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Mr. Domingo, Ms. Fleming, Juan Diego Flórez, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Elina Garanca, Susan Graham, Mariusz Kwiecien, James Morris, Ms. Netrebko, Ms. Opolais, Mr. Owens, René Pape, Matthew Polenzani, Rolando Villazón, Mr. Volle and Ms. Yoncheva.

“It will look to our past, our present and our future,” Mr. Gelb said.