The cozy ambiance in the Beranek Room at Symphony Hall last Friday made the announcement of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2007–2008 season seem more like a family chat with BSO music director James Levine. Were the wall sconces and Oriental rugs and overstuffed chairs and sofas (not to mention the pasta, sandwiches, and cookies) aimed at distracting the press from the actual content of the season? Uh, not likely, not with Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Thomas Quasthoff, and Leon Fleisher plus Smetana’s Má vlast and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Berlioz’s Les Troyens in the offing. And Levine once again demonstrating that if there were a Grammy for intelligent conversation with the press, he would win every year, as he elaborated on the choice of operas at Tanglewood (Les Troyens could well lead off the 2008 season), explained why the BSO programming seems to be getting more modern (“I would love to do more Bach, but it doesn’t make sense in [early-music-rich] Boston”), and talked about the Met broadcasts and the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson/BSO recording of her husband’s Neruda Songs.
The season opens with Levine in a Ravel program: Alborada del gracioso, Shéhérazade, with mezzo Susan Graham, the Piano Concerto in G, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé. Other highlights: Robert Spano in Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony (October 18-20); Marek Janowski in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 (October 25-27 + 30); Levine in the Berg Violin Concerto, with Christian Tetzlaff, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 (November 8-10; the Mahler alone November 13); Levine in Smetana’s Má vlast (November 23-24 + 27); Levine with Renée Fleming in Henri Dutilleux’s Le temps l’horloge, a BSO 125-anniversary co-commission (November 29–December 1); Miguel Harth-Bedoya with Yo-Yo Ma in Golijov’s Ausencia and Azul (December 6-8); Sir Colin Davis in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (January 24-26); Charles Dutoit with James David Christie in Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony (February 7-9 + 12); Levine in a set of Schubert songs, with Thomas Quasthoff, and the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Symphony No. 8, another BSO 125-anniversary commission (February 28–March 1); Julian Kuerti with Leon Fleisher in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto (March 6-8 + 11); Bernard Haitink in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (March 20-22); Levine with Evgeny Kissin in Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (April 8-9) and Piano Concerto No. 1 (April 11-12); Levine in the world premiere of John Harbison’s Symphony No. 5 plus Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, with Anne Sofie von Otter and Johan Botha (April 17-18); and, ending the season, Levine in Berlioz’s Les Troyens (Part I: April 22 + 24 + 26; Part II: April 30, May 2). Note also the visit of hot hot young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and the Symphonic Variations from Bernstein’s West Side Story (November 7) and Thomas Quasthoff with Levine as pianist in Schubert’s Winterreise (February 24 — don’t wait on this one). The full schedule — and, of course, subscription information — is at www.bso.org.
Boston Ballet has also announced its 2007–2008 season. In a Boston Globe interview that appeared last Friday, BB artistic director Mikko Nissinen goes to some lengths to “sell” Boston on Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère, as if he weren’t aware that Boston knows the ballet from the October 2000 BB production staged by former company artistic director Anna-Marie Holmes. No matter, this too is a most attractive line-up: George Balanchine’s Monumentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra on a bill with August Bournonville’s La Sylphide (October 18-28); The Nutcracker (November 29–December 29); John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet (February 14-17 + February 28–March 2); a “Next Generation” bill of works, most of them world premieres, by Helen Pickett, Heather Myers, Sabrina Matthews, and BB resident choreographer Jorma Elo (March 6-9); La Bayadère (May 1-11); and Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies on a bill with two works yet to be named (May 15-18). For more information, visit www.bostonballet.org.