Innovations and Collaborations

When Peter Gelb became general manager in 2006, he made expanding the Met’s repertory of contemporary opera a major priority for the company. In his artistic vision, the Met would present both brand-new work and company premieres of recent American operas that had proved successful elsewhere. The operas of Philip Glass and John Adams had been widely produced in Europe and the United States, and these composers had developed a fan base, many of whose members were not part of the traditional opera audience. Eager to broaden the company’s horizons, Gelb brought vibrant new stagings of operas by Glass and Adams to the Met.

As part of his efforts to produce new work, Gelb approached André Bishop, the director of the Lincoln Center Theater, with the idea of a collaborative workshop program to foster new theatrical creations. Together they launched the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program, bringing together the Met’s musical forces and the theatrical expertise of Lincoln Center Theater to nurture, promote, and stage new work.

With the naming of Yannick Nézet-Séguin as Music Director in 2018, the Met has added another strong proponent of contemporary American opera to its creative team. Together, Gelb and Nézet-Séguin have programmed an ambitious slate of new works for the coming seasons that far exceeds the plans of any previous management. The goal of establishing an American repertory at the Met, from its first tentative steps in 1910, has taken on an unprecedented dynamism in our own day.


Philip Glass’s Satyagraha

Satyagraha (“force of truth”), adapted by Philip Glass and Constance DeJong from the Bhagavad Gita, reflects on Mahatma Gandhi’s earliest civil resistance movement in South Africa from multiple perspectives. The Met’s 2008 co-production with English National Opera, in collaboration with Improbable, was directed by Phelim McDermott with Julian Crouch as associate director and set designer and Kevin Pollard as costume designer. Dante Anzolini conducted. Satyagraha was revived in the 2011–12 season. With Satyagraha, Glass became the first American composer since Samuel Barber to receive productions of multiple works on the Met stage. 

Scene from Satyagraha, 2008. Set design by Julian Crouch, costumes by Kevin Pollard.
Photo: Ken Howard


Richard Croft as Gandhi in Philip Glass’s Satyagraha, 2008.
Photo: Ken Howard


Philip Glass’s Akhnaten

Akhnaten—styled by Glass, like Satyagraha, as a “portrait opera”—chronicled historical events in the reign of the ancient Egyptian king and his wife, Nefertiti. It is the final installment in Glass’s trilogy of portrait operas following Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, all three of which have now appeared on the Met stage (though the 1976 Einstein on the Beach production was not by the Met). Akhnaten, in a production originally created by English National Opera and LA Opera in collaboration with Improbable, was presented during the Met’s 2019–20 season, starring countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in the title role and debuting mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges as his queen. Karen Kamensek made her Met debut conducting. Along with Porgy and Bess, it was one of the season’s box office hits, with both American operas enjoying sold-out runs. Akhnaten is revived in the 2021–22 season. 

AOATM_Image66.jpgScene from Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, 2019, with Anthony Roth Costanzo. Set design by Tom Pye
Photo: Karen Almond


AOATM_Image67.jpgAnthony Roth Costanzo and J’Nai Bridges in Akhnaten, 2019.
Photo: Karen Almond


John Adams’s Doctor Atomic

The Met celebrated its 125th season in 2008–09 with a new production of Doctor Atomic, the first opera by John Adams to appear at the company. Drawing on the stylistic legacy of American minimalism, Adams and his librettist, Peter Sellars, portrayed the historical drama around the detonation of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos in 1945. Making their Met debuts, Alan Gilbert conducted and Penny Woolcock directed the co-production with English National Opera.

Doctor Atomic was the first of Adams’s acclaimed trio of works based on historic events that General Manager Gelb brought to the Met, with Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer following over the next few seasons.

AOATM_Image68.jpgGerald Finley as J. Robert Oppenheimer in John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, 2008.
Photo: Ken Howard


AOATM_Image69.jpgLeft: Sasha Cooke and Gerald Finley in Doctor Atomic, 2008.
Photo: Ken Howard

Right: Scene from Doctor Atomic, 2008. Set design by Julian Crouch.
Photo: Ken Howard


John Adams’s Nixon in China

Adams’s first opera, Nixon in China, to a libretto by Alice Goodman, earned Emmy and Grammy Awards for its treatment of American President Richard Nixon’s 1972 summit meeting with Mao Tse-tung (Zedong), which restored diplomatic relations between the two superpowers.  The 2011 production brought Peter Sellars to the Met for his directing debut; Adams also made his debut on the Met podium conducting his own work. Adrianne Lobel designed the sets and Dunya Ramicova the costumes in a production that originated at English National Opera.

AOATM_Image70.jpgJanis Kelly and James Maddalena as Pat and Richard Nixon in Nixon in China, 2011.
Photo: Ken Howard


AOATM_Image71.jpgLeft: Composer John Adams conducting a rehearsal of Nixon in China, 2011.
Photo: Ken Howard

Right: Scene from Nixon in China, 2011 with Robert Brubaker as Mao Tse-tung, James Maddalena as Richard Nixon, and Richard Paul Fink as Henry Kissinger.
Photo: Ken Howard


John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer

In The Death of Klinghoffer, John Adams teamed up once again with librettist Alice Goodman, juxtaposing violent reality with spiritual transcendence to portray the tragedy of the 1985 Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking. Tom Morris directed the English National Opera co-production, and David Robertson conducted a cast led by Alan Opie and Michaela Martens as the Klinghoffers and Paulo Szot as the Captain.

Paulo Szot and Sean Panikkar in Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, 2014.
Photo: Ken Howard

Maya Lahyani and Jesse Kovarsky in John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, 2014.
Photo: Ken Howard


Nico Muhly’s Two Boys

Nico Muhly’s opera Two Boys, with a libretto by playwright Craig Lucas, was the first work developed in the Met/LCT New Works Program to enter the Met repertory. Based on a true case, Two Boys follows a detective whose investigation leads her into the world of internet chatrooms and cybersex. Commissioned by the Met and co-produced with English National Opera, Two Boys had its world premiere at ENO in London, followed by its United States premiere at the Met in 2013. David Robertson conducted and Bartlett Sher directed the production, with sets by Michael Yeargan and costumes by Catherine Zuber.

AOATM_Image73.jpgLeft: Paul Appleby in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys, 2013.
Photo: Ken Howard

Right: Andrew Pulver and Paul Appleby in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys, 2013.
Photo: Ken Howard


Ricky Ian Gordon’s Intimate Apparel

Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel will be the first piece developed in the Met/LCT New Works Program to be presented at Lincoln Center Theater when it premieres on January 31, 2022. Intimate Apparel, based on Nottage’s play was already in previews and scheduled to open when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of all theaters in March 2020.

AOATM_Image74.jpgIntimate Apparel by Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage, developed in the Met/LCT New Works Program premieres at Lincoln Center Theater this season. Krysty Swann (center), Helena Brown, Anna Laurenzo, Tesia Kwarteng, Jasmine Muhammad
Photo: Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Lincoln Center Theater.


Nico Muhly’s Marnie

In addition to the Met/LCT New Works Program, the Met under Peter Gelb has given full commissions to several American composers. Muhly’s second Met premiere, Marnie in 2018, was commissioned by the Met and co-produced with English National Opera. With a libretto by Nicholas Wright based on a novel by Winston Graham, Marnie had its world premiere at ENO in 2017, in a production by Michael Mayer with sets by Julian Crouch. Robert Spano conducted the Met premiere.

AOATM_Image75.jpgIsabel Leonard (center) with (left to right) Dísella Làrusdóttir, Deanna Breiwick, Peabody Southwell, Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, in Marnie, 2008. Costumes by Arianne Phillips.
Photo: Ken Howard


AOATM_Image76.jpgLeft: Christopher Maltman and Isabel Leonard in Nico Muhly’s Marnie, 2018.
Photo: Ken Howard

Right: Isabel Leonard and Christopher Maltman in Nico Muhly’s Marnie, 2018.
Photo: Ken Howard


Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, based on a book by Charles M. Blow, had its Met premiere on Opening Night this season. It is the first opera by a Black composer ever performed by the Met. It is commissioned by the Met and was originally commissioned by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis. It premiered in 2019 at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The Met premiere was conducted by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin in a production by James Robinson and Camille A. Brown, with sets by Allan Moyer and costumes by Paul Tazewell. It is a co-production of the Met, LA Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

AOATM_Image77.jpgA scene from Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones with (left to right) Walter Russell III, Latonia Moore, and Will Liverman.
Photo: Ken Howard


AOATM_Image78.jpgLeft: Dance scene from Fire Shut Up in My Bones, with choreography by Camille A. Brown. Walter Russell III at right.
Photo: Ken Howard

Right: Will Liverman and Angel Blue in Fire Shut Up in My Bones.
Photo: Ken Howard


AOATM_Image79.jpgLeft: Librettist Kasi Lemmons.
Photo: Greg Gorman

Right: Fire Shut Up in My Bones choreographer and co-director Camille A. Brown and composer Terence Blanchard in rehearsal.
Photo: Ken Howard


Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice

Eurydice, by composer Matthew Aucoin and librettist Sarah Ruhl, based on her play, premieres at the Met this season as the second work from the Met/LCT New Works Program to be performed on the Met stage. After its Met/LCT New Works Program workshop, Eurydice was co-commissioned and co-produced by the Met and LA Opera, where it premiered in 2020. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts and Mary Zimmerman directs the production, with sets by Daniel Ostling and costumes by Ana Kuzmanic.


AOATM_Image81.jpgScenes from Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice from the 2020 LA Opera world premiere.
Photos: Cory Weaver


AOATM_Image82.jpgLeft: Matthew Aucoin, composer of Eurydice.
Photo: Steven Laxton

Center: Sarah Ruhl, librettist of Eurydice.
Photo: Gregory Costanzo

Right: Erin Morley as Eurydice.
Photo: Paola Kudacki


Future Plans for New Works at the Met

Met premieres of operas by American composers will be prominent features of coming seasons. Dead Man Walking, by Jake Heggie with a libretto by Terence McNally, based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, had been scheduled for the 2020–21 season, which was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The opera will have its Met premiere in 2023. X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, an opera by Anthony Davis with a libretto by Thulani Davis, premiered at the New York City Opera in 1986. The work, based on the life of Malcolm X, will come to the Met in 2023. Two more operas by acclaimed contemporary composers are planned for future Met seasons: Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie with libretto by Gene Scheer, and Antony and Cleopatra by John Adams in a co-production of the Met with San Francisco Opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Teatro Massimo of Palermo.

AOATM_Image83.jpgLeft: Composer Jake Heggie, whose operas Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick will have Met premieres in coming seasons.
Photo: Ellen Appel

Right: Composer Anthony Davis, whose opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X will premiere at the Met in 2023.


AOATM_Image84.jpgLeft: A scene from Moby-Dick at the San Francisco Opera, 2012, with (left to right) Jay Hunter Morris, Stephen Costello, and Jonathan Lemalu.
Photo: Cory Weaver

Right: A scene from Dead Man Walking with Joyce DiDonato and Philip Cutler in the Houston Grand Opera production, 2011.
Photo: Felix Sanchez



The Hours, by Kevin Puts (pictured left) with libretto by Greg Pierce, has been co-commissioned by the Met and the Philadelphia Orchestra. An adaptation of the bestselling book by Michael Cunningham and the Paramount Pictures film, The Hours will have its Met premiere in 2022 with Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara, and Joyce DiDonato in the cast. 

The Met has also commissioned The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Mason Bates (pictured right) and librettist Gene Scheer, based on the novel by Michael Chabon, premiering at Indiana University Bloomington in fall 2024 and at the Met in 2025.



The Met has commissioned two female composers for the first time. Jeanine Tesori’s (pictured third from top) Grounded, with a libretto by George Brant based on his play, began in the Met/LCT New Works Program and premiered at Washington National Opera in 2023. It will open the Met's 2024–25 season on September 23, 2024. It will open the Met's 2023, followed by a Met premiere in 2025. Lincoln in the Bardo, by Missy Mazzoli (pictured fourth from top) and librettist Royce Vavrek, is slated to premiere at LA Opera in winter 2026 and at the Met in fall 2026.


Photo of Kevin Puts: David White; Photo of Mason Bates: Ryan Schude; Photo of Jeanine Tesori: Matthew Karas; Photo of Missy Mazzoli: Marylene Mey


Searching for an American Style

American Commissions and Beyond

American Émigrés

Postwar America

From Commercial Theater to the Met

American Modernism

Innovations and Collaborations

International Contemporary Opera at the Met