NEW YORK (AFP) - The Metropolitan Opera said on Wednesday it would stage L'Amour de Loin, a medieval love story set in Lebanon, marking the first time in a century the company performs a work composed by a woman.
Announcing its 2016-17 season, the New York opera house said it would put on 26 operas including six new productions led by the Met premiere of L'Amour de Loin. Written by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho with a libretto by leading Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, L'Amour de Loin, which means Love From Afar, tells the story of Jaufre Rudel, the celebrated 12th century French troubadour.
The opera, which is in French, revolves around his passion for the countess of the Lebanese city of Tripoli, whom he had never met in person.
More broadly, the opera has been seen as reflecting the experience of expatriation, a theme that is personal for Saariaho and Maalouf, who have both lived in France for a long time.
It is only the second time the leading American opera house is staging a work by a woman. The Met performed Der Wald by English composer and suffragist Ethel Smyth in 1903.
L'Amour de Loin, which opens at the Met on Dec 1, won wide acclaim at its 2000 world premiere at the Salzburg Festival and has quickly travelled.
Other highlights in the Met's upcoming season include Verdi's biblical epic Nabucco, which will star Placido Domingo, arguably the world's most famous opera singer.
The title role of Nabucco continues the 75-year-old Spaniard's increasing preference for baritone roles after winning fame as a tenor.
Domingo and other leading figures in the opera world will also take part in a gala in May 2017 to mark 50 years since the Met moved to its location at the Lincoln Center.
Other leading opera figures who will appear in the Met's upcoming season include Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko and Nina Stemme.
The season will open on Sept 26 with a new production of Wagner's Tristan And Isolde starring Stemme and under the baton of Simon Rattle, one of the world's leading conductors who next year takes charge of the London Symphony Orchestra.
The season will be the 40th for the Met's music director James Levine, who will conduct major performances despite expectations that the 72-year-old, who has had repeated health scares, will soon retire.
The Met will for the 11th season telecast performances to cinemas around the world in its Live In HD programme, which has emerged as a key source of revenue and exposure for the opera house whose in-person capacity is 3,800 seats.